My wife and I have wanted to build a tree house for our son since we moved in to our current house. Living in 9 acres of woods, what boy wouldn’t want one. He sure does. We’ve looked at different trees, looked at how to build them, and never found the perfect trees.
When we moved here, at the east end of a little clearing by the barn, there was a large oak tree, about 36 inches in diameter, that had recently broken off about 20 feet up. I had often thought about building something on top of that. We talked about it last fall, and decided to build it as our first project of the spring.
We started designing it probably in February or March. Sam wanted it to be a castle with turrets. Hmmmm. And he wanted it to go from that tree to the oak tree by the house. That would make it about 200 feet long. So I compromised. He could have turrets, but it wasn’t going to the oak tree by the house.
I decided to make it 8 feet square, about 10 feet off the ground. I would cut the tree off there, and the fort would sit on top of it. I fired up SkethUp, and started drawing it up. The first draft was pretty good, so I decided to go with that. I knew this thing was going to be evolving as we went, so didn’t get mired down in all of the final details. I would be refining and redrawing this all along the way. But SketchUp is a great tool, and allowed me to work out a lot of details, right down to exact lengths and angles of cuts for many of the pieces.
Time to build. We began it on April 2nd. I started by setting my Little Giant ladder up against the tree, and attaching some pulleys about 16 feet up. These were going to aid in hoisting the floor joists up. We hoisted the first 2 x 8 up, and I drilled and lag bolted it into the tree with 1/2″ x 8″ lag bolts. The second wasn’t quite as easy. We hoisted it up, and had to level it with the first, and get it squared up with the first. This step was critical to making the floor square.
We managed to get it up and bolted. Then we hoisted another up and attached it to the ends of the first two joists, centering it on them. Two cross braces attached to the tree finished up the first day.
The next day I got the joists on the east and south sides installed, and then it was time to cut the top of the tree off. I put a sheet of the flooring on the floor joists, and then climbed up with the chain saw. I cut the top off in pieces until it was flush with the top of the joists. Then I finished the floor framing. I braced it to the tree on all four sides with 2×4 braces, and then fastened the flooring. That’s about the end of the first week.
As I stated, I agreed to put turrets on, so it was back to SketchUp. He also wanted a trap door, so I laid that out also.
We made a 16 foot ladder and cut out a 30 inch square in the floor. We then bolted the ladder up to the base. Now we could get up there without the Little Giant.
I decided to make the turrets octagonal. SketchUp helped me to calculate very precise lengths and angles. After cutting the 10 base pieces, we fastened them together, and then attached them to the northwest and southwest corners.
Time for the walls. The first thing I built was the framing for the turrets. I built them on the ground, and we hoisted them up and fastened them down. Then we framed out the walls. The roof pitches about a foot over the 8 foot span. Again, SketchUp was indespensible for calculating the length of each stud, as well as the angle of the pitch. We built the walls on the ground, and hoisted them up and fastened them.