A treehouse is a childhood palace that is often the centerpiece of a family?s backyard. It?s a make-believe world filled with adventure that relies on the humble tree as its fortress. When planning to build a treehouse, it?s crucial to pick a tree that will be strong enough to support the structure and everyone who plays in it for years to come.
Pick A Healthy Tree
The first step is to make certain that the tree you?re considering is healthy. Trees that are showing signs of disease or decay may not be able to withstand the additional stress of a construction project and should be avoided. A diseased tree will typically have a section of branches that have dying leaves or no leaves at all. Others may have a noticeable fungus or oozing sap. The presence of insects is usually a sign of poor health also.
Essentially, you?re looking for a healthy, mature tree that is sturdy enough to support the extra weight and live for as long as you expect to have the treehouse. Trees that are thriving in a perfectly suited hardiness zone will usually be a good choice.
Not All Tree Species Are Created Equal
While you?ll find many different tree species suitable for building a treehouse, in general, hardwoods trees will withstand the added weight better than trees classified as softwood. Hardwoods like maple or oak are good choices because they tend to be very sturdy and dense. They also provide a thick trunk as a foundation. This makes the building process easier when compared to trees of a thinner variety. In addition to oak and maple, hickory is a good hardwood, and Western red cedar trees are a popular choice. One exception to this rule, however, is the Douglas Fir tree. Douglas firs are in the softwood category, but they are strong, sturdy, and a favorite of Pete Nelson, the Treehouse Master from Seattle. When in doubt, though, stay away from softwood trees like spruce, birch, cottonwood or willow as these may not be strong enough. You could construct a treehouse in a series of birch trees, but the softness of the wood could still present safety concerns.
There are a couple of other factors to consider when selecting a good tree. The tree?s growth rate, structural track record, and location can all affect the treehouse you build in it. Trees grow by adding length to the end of branches and thickening in the trunk. This means you don?t have to worry about the treehouse raising in the air as the tree grows. But, if your tree grows quickly or you plan to enjoy this treehouse for generations, maintenance will need to be a major part of your plans.
Some trees do not shed their leaves and will therefore offer better camouflage and protection. Other trees, such as the cottonwood, regularly lose entire branches, making them dangerous to build a treehouse in. Any tree that is known to lose branches should not be a candidate.
The tree location can also be an important factor when planning your treehouse. Trees that are very close to driveways, structures or fences may already have stress to their root system or will be compromised eventually.
The safety of your child is of paramount importance when it concerns building a new treehouse. Assessing the tree species and its health prior to construction is vital. Damaged or diseased trees represent a serious hazard. Because trees can have health issues that may not be noticeable to an untrained eye, you may want to consider seeking out the advice of a tree specialist. This will provide you with the peace of mind knowing that your treehouse is safe and secure.
Sara Thompson is a blogger with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon. She writes about home improvement and tree care on behalf of many small businesses in the Northwest and has written numerous articles for popular blogs on those topics. For more information about specific tree species, contact the certified arborists at Inexpensive Tree Care.