Frequently Asked Questions - (FAQ)
Where can I get free plans?
There are very few free treehouse plans on the internet, because every tree is different and in most cases will need a support system designed specifically after a site visit. Some sites that offer treehouse plans are on the links page, but none go into great detail and many plans you will see are simply playhouse plans with little help about how to attach to the tree.
Is there anywhere I can buy plans?
You can help support The Treehouse Guide by purchasing plans from its sister site, Treehouse Guides. These guides are designed to fit a single tree or two tree combination, so they can contain everything you will need to cut every piece of wood and fit it in the tree. You can also consider getting a treehouse specialist to visit your tree and draw up plans for you to work on. Their prior building experience will be invaluable if you are not sure where to start but would like to build yourself.
Who will design a treehouse for me?
There are various treehouse building companies who can visit your tree and create a set of plans for a fee. Most are located in the USA or UK, but some will do consultations based on photographs of the tree. Try TreeHouse Workshop in the USA or The TreeHouse Company in the UK and Europe. Both have a strong history of building.
Is it a good idea to get a builder/carpenter to design my treehouse?
Usually not. While a builder or carpenter might be more than qualified to design and/or build the house itself, they need to have knowledge of trees and the interaction with them that will be required for the supports. As supports often need to be floating/flexible, much care must be taken in the design. A lot of information on supports is available on this site.
Why bother with a design or plan?
Putting together a design before you start will always save you time and money. The main reason people don't draw up a plan is that they are keen to get started, but in the end the project will just draw out over a longer time and will require extra unnecessary trips to buy supplies you forgot the first time. Although the resources needed for a treehouse project are a lot less than for a main dwelling house, the same process applies in either case. The plan allows you to decide on materials early in the project, source everything from a good supplier (and maybe save some money buying in bulk), and lets you think over the shape before you put anything in the tree. You might decide that you want lots of windows but then discover from the plan that these will overlook another property - it is much easier to change windows in a plan. If you decide to go ahead without a plan because you want the structure to be more 'organic' or free flowing, be prepared for it to take longer until you can say that it is truly finished.
What are some cool features to add to my treehouse?
A traditional two-roped swing under the supports, a large rope swing from a sturdy branch, a zip line from a small platform or the treehouse deck down to the ground, a hammock (this should either be close to the ground or over a spacious deck), a rope and pulley system for supplies, solar panels, mini wind generator, electrical lighting, a fireplace, double glazing and insulation, plumbing*, mains electrical supply*, internet connection, phone line.
* Adding a fixed water or electrical supply could cause problems with your building department - see the Legalities section.
How do I keep the rain out of the treehouse?
The most obvious answer is with a good roof. In more detail though, you should use a pitched (sloping) roof of at least 30 degrees (about 1:3) rather than a flat roof, you should overhang the walls by 10% of the width of the treehouse and you should avoid rainwater draining onto any deck areas. It is much easier to waterproof a treehouse if branches or the trunk do not pass through the roof. Branches that pass through walls will be less of a problem as the walls are sheltered by the overhanging roof, although heavy rain will run down all branches.
How do I prevent rain entering around branches/the trunk that pass through the treehouse?
Try to avoid this if possible. It is hard to get a good seal around a branch or the trunk if they pass through the wall or roof. The seal needs to be flexible to allow plenty of movement of the branch (a gap of 2" is a good start) so most successful methods involve using a neoprene collar, using black mastic/sealant for extra gap filling properties.
How should I protect wood from rot?
Ideally use wood that has been pressure treated (though read the article on Arsenic first), as this will withstand rot for the longest time. Hardwoods almost always outlast softwoods when used outside, but a good wood preserving solution will allow the treehouse to stand for a long time. Choose a product that is very liquid to allow deep penetration into the wood. Wood is a lot easier to treat in this way at ground level. Coating products like tar or bitumen will not protect for as long, and paint or varnish are worse still, as any water that does get into the wood as the coating begins to break down will be trapped, allowing rot to set in. Treehouses are generally unheated, so they can remain damp inside after though periods of high air humidity. Condensation on windows can run off and wet frames, leading to rot over time. The most practical way round this is to allow plenty of air movement through the treehouse. Leave windows open when unoccupied or install ventilation grills around the walls to let air flow continuously.