3 Tips To Prepare Your Tree For Treehouse Construction

A treehouse requires more planning than simply nailing a few planks of wood to the trunk. You should check the tree's healthy and have it undergo a full maintenance check before you begin construction. Not only does this ensure the safety of the treehouse, it also ensures your tree will survive this new use.

#1: Check the Tree for Suitability

Not all trees can safely support a treehouse. Oak, beech, maple, ash and cedar can usually support the weight of the structure without breakage.

When selecting a tree, choose a mature tree that is no longer putting on rapid growth. Make sure it isn't near any power lines or roads – you don't want to take any chances with a potentially fatal accident.

Size also matters. For a small kid's treehouse, which usually measures no more than 8 feet square, a trunk diameter of 12 inches can support the weight. Any branches that will bear some of the weight should be at least 8 inches in diameter.

#2: Shed the Deadwood

Deadwood can be a danger to to both your child and the structure. Before you begin to build, check the branch canopy for any dead or damaged branches. If you locate deadwood, have it pruned out before you begin to build. Most kid-size houses are placed no more than 10 feet off the ground, so it's important to remove any deadwood above the placement of the house platform.

If the tree is overgrown, you may want to hire a maintenance crew, like Tidwell's Tree Service, to thin out the canopy before you begin construction. This ensures that only a strong framework of healthy branches remains, minimizing the chances of falling branches later.

#3: Verify the Tree's Health

Finally, make sure the tree is healthy. Sometimes, a tree may look healthy from the outside but it's rotting at the core. Obvious signs of tree distress include:

  • Discolored leaves. Often, this is a nutrient deficiency or treatable fungal disease, but you will need to verify the cause and fix the problem before you can proceed with your build.

  • Wound or lesions, especially if they are oozing liquid or sap. This can indicate a potentially fatal fungal or viral infection. The tree will need proper diagnosis to save it if possible. In this case, finding a different tree is advised.

  • Insect infestations. A severe infestation of pests can indicate other health problems with the tree. Don't proceed until the pests have been eradicated and the tree has been fully inspected for any further disease problems.

When constructing the treehouse, use single lag bolts to attach each support directly to the tree. Straps, cables and nails can all result in bark damage, which will weaken and eventually kill the tree. Sterilize your tools with a dilute bleach solution so you don't introduce any pathogens to the wood during construction. After construction, continue to monitor the tree each year for any health problems or maintenance needs. For example, you may need to relocate supports to avoid strangling the trunk as it grows and expands each year.