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Building A Treehouse
My Thoughts and Learnings

Building a treehouse is an interesting undertaking. You have to have a solid understanding of some basic carpentry skills, but still feel like a kid enough to want to build a treehouse. I’m sure most of my friends and family would easily agree that I act like a kid more than just feel like one, so that part was easy. Buying the plans, gathering the correct hardware, rounding up the massive tools and then forging ahead can be intimidating. Hopefully my process and findings can help you in your journey to build your own treehouse.

The treehouse has had a resurgence thanks to Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet. Pete Nelson, of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, is a cooky dude and I love him for it. Their show is a joy to watch for me for multiple reasons, but watching new treehouses get built weekly is certainly the best part.

I have always enjoyed building things. My wife calls me handy and I peruse Google for fun DIY building plans. I then build stuff for us, as gifts or just to sell for a few bucks on the Internet. That knowledge was a huge help while building the treehouse. When working on a project where you are venturing into new territory, you have to rely on your problem solving skills more than anything else. You may have never mounted a TAB before into a tree, but you’ve seen it done a few dozen times on TV or YouTube. You have to have enough confidence in yourself to take that knowledge and then implement it on your own tree. If you’re ok trusting yourself with tasks like that, then why not build a treehouse for yourself!

Where Did I Start

I started with a lot of research. I read books, I read blog posts, I watched way too many YouTube videos and then I finally bought a plan. I knew I would be altering the plan, but I wanted to have a generic plan to work with to make sure the base for what I was building was solid.

Knowing I was going to use a single tree, and that I didn’t want to have extra posts for support, I googled around for single tree treehouse plans. The closest I found to what I wanted was in the Marblemount, on Nelson Treehouse. A nice general platform that used two TABs and four knee braces. Sounds easy, right.

After ordering the plans and studying those more than I ever studied anything in college, I knew it was time to buy hardware. Per the plan, I need two TABs and four knee braces. Being my first attempt at building a treehouse, I wanted to use the proper hardware for the job. The hardware on Nelson Treehouse is CRAZY expensive compared to other sites. Supply and Demand though, the guy has a TV show and his name means treehouse. After some googling, I found Treehouse Supplies. Right on their homepage is a call to action for Treehouse Kits. My search quickly came to an end.

The marblemount is a hexagon platform, exactly what Treehouse Supply was selling a kit for; I had found a winner. This kit came with everything I would need to mount on the tree to make a treehouse platform. They also rent the bits you will need that work with this exact kit. Very handy for those of us who only want to build a single treehouse in a 5-10 year span. If you haven’t realized it yet though, these kits are not cheap. I spent just under $1,000 on the kit and the rental of the bits. The cost of the other materials will be further below.

Acquiring the treehouse hardware is a big step, but there are specific tools you’ll need to get the job done properly and safely. For measuring out the opposite facing TABs, you’ll need a water level. You can buy one or make one, I made one from some tubing. Drilling the holes into your tree will require a massive high torque drill. On a lot of readings, the Milwaukee Hole-Hawg Heavy Duty Drill (½ in & 7.5 amp) had a lot of praise for price and quality. I purchased this without the case from Home Depot. Once the holes are drilled, you need to tighten the huge lag bolts and nuts into place. I did this with the largest crescent wrench I have ever seen in my life. Though it’s huge, I still had to use a cheater bar on it at times to tighten the bolts to fully sink into position.

Building the Treehouse

Now that I have the plans memorized and the hardware has arrived (in two very heavy boxes), I was ready to acquire the wood needed for the treehouse. I purchased two pressure treated 4×6’s from Home Depot as my main support beams that would attach to the TABs. If I had been planning on building walls, and not just a platform, I would have gotten bigger beams for the main support. The knee braces as well are made out of the 4×6 material. The decking purchased was again at Home Depot and was the pressure treated 1×6 decking material that they carry.


Liam checking on the progress. We got a thumbs up!

This pressure treated material typically stays pretty wet from the treatment process while in the store, which causes the wood to swell. If you need exact measurements, buy the wood a day or two before you plan to use it and leave it in a place to dry. I got lucky since I was only using it for planks on the deck.

Placement for the TABs isn’t too difficult, just a strain on your confidence. You need to trust yourself that you have used the water level correctly. When using the high torque drill to drill your TAB holes, use a magnetic torpedo level to check your progress. You need these to be straight vertically and horizontally. Having a second person to verify for me was a must.

Threading the TABs into the tree will test your strength. If you think you’re strong, you might second guess yourself after doing this. The amount of force needed to thread these bad boys into a tree is remarkable, and a big wrench is needed to persuade them. My crescent wrench worked good, but a socket wrench or pipe wrench would have been loads better. You live and you learn, next time spring for the correct tool. Have a friend handy towards the end of each TAB, you will need their extra body weight to finish it off.

Once my TABs were set, I got my 4×6 supports and had my wife help me lift those bad boys up to mount them. Since I was doing a ship shape, the beam was not going to be centered, but off-centered on the TAB. You want to securely connect your beams together with cross braces. Simpson strong ties will come in handy here. If what you’re building is in need of larger connection hardware, all the Treehouse Supply stores have something for you.

Once my support beams were up and connected, I began working on the frame for my decking. With the ship shape in mind, the parts close to the tree were the widest, with it getting narrower as it moved away from the tree. To create the shape of a ship, I got a bit hacky when it came to creating the mounts for some of the ends. When I do another one, with walls, I’ll be sure to spend more time in the planning period to know exactly how all pieces will connect before working in the trees.

Before I started adding decking to the frame, I attached vertical 4×4’s to the edges of the frame where I wanted rail posts to be. I did this for the extra strength of attaching the posts to the main frame of the decking. With the posts mounted, I began laying down the decking. I was restricted to 16ft long, which is damn long. Because of this, I had to create a pattern in the decking to get the lengths to work out properly. It turned out looking ok, so not a big deal.

After the decking, it was time for the hand rails to be added to the posts we had mounted earlier. This was another strain on the brain, since I had quite a few odd angles that I had to cut. Next time, less weird angles (it’s all in the planning). A miter protractor was very handy for me in this endeavor, there are many different types. I would splurge on the digital version though, it keeps the thinking needed to a minimum. An angle ruler might be the correct tool here, I used what I had in the garage.

After painstakingly adding all the hand rails, it was time to add the fun bits for the kids. I added a ladder at one end, a climbing wall one side and a 6ft slide on the other side. Having never added a slide to a playhouse that wasn’t purposely built for one was a bit of a challenge. I had to make some ‘on the job’ decisions to make it work. It’s certainly not the sexiest, but it works and I’m probably being too critical. One day I’ll add a zip line off the front. Right now we’re still paying down the treehouse hardware purchase.

Where Does It Go From Here

My mind and ideas haven’t stopped yet unfortunately. I would love to build more treehouses. The problem is the time, the money and my unfortunate lack of capable trees. We did purchase some land in Hochatown, Oklahoma where we are currently building a cabin. I do have hopes of building a treehouse on this property once the cabin is built and in full swing of being rented. Time will tell.

Since I would love to continue building treehouses, I plan to attend a few treehouse building workshops and seminars when time and money allow. Proper TAB installation from the professionals would make me feel that much more confident in my abilities. After that, it’s the little things that can make or break a great treehouse, tree selection, proper hardware selection, custom hardware creation and engineering for the tree swaying in the wind.

If this was at all helpful, please let me know. If you think I did something wrong, please let me know. Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll see you in the trees!

360VR Tour of the Treehouse