In my neighborhood growing up there was a structure that got national attention back in the 1980s. There were court cases surrounding this thing, with the city on one side and the structure’s creator on the other, involving stuff like building codes and inspections. Eventually the inventor of said controversial structure won out and it still stands today.
To the city it may have been a nuisance and to the guy who built it, it may have been his office. To me, oh to eight year-old me it was a Treehouse. Capital T. It had a full sized library and lighting and spiral staircases. It was the tree house to end all tree houses and it was no more than five blocks from me.
This treehouse transported me to the world of Fern Gully, of Swiss Family Robinson, of no boys allowed clubs. This man — this genius gave me great hope that when I was an adult I too could live in a tree house and fill it with books and wear fairy wings as I read those books and keep out all the boys and little sisters — in my eyes this neighborhood eccentricity was a god and his tree house was heaven.
Treehouses are often havens for nerdy kids, free of bullies and taunts. No one judges you while you read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the seventh time. Unfortunately, not all of us have the architectural savvy that the man who built the end all be all of treehouses does. No matter, we can construct a tree house using just the basics and still have a fantastical nerdy place to call our arboreal home.
There are a lot of different ways to go about building the actual structure once you’ve found the right tree. There are also a lot of great guides that can help you do this with some 2×8 pressure treated cedar boards, lag bolts, and galvanized nails. This website gives instructions and includes tips on how you go about checking building regulations in your area. I strongly recommend looking at one of the guides available. I also strongly recommend being or knowing someone who is blessed with spatial intelligence and a decent drill.
If you don’t want to have to ask the neighbor to borrow his power tools and his galvanized nails… and some lag bolts…. Actually would you mind helping me build this thing too? The easiest way to go about building is to use a treehouse kit or you really could ask your neighbor, especially if your neighbor is this guy.
Here’s a rundown of the basics if you choose to go it alone:
Pick the flattest area you can find, preferably with a group of sturdy trees to use as a foundation. Construct the deck. Connect the perimeter of the trees with 2x8s, using lag bolts at every joint to fasten them together. Attach the girders, floor joists and attaching plywood on top. Pressure-treated plywood is best.
Build the walls to your desired height. Position frames on the deck. Attach them together and to the decking below, using pressure-treated nails. Nail pressure-treated plywood on the top.
Build the roof. Frame out the gable end, then attach a ridge beam, spanning the length of the roof, to the gable end. For accurate roof pitch, attach the rafters to the ridge beam, starting in the middle. Cover the roof with pressure-treated material.
If this all sounds like when Charlie Brown’s teachers talk to him, I think this guy breaks it down nicely.
Ok, so now that you have built your treehouse, how can we make it uber nerdy? Here are some options just to get you started.
Wallpaper: Yes, you can wallpaper the interior of a tree house. Wouldn’t it be incredible if that wallpaper could actually be made up of comic books? Oh yeah, that can happen too. Apply a bridging liner (a blank wallpaper designed to smooth rough surfaces) then apply either comics themselves with a polyurethane coat overtop or you can buy marvel comics wallpaper. If you want it to be really easy and temporary you can decoupage the comics to foam core and stick those overtop of the bridging liner. If you don’t want all the mess, you could even settle for some comic book curtains. Those exist too because the world is awesome.
Theme: Set up your child’s treehouse to act as a specific type of room. Just as the treehouse of my dreams was used as an office and a library, why not line the walls with books or turn it into a makeshift greenhouse or if not a greenhouse then at least a garden. Grow herbs and flowers in flower boxes. Or forgo the flowerpots in favor of paint pots and easels, turning it into an art studio.
One last thing to remember: Treehouses are nerdy in and of themselves. They are hideouts, spy houses and bat caves. Remember when I mentioned Fern Gully — Fern Gully, people! A fairy named Krista teaching us how to save the earth if only we would listen? That’s the epitome of an enviro-nerd.
Whichever direction you choose to take it, good luck creating you own enclave of dweebiness in the treetops.