Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Haven't You Always Wanted a Tree House?

Do you like tent living? How about long-term tent living in a mass-produced, readily available, nylon tent? Sound safe? Secure? Weatherproof? I thought not. Well, it seems unlikely to be fun past the first week for me, and I've been deliberating various methods of throwing up a structure that will be not so large as to preclude the building of the HOUSE house, but large enough to allow us to live relatively comfortably (that's relative to tent life and possibly acceptable for a winter just in case) while building the HOUSE house. 
I have thought of everything - from tying a few trees together (no kidding) to fortifying a cave (which I don't have on my property, by the way) to erecting some sort of log cabin out of the trees on my property. I considered a wall tent - too expensive; a trailer home - too many chemicals, big fire hazard, little insulation; stacking straw bales and throwing some plywood on the top - too unstable; building a 12x12 house with attic bedrooms - would take too long once you add in the foundation and everything else that goes with that type of conventional building; and many more. I have determined the best course of action I could follow would be to build a treehouse, replete with multiple staircases, swinging rope bridges, different levels a la Swiss Family Robinson, and we can't forget the fairy tale roofline. Imagine the possibilities! The creativity, the artistry!!

*Snicker* Cackle, Hahahahahaha I had you going there for a minute, didn't I?

Actually I want to build a very simple platform tree house - my goal is to not put in a foundation for the first structure and I don't exactly relish the thought of living in a tarp over the dirt. Realistically, I could, if I had to. But by that same token, it wouldn't be tons of happy for a while. Probably just the opposite. So I'm going to use the assets the land has to offer - its trees.

Now, I'm no expert on tree houses, but they really do fascinate me. I wish I could build one that would take me away faster than Calgon. But TIME consuming, right? So simple it is. I could put up an 8x8 for about $100, give or take, but that would be no better than a tent. So I've designed a 12x12 - it's basically a canvas wall tent, four feet or so off the ground, made from 2x6s and plywood. Yes, chemicals, I know, but they'll air out eventually, and the goal is to get this up quickly. I have to account for the movement of the trees - bear with me as I try to explain this without drawings.

Under the frame of the house you have what I call the subfloor. Joists hold that up. Under that would be the foundation. Essentially, in a tree house, you have a cantilevered foundation, or a joist foundation, or you just saw off the trees at a certain height so they are all level and use them as your foundation. If you use a joist foundation, you would attach two joists to either side of one tree, parallel to each other. The subfloor joists rest on top of the foundation joists. They are attached to the tree, but not to each other. Does that make sense? This allows for movement with this type of construction. Cantilevered tree houses and chopped off tree houses would not necessarily factor in the same type of consideration. 

I will probably use a combination of "foundations" for my tree house. And possibly a rope ladder (because you do need some effect) or wooden ladder which is not attached to the frame, but instead set into notches to prevent it from moving when we go up and down. 

Of course the final design will take into account the position and number of trees and if the lumber I am able to purchase will hold the load etc, etc. But if you wondered about my plans, here they are:

In the beginning, I'm going to leave off the "Teensy Weensy Bathroom" and kitchen area and it will just be an open porch. Those plans are there just in case and we need to overwinter in it. But I'm hoping to leave it open, I think it will make a very nice guest house.

If a tornado doesn't get it first.

Happy Thoughts Tuesday Everybody!



  1. Have you looked into "small houses"? I researched this in several books and websites and they are very affordable and you can build them yourself! It would be quite an adventure for you and your big guy.


    Check it out! There are all sorts of affordable options-you just have to be creative!

  2. Daisy,

    Thanks for the feedback. I've actually been on the website there off and on for a couple of years - or ones similar to it. I've looked into EVERY type of house out there - sandbag to cob to straw to cordwood to stone to traditional and more.

    But the bottom line is, I have the knowledge to design and construct my house myself, and will do so. I think a lot of people who can't do that don't understand it. Maybe I should do a post on that!