How to Build a Tree House for Your Kids

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By Kerry Nenn, Wide Open Country

Your dream is to build your kids the best tree house in the neighborhood. Maybe even the county. You also want an amazing hideout they won’t have to risk their lives to play in. And, you’d prefer not to kill that big oak in the process. Here’s what to keep in mind when building a tree house.

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Which tree?

Oak, maple, fir, beech, and hemlock make the best tree house hosts. You’ll want a healthy older tree, with branches at least 8 inches in diameter for load bearing.

Whereabouts in the Tree?

How to Build a Tree House for Your Kids

Photo: house on tree in summer garden

Yes, it sounds cool to have a house in the treetop, but don’t aim for the sky. Keep it simple. You only need to go high enough to walk underneath it. The kids will still have to climb to enter, and that’s the fun part. If you’re in an especially windy area, stay in the lower third of the tree.

Build the tree house platform close to the trunk. Be sure to use diagonal bracing for support.

Remember, the Tree is Still Growing!

Don’t make your spacing too tight. Allow for growth and movement. Use spacers between beams. Leave at least a 2-inch gap around any trunk or branches that pass through the floor and a 3-inch gap for any that go through the roof.

Keep it Sturdy and True

Get your floor level and the rest will be easier. You may want to use multiple trees to get your level surface. Just run the beams between the trunks. Or, lay beams across the branches of your single tree and adjust until level before you continue to build the tree house.

Use the Right Brackets and Supports

How to Build a Tree House for Your Kids
Photo: Michael Garnier

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