Building a backyard treehouse

A backyard treehouse provides kids with some privacy while only being a short distance from the main house and adult supervision. It also provides an outdoor space to cultivate their imaginations and enjoy nature. In addition, Zillow research has shown that houses with a treehouse sell faster and at a higher price than those without one. A research study determined, "The feature with the highest price premium is "treehouse," which contributed to a home selling for 2.2% more than expected." The report continues: "The feature with the highest price premium is 'treehouse,' which contributed to a home selling for 2.2% more than expected." The report continues to say, however, that adding a treehouse won't guarantee these results, but if a treehouse already exists it should be presented as a feature in the property description.

Along with the potential benefits of a backyard treehouse, however, there are safety concerns to consider before, during and after building the treehouse. Homeowners could be held responsible if a visiting child is injured in or near the treehouse, so learn what your homeowner's policy will or won't cover. Also, contact the local town hall to find out if a permit is required and if there are any building regulations and codes that pertain to treehouses. If the treehouse is planned with too many modern conveniences, such as built-in utilities it may be considered a permanent dwelling rather than a temporary backyard structure and regulated as such.

Involving the family in the building stage of the project is teaches them about working safely with tools, materials and each other. Adult supervision should be provided at all times until the treehouse is completed. Once the treehouse is finished and ready to enjoy, children need to be given safety rules to prevent unnecessary injuries. According to an article on treehouse safety at nationwidechildrens.org, "Almost 2,800 children are treated in emergency departments for tree house-related injuries every year." The article goes on to say that most of these injuries occur from children jumping or falling from the treehouse.

Consider consulting an arborist before choosing a location for a treehouse to make sure the tree is healthy and able to support the weight of the planned structure. The arborist can help determine the size and style of the treehouse that fits the tree or help find a tree, or trees, to support the design. The weight of the treehouse may be able to be supported by more than one tree in a fairly wooded area or distributed among a few large limbs of one large sturdy tree. There may be certain species of trees better suited to support a treehouse and others that are not. An arborist will also be knowledgeable in how wind and other weather can affect a tree that supports the weight and bulk of a treehouse. However, if it's determined that the backyard doesn't have a tree suitable for a treehouse there are other alternatives.

One alternative is to build a freestanding playhouse that resembles a treehouse in the backyard on a raised platform. However, a freestanding playhouse can also be an option even if there is a suitable tree but the thought of risking damage or destruction to it by fastening a structure to it isn't appealing. This type of treehouse can be built amidst the trees rather than attached to one. The building and use of the structure will still take place under the trees without risking the health of the tree.

A treehouse can be a simple wooden structure built from scrap wood or repurposed pallets to an elaborate luxury custom-built dwelling like those shown on the TV show Treehouse Masters. However, budget and DIY skills should be determined before deciding which type of treehouse to build. Of course, contractors can be hired to help with the design, cost estimates and construction if a DIY project isn't possible or desired.

Another structure that is similar to a treehouse that doesn't require trees but does require some space is a backyard combination elevated fort/playscape that is available as a kit. These kits can be as basic or elaborate as desired and include monkey bars, a wooden "rock" wall, a picnic table, a slide, a row of swings, a balcony and a crow's nest. An additional sandbox and a kiddy pool will create a children's wonderland of fun and activity. Kits require assembly which can also be a teaching opportunity with the use of following instructions and tool use.

Treehouse plans can be purchased or found online for free if designing is too much of a project but assembling a kit is too little. A web search for free treehouse plans will provide many options to choose from. Before choosing a plan, consider the amount of materials and tools will be required and how much it will cost to finish the job.

No matter which type of treehouse is built, a treehouse will provide an opportunity for backyard enjoyment and a private space for the kids.

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