By Bonnie Phelps, WIR Contributor

Since the dawn of time, homes built off the ground have fascinated mankind. How many of us have watched the movie “Swiss Family Robinson” and thought how cool is that! Whether the appeal was to escape four-legged or two-legged predators, keep food from being stolen, avoid being ravaged by flood, fire or animal stampede or just because the view was great, we do know that treehouses have been used for shelter for thousands of years.


© Copyright Paddy Griffin via Creative Commons

Southern Yellow Pine is a great wood to use for any outside project. It’s widely available in many different sizes at lumber yards and big box home improvement stores, comes in pressure-treated lumber options that reduce wood damage from pests and weather, and is inexpensive, durable and beautiful.

If you decide that you want a treehouse in your backyard here are a few considerations:

  1. You need a suitable tree: Choose one that is mature, has a diameter of at least 12”, is healthy and has a deep rather than shallow root system. A tree whose trunk separates into a sturdy ‘V’ is a great candidate for your treehouse.
  2. Get your house in order: Be a courteous neighbor and check with them first about the location and height of your proposed treehouse. You might also want to touch bases with your local planning department to find out if your project requires a permit and with your insurance agent to make sure your liability and damage coverage is adequate.
  3. Make a plan: We have listed a number of sources below to help you design the perfect treehouse for your space.

Image via Flickr user emdot

A quick internet search will turn up quite a number of sites with step-by-step instructions for planning and then building a treehouse for your backyard. Here are two sites that we found particularly helpful:

  1. How to Build a Treehouse listed on Popular Mechanics: A dad talks about his experience building a treehouse for his kids and includes lots of great tips and photos. This is especially useful for the parent who doesn’t have a lot of outside help during the construction process and what this dad did to make the project manageable for one person.
  2. Build a Treehouse listed on wikiHow: This easy to follow guide includes lots of step-by-step diagrams and detailed instructions.


Since many backyards lack mature trees or if you don’t want to damage one of your mature trees, consider building your treehouse on stilts under or near the trees on your property. The effect is much the same as attaching the structure to a tree. Check out these two sites for plans and instructions for building a free-standing treehouse: Treehouse Guides and Free-Standing Tree House Plans.

For more ideas, there are several books on the market that come highly recommended. Black & Decker Complete Guide to Tree Houses available on Amazon – Kindle $12.99 Paperback $17.13 – and Treehouses and Other Cool Stuff: 50 Projects You Can Build on Amazon – Kindle $9.99 Paperback $16.38.


So, what are you waiting for? Head on down to your local lumber yard and give your kids the gift of learning to unplug and use their imaginations!


(Cover image via Shutterstock)