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Securing your treehouse

Categories: General | Doors and windows

The last thing you need when you've put all your effort into building your ideal treehouse is for someone to come along and wreck the whole thing when you're away. There follow some ideas on how to prevent your work being destroyed. Please read the disclaimer.

Disclaimer

Several people have contacted me about the methods described on this page to protect a treehouse. I leave it entirely up to you whether to secure your treehouse in any way that might cause harm to others. Even if you have an instance of forced entry in a 'normal' house, you have a liability over the criminal while he is in your property and you can face prosecution if you hurt him. This will apply to most treehouses, but I don't know about those built illegally on someone else's land.

You should understand clearly that all responsibility lies with you, or whoever installs such measures/devices, regarding safety of anyone on the structure. The following is my opinion of what are good security techniques, but that doesn't make them necessarily safe.

As they say, all information is for educational use only.


How to reduce the risk of attack

Firstly, it must be borne in mind that building a wooden hut in a forest up a large tree is asking for trouble. Think about it, if you saw a treehouse while out on a walk, wouldn't you want to see what it was like inside? People are naturally curious, but how can you sort out the innocent visitors with a genuine interest in treehouses from the malicious vandals who want nothing better than to see your creation in pieces?

The best idea is to make it virtually impossible for anyone except yourself to climb up the tree. This is easier said than done (like most important things) but if you put your mind to it, it's possible. My treehouse had, as its main security feature, 45 feet (16.4 metres) of solid tree between it and the ground, with most of the useful branches cut off to make climbing up very tricky and off-puttingly dangerous. If you are at the planning stage of building a treehouse, go high! This is very useful if you can climb well yourself, and if your tree is high enough to make newcomers scared even thinking about climbing up, but if you have an easy-to-climb tree or a treehouse near the ground, you will have to consider different security methods.

One of the best is barbed wire, but you may feel that it might damage you rather than the intruders. However, if carefully placed, barbed wire can make easy climbs a nightmare for those not familiar with the route. Use it to block off simple routes to your treehouse, to disable useful branches, and to cut ropes that may be thrown over low branches by the criminals. Bear in mind that barbed wire is ugly when the leaves are off, so hide it. This also helps surprise intruders by stabbing them as they reach up for a good branch to hold onto.

Other deterrents include sharpened nails in the tree trunk, grease smeared over potential handholds, and removable knife blades attached to low branches to cut ropes. Remember that you have to get up, so don't block off all the routes! Let's face it, if you can get up, no matter how difficult the climb, someone else can get up too. So it is important to make the treehouse itself as safe from attack as possible. Here is a list of some general protective measures:

  • Build your treehouse with security in mind from the start. This may seem obvious, but an attacker will try to get in however he can. Imagine that you are trying to break in - how would you do it?
  • Do not make the mistake of thinking that something is safe just because it was difficult to build.
  • Ensure that all the walls are at least 1cm (~ half inch) thick, preferably more. The same goes for the roof, although wide spans of plywood may need to be even thicker. The floor is a good place for a vandal to break in, although most go straight for the door. Usually floor boards or plywood sheets are nailed onto beams and can simply be prised away with a hammer. Attach flooring with large screws from the inside and it will be very difficult to remove.
  • Never leave tools lying about outside the treehouse. You used them to make the treehouse, so they can equally well be used to destroy it.
  • Make the framework as rigid as possible so that when you attach the walls, they are supported from many different places. This makes it impossible to kick the walls through. Same with the roof.
  • Use security bolts on each wall panel, so it can't be prised off. These bolts have a rounded head, so they can only be tightened/ removed from the inside.

More specific security methods: doors and windows

Your suggestions

Tell me what you think about treehouse protection and of any other security features that you think a treehouse deserves. Contact me and I may add your ideas to this page.