Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Roofing & Closing up for the winter.

On Friday Brent and I got up early to finish the framing, and to try to get the roof on. We'd made such good progress the previous day, we were optimistic that we could get a lot done.

Framing the last wall was rough, as access was a lot more difficult. We didn't have the loft to stand on, so there was a lot of ladder manipulation and movement. Hanging on with one arm as we tried to toe-nail studs together was tiring and time consuming.

Installing the last few pieces of siding were difficult too, since we had to nail it from the outside, and we couldn't access the side of the tree house via scaffolding. We eventually got everything finished, and started thinking about getting the OSB onto the rafters.

The roof has a 21 degree slope, which is scary enough when standing on it. OSB is surprisingly slippery, and it was a long way down to the ground. Luckily Andy and my dad showed up around this time and were willing to help out. Andy had a lot of rope, a few pulleys, and a harness. He set up a rig where he could get to each corner of the roof, and be tied in securely the whole time. I settled for a climbing harness and a fixed length of rope that would prevent me from sliding off the nearest part of the roof. Unfortunately that meant I couldn't reach the corners of the roof.

We started with the lowest sheets of OSB, and started going up from there. We left a gap in the middle of the roof so that we could get on and off easily. It was also the same slot we planned on installing a skylight into, so it worked out well.

We overhung the OSB by a foot on each side, to allow for a good eave on each end of the tree house. We also added two 18' 2" x 6" caps on the high and low side of the rafters. These helped counter lever the extra rafters that weren't resting on the frame of the tree house.

After all the OSB was up we started laying and stapling the roofing felt. This made things feel a lot safer, the felt wasn't as slippery as the OSB alone. We also starting framing in the skylight opening. The skylight would have the dual purpose of letting some light in, and giving us access to the roof down the road.

By the time we got all the felt on and framed in the rough opening for the skylight, it was time to call it a day. We didn't quite get as much done as we hoped, but had one more day of the trip to get the actual roofing material installed.

We did manage to get the roll-roofing install on Saturday. We also managed to get several of the lower level windows in, although a few ended up a bit large for the rough openings. We unfortunately didn't take many pictures, but tarring and nailing the roofing material down isn't really that exciting. Hopefully we managed to get everything watertight for the most part.

Saturday night we quit a bit early and went to a friend of the family's 50th birthday / anniversary party. It was nice to get out and be a little social after 9 very full days of work.

Sunday involved a lot of clean up and further waterproofing of the structure. I was out of time to get the door or upper level windows in, so my dad and I took some discarded T-111 and shuttered up the rough openings. Since the skylight was going to require some modification, I made a temporary cover for it out of a few 2" x 4"s, T-111, and some roofing material.

I also had to cut short 2" x 6" blocks to fill up the gap between the upper portion of the rafters where they sat on the frame. Brent had gotten the lower portion of the rafters taken care of the day before. I hammered these into place, relying on a press-fit. I suspect some will fall out during the winter as the structure shifts slightly under the various stresses.

Buttoning everything up took a lot longer than I expected. I barely had time to really look at what we accomplished before I had to jump in the car and drive back to Colorado. Dad made a comment about how he was happy to see me go, so he could actually relax a bit. I could understand where he was coming from, I was truly exhausted after the long trip.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The loft , rafters, and three out of four walls.

After a full day's work, we drove into Louisville to drop Nate off at the airport. Ted and I picked up some 2" x 6" lumber for the loft and a few other supplies.

The next morning, we carried each 2" x 6" up the ladder by hand, no longer having a crane and not trusting our knot tying skills. Ted and I tore through the loft construction pretty quickly. However, we did make one mistake in not realizing that the walls had bowed out a bit toward their centers. This caused us to pull out a few nails, pull the walls together using the come-along, then re-nail the loft joists. We put a few sheets of OSB down, and had a fairly complete loft.

That evening Ted took off for Colorado, and my other buddy Brent flew into town. Even though I'd lost two good workers due to real-life constraints, I suspected that Brent had more framing experience then Ted, Nate and I combined. That wasn't hard to accomplish, since Ted, Nate and myself had zero framing experience up until now.

After a late night of story telling, Brent and I started putting the rafters and the side walls up. We notched the rafters so that they'd sit on the top sills properly. I used 2" X 6" X 12' for the rafters, which gave a decent eave on the rear of the tree house, and a pretty huge eave on the front. Having a larger eave on the south facing side would help provide shade in the summer, and keep rain and moisture off of the tallest wall. Or that's the theory, anyway.

For the rear 16' wall, Brent and I had covered the 1 foot tall wall with screen. The rear wall is well covered by the eave, and it seemed like a logical place to get some ventilation.

We used hurricane clips to help keep the rafters in place. We also toe-nailed them to the top sill using 16d nails. This seemed to secure them more than enough.

