Help me design a treehouse addition!
February 4, 2015 5:24 PM   Subscribe

I built a treehouse for my kids last year, with a couple 4x4 posts and 45-year-old Ponderosa Pines. (Several obligatory pictures of what's already there.) I'd like to extend the treehouse along the downhill side, probably by building a deck parallel to the swings, and attached to the four trees, forming a rough square.

I'm not much of a carpenter, which is probably painfully apparent from what's already been built. I've used 3/8 lag screws, about 5 or 6 inches long, to put the existing 2 by 6 beams into the trees and/or posts. I wouldn't mind adding some additional features to an expansion, like perhaps a climbing wall or rope net on the west (downhill) side of this new addition. Obviously I'd put up railings, especially given that the height increases significantly as I go downhill. It's roughly 8 feet high on the downhill side of the tree where it currently connects to the beam holding up the swing. The span there is 12 feet long, between 4 and 6 feet wide (distance between the trees lengthens as you come away from the existing structure ).

I'm not a big fan of the way I did the existing roof and will probably do something new for the new roof. My budget isn't terribly important. I'm happy spending anywhere from $100 to $1,000 on this expansion. Oh, and for what it's worth, it appears I probably need to use 2 by 8s as joists if I'm going to build a deck on that 12 foot span, according to my county's building codes. I'm not planning on building exactly to code, but I'm interested in building something that isn't going to come crashing down or maim my kids. My kids are 6, 4, and 1 1/2, and they love the swingset portion the most.

Finally, I'm not married to my design idea here, and if you can come up with something better, have at it!
posted by Happydaz to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like the existing slide area is a pretty good main structure so I don't know if you need to make a deck for the next part. Here's something you could do instead.

Parallel to the beams you put up for the swings make a similar structure on the other trees but have evenly spaced bars in it for swinging across (monkey bars?).

Put a rope net across the top of the swings and monkey bars. So instead of a big deck it is a big netted area. The kids can still move across it but it will take a bit more work.

And then at the west side have the climbing wall.

I have no idea how much a rope net, or anything else for that matter, would cost though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:05 PM on February 4, 2015

- build an enclosed space that can be a 'fort' the kids can hide inside and peek out of. with a bench & a shelf / table that is hinged to the wall
- a rope (3/4" dia or more) with knots to climb on; and/or a hatch in the floor of the new deck through which they can raise & lower the rope

-a small tray attached to a cord & pulley that can be used to raise things up to the deck
-a simple 'telephone' made of a couple funnels and a flexible pipe/tube running from the ground level up
posted by TDIpod at 6:28 PM on February 4, 2015

Using big lag bolts or even carriage bolts is solid, especially if you only use one per tree allowing for growth and expansion. Periodic checks of structural integrity are important and I make sure my kids help me with that.

Clearly you need a zipline. And a big fat climbing rope with knots. And a trapeze bar.

big piles of wood chips beneath, about eight inches deep ideally for the occasional fall. We also have a 4" gymnastic mat that we bring out for circus events - daily when the weather is nice.

I wouldn't be so caught up in the treehouse idea. The kids will help you build one if they really want it. Especially if most of what they love now is swinging. But I love having a playground made of trees - I had trees like yours when I was a kid and built a ropes course that navy seals would have loved. Peg board to tarzan ropes, to one where ropes came down to the center and you had to crouch to reach the other one, a spinning ladder inspired by a carnival, another one where your partner either gave the top rope tension or slack to try to knock you off.

The slackline is another modern feature that is an absolute blast for all ages - it's a lot easier with a big balance pole. Easy to set up - go with a 2" piece of webbing. We bought the bouncy one from Gibbon although I'm pretty sure that their ratchet is no stronger than a truck ratchet, but their webbing is nice.

I would put a big steel bar for pullups and crazy gymnastic tricks between a pair of those trees too.

And don't hesitate to raise that swinging setup. Ours is pretty high as it is, but I put the baby swing in about 25 feet high and my Cmonster has had a blast.

My goal is one piece of apparatus every year.
posted by mearls at 8:19 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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