Building a tree house for the kids is a great way to spend some quality time together and may even teach (heaven forbid) the kids some simple wood working skills. We will cover in this article how to build a basic platform and some sturdy handrails. Using tools found in most homeowners shops this can be done in a few weekends. First select the tree where you intend to place the tree house. It need not be a huge tree but should provide some height and good shade. If you are lucky enough to have tree with a good three way crotch to support a platform you are a little ahead but it is not mandatory. A kids playhouse platform should be approximately six feet off the ground or so. Using pressure treated lumber you need to form a square platform base around the tree trunk(s). You do not want to fasten the platform to the tree as drilling, bolting and such can harm the tree itself. The platform will float using the tree limbs for support.
Most often additional leg supports must be added to adequately support the weight of the platform and the kids. A good sized lumber to use is two inch by six inch boards for floor joists or supports. I strongly recommend using galvanized wood screws to assemble the floor as screws will take the tree movement and stress much better than nails. Framing the floor is usually not as simple as the sixteen inches on center typical framing, as the tree trunks will dictate where floor joists can be placed. By using good framing techniques in the use of headers, hanger clips and so on a sturdy safe floor can be constructed. Once the floor is in place the ladder is next. A pre-made ladder is the simplest but a ladder can be constructed of two by fours, some one by threes, and some screws. Turning the two by fours on edge, screw some one by three pieces on ten inch centers to the edges of the two by fours. These are the steps or rungs. Once done make sure the ladder extends three feet higher past the platform floor for safety. Now install some short pieces vertically on the flat between the horizontal steps. This will help support the steps or rungs. The ladder must be securely tied to the platform to prevent tipping. Do not screw the ladder to the platform as the platform is constantly moving with the trees. Handrails should be strong enough that a 150 pound side load pushed against them will not break the railings. Four by four inch lumber makes the best support posts. Install them no more than four feet on center and they must be screw lagged or through bolted to the floor framing.
Make the finished railing at least 34 inches high. Depending upon the age of the kids using the tree house, the actual enclosure may be no more than one more two by four as a mid-rail or a full lattice work if there are real small ones playing there. A six foot by ten foot platform can easily accommodate a small house as well. Instead of cutting the four by fours at 34 inches, let them extend up to 48 inches above the platform and they can become two of the corner supports for the house. Some very simple framing and plywood walls anchored by the two corner four by fours can provide a fort, a house or other great place to hide and play. If you are inclined and the budget allows. a waterproof roof, some paint, a small door or window or even a bench or two will provide the kids with their own tree house space to play. A must idea today is to place some plastic wood chips at least six inches deep around the tree house and especially at the bottom of the ladder in case of a slip or fall.
Your Friendly Building Inspector
Source by Peter Ackerson
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