Building a treehouse? Parental and pro tips

It's all kids play in this child's-scale treehouse

It's all kids play in this child's-scale treehouse in Southampton. The designer structure has all the bells and whistles: a rock pole, a pole to slide down, a working safe, mailbox, working shutters, chalkboard, table and chairs, a sliding door that leads to the outdoor deck. (April 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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If you’re thinking of building a treehouse in the backyard, consider these tips from parents:

Some children might be afraid of heights, said Sag Harbor mom Pamela Harrison Ludwick, or they might be too young to climb up to the treehouse and play on their own.

And as with your own house, consider location.
“Think about if you want it to be in the sun or the shade,” Ludwick advises. “Ours is in the shade,” which she said is a perfect spot because the children spend a lot of time on the outdoor deck.

Remember to plan ahead, as the time will come when your children outgrow the structure.
“Think about the future, to accommodate for a second phase,” said Reed W. Super of Amagansett. For example, you may want to expand the structure or add another deck or platform as your children grow out of the original treehouse. Once that happens, some parents convert the treehouse for adult use as a quiet little retreat for yoga or to read. Depending on how they are built, some tree houses can also be sold and relocated.

And from the pros:

“Involve the kids in planning and designing the treehouse,” advise Jeanie and David Stiles, “and teach them how to clean it of debris each spring.” It’s their space, after all.

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Keep safety in mind at all times. Place bark chips or rubber chips around the base of the tree, to cushion potential falls, suggests Barbara Butler.

Also, when scouting for an appropriate tree to build on, “look at your yard. Walk around and try to identify different spots,” Butler adds. Then place a ladder next to a couple of good options and check out the view. If you’re too close to your neighbor, scratch that tree off the list.

If you’re building a treehouse on your own, “don’t expose yourself to too much danger,” said Pete Nelson, who noted he prefers scaffolding to ladders. And research the proper sizing of materials and appropriate hardware that will not damage the live tree and that will keep the treehouse structure sound.

Most builders are used to building on the ground, not in trees, so don’t rely on a standard contractor to construct a treehouse.

This is especially important to keep in mind: Trees grow and move, and Super said that a custom treehouse builder can accommodate for that when installing the platform and selecting the proper hardware.

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