Tips for building a treehouse

Many of us have childhood memories of playing in a treehouse – sometimes little more than a few planks nailed to the branches of an obliging tree in the back yard.

Still, it was a magical place that brought you closer to the birds, a private space where you could read a book and dream of the future.

These days, treehouses are not just for kids. Airbnb features hundreds of treehouses for rent in Australia. It seems adults, too, dream of living among the trees!

Since we are talking DIY treehouses, however, let’s stick to the sort you can build in your backyard without needing council permission - a playhouse for kids and other dreamers.

First find your tree
It’s hard to be prescriptive about building a treehouse, since so much depends on the shape of your tree or trees.

A rule of thumb for constructing directly into the tree is that the trunk should be at least 30cms in diameter and supporting branches at least 20cms. Consider using two or three trees if they are close enough together.

Check with your council to ensure you stay within the regulations on height and area. Also make sure the treehouse won’t overlook your neighbour’s private space.

If you’re building for small kids, keep it within a couple of metres of the ground for safety reasons.

The platform
Building a treehouse involves a power of sawing and drilling. A circular saw and a cordless impact drill will save time and stress and a jigsaw is really handy if you plan to build around branches rather than simply remove them.

At its simplest, all you really need is a deck or base to stand or sit on and a way of reaching it. You’ve got two main options for the base. The first method is to support the beams on posts concreted into the ground around the tree, meaning the treehouse is free standing. A small post hole digger makes the job easy. This method does the least damage to your tree. It also simplifies construction later if your posts are long enough to support walls or rails.

A second method is to use threaded rods to secure a couple of beams around each of the trunks. Use a spirit level to ensure they are horizontal. You’ll probably need someone to hold an end while you do this.

If you haven’t got a helper, a cherry picker will simplify this part of the job, especially if you’ve prefabbed the platform pieces.

Whichever method you use, once your beams are secure, use rafter ties to screw on the joists, laid perpendicular to the beams.

Now you can nail or screw your floorboards into place, leaving a gap between them for drainage. Remember your tree is still growing, and the trunk will move in the wind, so leave some space around the trunk.

Adding the finishing touches
You could build walls, but it’s not essential. What is essential is a secure balustrade to prevent falls. If you’ve used tall posts in your construction, screw the rails on to these. Otherwise you’ll need to screw some posts to the joists below and secure with rails at the top. Test everything for strength and use struts to stabilise where necessary.

The entry to the fort doesn’t have to be elaborate. A wooden ladder secured to the tree trunk or platform is fine. A rope ladder is even more fun for adventurous kids.

A simple palisade around the deck can be made out of just about anything. Pallet planks, small branches. A variety of materials, angles and colours can make the kids’ treehouse a feature of your garden.

Talk to the experts
For expert advice and the right equipment, talk to the experienced team at your local branch . Kennards Hire offers contactless delivery and all our equipment is cleaned before each hire.