Designing detailed treehouse plans
August 19, 2008 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find some quick design / architecture talent to build a set of detailed treehouse plans?

I'd love to have someone build a set of detailed treehouse plans from a sketch. I'd want a set of almost architectural drawings (doesn't need to be perfect), step by step construction instructions, and a listing of material needed. Enough so someone could use it as a set of instructions to build the thing.

Treehouse would look like this.

Would love some estimates on how much this would cost, and where I could post such a job. (I've already posted it in Mefi Jobs.)

Thanks in advance!
posted by mtstover to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One thing you didn't list is having the knowledge of evaluating the suitability of a particular tree to support the treehouse design of your choice. Going from memory of a tv show I saw once, the maturity, type of tree and growth pattern were very important. Also important was the type of fasteners used to connect to trunks and limbs.
posted by mmascolino at 7:23 AM on August 19, 2008

Do it the old fashioned way and just start nailing stuff to a tree until it looks sort of like what you want. My father built a really sturdy tree house in our back yard when I was a kid, we rarely used it. My best friend and I built a rickety tree house in his back yard when we were ~12 years old - we spent all our free time in it. I'd say it's much more important for the kids to have a hand in building it than it being perfect. If it looks sketchy when you're done, just make your kids wear helmets when they're playing in it :-)
posted by foodgeek at 7:52 AM on August 19, 2008

foodgeek - not everyone trusts their intuition enough to believe that would be safe -- some people's version of "just build it" can be a little rickety, have exposed nails, etc.

Although I personally would have wanted to build my treehouse myself :)
posted by amtho at 7:56 AM on August 19, 2008

This is a good book about building treehouses.
posted by trbrts at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2008

Response by poster: Just to clarify - I want to develop this content for resale. I'm not worried about building it myself, but I want someone to do the actual designs for me.
posted by mtstover at 8:55 AM on August 19, 2008

I'm tempted, since I have a fair bit of spare time these days (and I've designed and built similar structures), but the fact that you want to package the design for resale makes it more problematic that if this was just for a specific tree in your backyard (and also raises professional and liability issues). For one thing, I think you need to know with some certainty the girth and maturity of the tree you'd be bolting into... and that's just the first of many many questions and issues that'd need to be addressed.
It is an interesting idea though.
posted by Flashman at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2008

It might be better to break it out- an architect could do the design, and a contractor could do the take off and building instructions. If you can find one person who could do it, why wouldn't they sell it themselves?

The architectural part may be a bit more complicated since there is some structural design (the load to the tree) that isn't typical.

This is a work for hire, so make sure you have everyone sign a release.
posted by Monday at 9:34 AM on August 19, 2008

Just to clarify - I want to develop this content for resale.

You mean you want to sell treehouse plans to the general public so that they can go and build your treehouses all over the place? If that's the case, you probably don't want to get really detailed architectural drawings, because all those will end up doing is expose you to incredible amounts of liability (IANAL). There's a couple problems with that idea, and I'll probably think of more as the day goes on:

1. If I'm going to be doing the drawings for this thing, I'm going to want a cut of the action once you start selling them. You're not just hiring me to do some pretty drawings, you're drawing on my experience with building codes and structural requirements, which in the end makes your treehouse a more marketable product. Once the things start selling, your architect will be in for a bit of the liability should anything go wrong, as well. In fact, if someone get seriously injured because your treehouse collapses on them and sues you, wouldn't you then turn right around and sue your architect for incompetence? Of course you would - so I'm going to want a percentage of sales rather than a flat fee to offset any potential class-action suit that's coming down the pike.

2. As mmascolino mentions, the type, age, and growth pattern of the tree in use will make a big difference on the design of the treehouse. Some trees may not be able to support it. When someone builds the treehouse in an unsuitable tree, see item #1.

3. I don't know about all areas of the US or other countries, but it seems that treehouses occupy a sort of nebulous area in respect to the building code -- I don't think anybody ever gets permits for them, but I don't think building inspectors are going around busting people for building them. I wouldn't expect that to be true for pre-drawn treehouse plans though, and you might attract the attention of governmental officials who'll shut you down. Really, the only reason you're looking for an architect to do the drawings is so that your treehouse is sort of "pre-approved", much in the same way that other pre-fab building elements are often pre-approved by building departments (like spiral stairs, skylight assemblies, etc.), but you're doing it for something that's not likely to go through the building department in the first place. That means that all the liability for the buildings will be on you and your architect, since no one is going to formally review the drawings (aside from your architect) for structural stability, and given the nature of trees there's really no way to do so.

But, I don't know. Maybe there are outfits selling treehouse plans already that I just don't know about, but the whole enterprise seems extraordinarily difficult for not much benefit to me.
posted by LionIndex at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2008

Have you checked with these sorts of folks? There's a fair bit of info on their site, so it's a decent intro to some of the issues (even if the web design is a bit old fashioned). Seriously; dig around.

I would, however, be surprised if you're able to avoid hiring a structural engineer. If you're doing the plans commercially, there are a lot of jurisdictions that are gonna want to see engineering calcs by a licensed PE/SE. You could try to make that the customers' problem, but that'll be a tough sell.
posted by aramaic at 9:48 AM on August 19, 2008

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