1. Should I build a Treehouse?
Yes, assuming you have the time, energy, and money to complete the task. Our treehouse will cost between four and five hundred dollars if you buy all new lumber and use free labor. It will take a weekend to build, (22 to 26 hours) if you have one good helper. We paid $375.00 for all our materials and hired two framing carpenters to be our arms and legs. They charged us $14.00 per hour each.
At the completion of the project, we paid them $600.00. Therefore, our treehouse cost about $1,000.00 and we consider it money well spent!
2. If I supply the labor, what tools will I need?
In addition to regular hand tools, such as hammers, tape measures, squares, and saws, we used the following power tools; a skill saw, a jig saw, two electric drills and a set of bits, 1/2 inch in diameter and smaller. One electric drill will be needed for drilling holes, including pilot holes, and the other will be needed for all the wood screws. Electric power is necessary. Even if you carry the precut lumber to the site, you will need 110 volt power for the drills because most affordable battery powered drills don't have enough battery life and torque to handle wood screws in hard treated wood.
Don't buy power tools for this project. Rent them, and a small electric generator if access to electricity is a problem.
3. Can I construct my treehouse with nails and forget about all the wood screws?
Yes you can, but remember, this is a stand alone structure, built without a foundation, high in the air, and surronding the trunk and limbs of the tree. We started out with nails, but soon found lack of stability to be a serious problem, regardless of adding braces. In time, the wind and the tree will take their toll on your treehouse and nails will only shorten the usable life of the structure.
4. I read the "Information" section. You strongly suggest we use treated lumber but treated lumber is very expensive, correct?
Yes, it is more expensive, but it will add many years of usable life to the structure and lower maintenance costs.
5. What type of regular maintenance can I expect?
The treehouse needs to be checked after every high wind. You will always find something to tighten and a new location for another brace.
6. Is a treehouse safe for kids?
Small children should be watched continuously while they play. A responsible older child should be assigned to keep their younger peers out of trouble. We had one little visitor who decided to tear every small limb off the tree. He got caught before he did much damage. Another very little visitor simply "appeared" in the treehouse. We could not understand how he got there because he was only two years old.
We began to control access to the treehouse with a removeable ladder and by removing the ladder, we removed the temptation.
In our opinion, pre-teen kids should only play in the presence of a responsible older child after guidlines for conduct have been established by a resident adult. When the ladder to the treehouse is removed, access to the treehouse should be impossible.
We intended to install a fully enclosed spiral staircase to our treehouse but instead, we spent the next year fighting the neighborhood association.
7. I live in the city, What about my Neighborhood Association?
In my experience, most community associations allow small structures in backyards. However, ask before you build. You know the neighborhood. If you have difficult directors, they are probably the most conservative people in the area and the first to object to any visible change. They will get support from home owners of like mind, especially if those home owners of "like mind" want THEIR next project approved. It all boils down to community politics and knowing if the association fosters a status-quo mentality in the community which, of course, discourages all creative projects and certainly treehouses. Until human nature changes, the people who "wear" their authority around the community can cause you problems.
Our Association objected to the "EZ Treehouse" even though the bylaws of the association were silent on the issue. Their reaction surprised me. I served eight years in Texas State Government as an assistant to a state elected official who believed all authority not specifically granted to Government was to be respected as the constitutional rights of "the people".
A word of warning! Your constitutional rights have been compromised if you signed a mortgage in a community governed by a neighborhood association. The association is the local association of "the People", so "the people" can enforce any rule a higher government does not limit. At times, this fosters the abuse of authority.
If neighborhood rules are abusive in your state, I suggest you ask your local state representative to get a copy of HB 507 passed by the Texas Legislature in the 2001 session. Then, get it redrafted and start pushing to get it passed into law. It will limit the authority of neighborhood associations and protect homeowners from abuse.
To make a long story shorter, after a long fight, the Fry Road Neighborhood Association forced us to move our wonderful treehouse from the front yard to the backyard.
Today, it stands there proudly, a monument to the stubborn independence and creativity of its' designer!
8. Well again, should I build a treehouse?
Yes, and if you live in a rural community, you probably won't hear a complaint. However, if you live in a big "silly" like we do, you should build it in your backyard, so it is not seen from the street. Most neighborhood associations allow small structures in backyards. Regardless, study all the local rules before you begin, and if you get busted for building it, call me. I may have some ideas.