Many dream of the day where owning a home and having a family will present them with the opportunity to build a tree house. Planning a tree house build provides a challenging and fun opportunity, adds aesthetic value to the home, brings the family together outdoors, and becomes the seeds for nostalgic childhood memories. Just try to name an activity more wholesome than building a tree house!
Yet, even though tree houses are intended to last for years (if not decades), very few people ever consider hiring an arborist for a professional inspection before building a tree house. Not only does this present a risk for the health of the tree itself, but also your family and friends!
So before you start that build, we can’t recommend enough hiring one of our tree professionals to help guide you along your tree house building journey…
In this article, we will discuss a few factors to consider before starting your build, and provide you with some tips to help you with your due diligence. Remember, rule number one when building a tree hose is always safety first!
SELECTING TREE TRAITS
The size of the tree that you select will ultimately determine the potential size of your tree house build. Generally, it is is recommended to select a tree with a diameter that is no less than 12 feet, or 37 feet in circumference. This might seem rather large, but it is important to take into account the additional stress that will be placed on the tree from building materials (and of course, human beings).
Quick Tip: Measuring the diameter of a tree can be tricky. In this case, simply use a tape measure to measure the circumference of the tree, and divide that number by pi (3.14). For example, a tree with a circumference of 22 feet would have a diameter of about 7 feet (22 divided by 3.14).
While a tree’s age is secondary to its size in determining which tree to build on, it can still be a helpful deciding factor. In determining the age of the tree (see our article on How To Determine the Age of a Tree), your potential tree candidate should be young enough to not have been weakened by rot, disease, or insects; yet, old enough as to where the tree is not too weak to be able to support the tree house.
A tree should have deep roots that provide a solid foundation, sturdy branches, and should be inspected to be free of insects and fungus. Oak trees, for instance, are more susceptible to the anthracnose fungus which presents itself as dark lesions blotches on the tree bark. A tree service professional will also help you to identify any holes burrowed into the wood, which may be a sign that termites or carpenter ants have a made a home in your tree.
The moral of the story here is that any kind of fungus, infection, or insect invasion may weaken the foundation of a tree, making it unfit and unsafe for a tree house build (See Article: Common Tree and Plant Diseases). An ounce of prevention may end up saving your time, money, and aggravation in the future!
WHAT SPECIES ARE BEST?
Your best bet here is stick with deciduous versus coniferous trees. As a quick reminder, deciduous trees are the ones that lose their leaves in the fall and winter seasons. The inherent nature of these trees is to grow at a steadier pace, making your tree house less vulnerable to shifting and breaking. At the same time, the wood that makes up deciduous trees is dense and sturdy, providing a solid anchor for bolting lightweight materials into your tree.
Generally, these are the best tree species for building a tree house:
Start with some of the tips above, and if you are in any doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our tree experts for a consult. Building a tree house should be a joyous and pleasant experience, which means that it never hurts to get some professional advice before you dive right in. As we always like to say, “measure twice, build once”!