How to build the ultimate tree house


The perfect tree hut tree – a mature poplar with three good solid trunks. But even mature trees continue to grow – note how it has distorted the hut.

I’m all for children making things for themselves, spending time together, because that’s all part of the fun.

Words: Sheryn Clothier 

This was to be detailed instruction about how to construct a suitable, solid tree house, but I’ve never constructed one myself. I wasn’t even allowed in my brothers’ tree hut.

Instead, I set out to interview those that know: father of three boys, farmer, builder, child treehouse constructor, and grandfather offered single sentence wisdom. “Put the tools back before Dad gets home.”

My husband, constructor of anything, including a two-storey treehouse complete with fireman’s pole, was equally vague. “You can use anything”.  When pressed he admitted nails would be good. Four inch, five inch, whatever size to hand. Should timber be treated? Would 4×2 be ok for floor joists? How far apart should they be?

“You can use anything,” he repeated. “Even old fence palings.” That seems to be the hub of it. You don’t need a permit for a tree hut. You don’t need plans or instructions from someone like me who has never built one. Apparently, all you need is some nails, some timber, and a hammer. I imagine a saw would be useful, and maybe a level if you don’t trust your eye.

Some solid floor joists nailed to the tree make a good base for a tree hut. Use big nails. Lots of nails.

Building a tree house seems to be about kiwi creativity, making do and making. It doesn’t have to be flash. Or water-proof. Or matching.

My conclusion is, this is their own space to do what they want. Let them create it, design it, make it and see it become reality because The cool thing about a tree house is building it themselves. A parent might help and may sneak out while they’re at school to add a few more nails here and there to make it safe, but creating it, teamwork and learning how to bang nails in while not falling out of a tree is the important part.

Don’t worry about those fancy things they show on TV or what your neighbours have. A tree hut is your unique creation dependant on materials to hand, your imagination, and the tree.

Now trees, I do know about, even big old trees with perfect three-way forks to hold tree houses. Trees might look old and mature and as big as they are going to get but the eye doesn’t tend to notice them getting bigger year by year. Add nails and a straight and true treehouse to them and watch the forces of nature.

Our boys have grown up now, and so has their tree house (see photo ??). To complete the carnage, a truck even backed into the fireman’s pole. Mr straight and perfect hubby has to drive past this at the bottom of our driveway. He grits his teeth every time. I think there will be some remodelling when grandbaby time comes around.

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NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.

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