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How to Build a Treehouse in Your Own Backyard

Amy Aitman
July 6, 2015

More than just a cool idea, you can make your treehouse dream come true! Here's how.

Have you always wanted to know how to build a treehouse? Imagine summer nights spent camping out with your kids in their very own treehouse ... telling ghost stories ... looking out at the stars. Kids can spend hours and hours outside if they have a treehouse. Here's how to make it happen.

Dream and Design
"There is so much joy in sitting up in the tree outside with your kids, planning together on how to build them a treehouse," say David and Jeanie Stiles of Stiles Designs, authors of "Treehouses You Can Actually Build" and more than 20 other woodworking books. The authors suggest you get your kids to imagine and dream about their perfect treehouse! Ask them what they want the treehouse to look like. Do they want a super-cool slide? A rope bridge? Built-in, kid-sized furniture? Have them draw up some of their plans so you can see their expectations.

But it's not all about dreaming. "Give things like spatial planning some serious thought, as you need to map out an ideal location to lay your foundation and connect support beams," says Tanvier Peart, creative director for Casa Diseno. "Once you tackle the technical stuff, everything else like colors and design options will be a breeze." The Stileses say it's useful to photograph your site and then to take a piece of tracing paper over the photo and sketch some ideas and see how they'll look.

How to Build a Treehouse
The treehouse is just for your kids, so that means thinking about how your kids are actually going to use it. "Scaling things down, like the doors, windows and furnishings, just makes it more theirs," say the Stileses. That means finding new ways to build your own doors, windows and furnishings.

"It is very good to have a lot of light coming into your treehouse," they add. "Use Plexiglas windows or leave it open. That way the kids can sweep it out and keep it clean too." Doors can be open entryways, which let in more light, or you could even have a cool trap door that only kids could squeeze through. No parents allowed!

Be sure to consider the tree itself before you build. Take care not to cause too much damage to the tree. Give it room to grow, and consider where and how you will support the treehouse before bolting anything to the trunk. The Stileses also suggest you use pressure-treated wood and spend plenty of time building a solid, wooden platform. Use bolts and screws instead of nails so you can modify it later if you need to.

"A lot of kids really like the deck, with a railing, outside the treehouse," they note. "They can call out to their friends. You want to be able to be outside, not just in the treehouse." And for those who think it might be too hard to build your own treehouse for your kids, the Stileses say, "If David Letterman could build his son a treehouse, so can you."

Make It Great
"Pick your kids' favorite colors and remember add-ons like slides, rock climbing walls and swinging ropes," says Peart, suggesting you also keep things practical. "You can always add a fence with a cute little front gate, some shrubs and turn it into a mini version of your home. When it comes to decorating, everything needs to be functional and weatherproof."

Here are some fun treehouse ideas:

  • With vibrant paint colors, this bright little off-the-ground bungalow from The Handmade Home will inspire you to think outside the box with your design ideas.
  • This amazing little treehouse from Built By Kids is perched high and perfectly supported by the main trunk.
  • With deck, ladder and plenty of space, this stunning treehouse built across two trees from Treehouse Guides is a project with results you'll cherish for many years to come.
  • This Bluebird Treehouse from Barbara Butler has a slide and a zip line.
  • These fantastic dream treehouses from Shelterness are pure inspiration.
  • With cream-colored siding, a seating area and deck, this backyard oasis from Living Locurto is a place you'll call home.
  • Make a basic tree hut (using two supporting branches or trunks) with this design from Stiles Designs.

Have fun!

Want more ideas for making the most of your backyard? Try these 11 Backyard Games for Kids.

Amy Aitman is a freelance writer at 8menwriting, as well as a mommyblogger at Mommy Patter. She hopes to build an amazing treehouse in her backyard soon for her 4-year-old to enjoy for many seasons to come.

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