We managed to also get one of the odd shaped walls into place and sided. There was a lot more toe-nailing involved then we expected, and without the nail gun at the tree house, it was slower going then we hoped. Regardless, by the end of the day things looked like they were really coming together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


With the siding on, we estimated that the 16' walls weighed between 300 and 400 pounds. Luckily our good friend Andy had a crane that he used for his tree service. It had just enough reach for the project, and we hoped it would really simplify getting everything up onto the platform.

We got everything down to the site, and got the crane situated as best we could. We looped a few straps through the rough openings for the windows on the farthest wall. We also tied a rope to one corner, allowing us to swing the wall around as necessary as it was lifted onto the platform. Once the wall was on the platform, we braced it with two 2" X 4"s to keep it in place.

The two 8' walls went up pretty quickly. Ted and I were wearing harnesses that were tied off to the trees, so we had to do a bit of fancy foot work to keep our ropes out of the way. In the second picture, you can see the temporary stubs we screwed into the platform to prevent the bottom of the walls from slipping off while we positioned them.

The last 16' wall was a bit tricky, since we had to lift it higher than the others in order rotate it into place. Once it was rotated, it slipped into place beautifully. We nailed each wall to the platform, and also lag-bolted each wall to it's neighboring walls. Once this was done, the platform was noticeably stiffer.

My main concern up to this point had been whether or not the lag eye bolts would pull out of the trunks of the tree. So far the bolts in the tree had held, and everything felt solid. We still had a lot of weight to add to the tree house, but so far things were looking good.

We'd made such great progress that we decided to hurry back to the shop and put the siding on the 4 foot tall wall, so we could get it up in the tree while we had access to the crane. With a full five people working at once, the siding went pretty quickly.

We also decided to crane up all the OSB we were going to use for the roof. That seemed like less work than pulling each sheet up via rope. After that, we got the 4 foot tall wall up easily enough, and tacked it into place with some handy 2" x 4"s.

After all the preparation, traveling, and building, it was great to see a good portion of the structure fall into place in one day. Andy's crane certainly made our life a lot easier, and it was great having so many helping hands during the day. Thanks guys!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First few days of the trip.

The marathon building trip is over. We survived with all our limbs and digits intact, and ended up with something in the tree that looks pretty cool.

Ted and I left Denver around 5 am on Friday morning. The trip went smoothly, although we had to rush to make it to the Louisville airport in time to pick up Nate. The timing worked out great, we showed up right as Nate was walking out the door of the airport. Not bad for 17 hours of driving.

On Saturday morning we headed to the local lumber yard. We'd estimated how much lumber we'd need, and picked through a lot of stock before we found everything. They didn't have enough T-111 siding, so we knew we'd have to pick that up elsewhere.

We also took a look at the platform, and discussed the trapdoor and additional attachments to the tree. We decided to scrap the trapdoor idea for various reasons, including placement issues, ladder access issues, and knowing we'd be pressed for time otherwise.

Sunday Nate and Ted started adding the additional attachment points to the platform. Dad hauled the scaffolding down to the site, and the three of them set that up. They attached a wire rope sling to each trunk, using a 3/4" stainless steel lag screw and some giant washers. The hope was that these would be backup support, in case one of the original attachments points pulled out. At the very least we hoped it'd give us some time to get out of the tree if things started to collapse.

Later in the day we headed over to Tommy's shop to grab some windows and a door. Tommy had generously offered up some spare windows he had, and one of many doors he had laying around. We also picked up 16 sheets of T-111 siding. Ouch, that stuff is expensive!

With the windows in hand, we laid out the final design, and started building the first wall. Ted and Nate were pretty antsy to actual build something, so we were up until 11 pm or so building that first wall.

Monday was a flurry of framing. As my dad and I put the siding on the first wall, Ted and Nate knocked out the remaining first level walls. After we put on the siding, we hauled them down to the site via wagon. Later, we managed to build the four foot wall that would raise the roof line on the south facing side of the building to 12 feet.

It's amazing how quickly one can frame when using a miter saw and a pneumatic nail gun. Putting the siding on took a bit of work, since we had to cut out seven rough openings. We worked until after dark trying to prepare for the next big day of getting the walls up into the tree.

After all that hard work, we had a few tape measure races. We eventually added stabilizers to the tape measures, and added jumps to the race course. Nate's tape measure was fundamentally faster than the others, although both Ted and I managed to squeak out a few wins due to clever engineering.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Two days before the trip!

And my mind is turning. Here's an alternative design idea that Matt suggested:

There are several benefits to this design over the original.

  • Half again as much room in the loft
  • The roof would be simpler and safer to build
  • More south facing exposure

The downside is that the treehouse is starting to look top heavy. Since it's only hanging in place, how badly will it want to tip over? Unfortunately, it would seem that if you had a lot of weight to one side, that side would want to sink, which would raise the other side, thus making it want to tip more...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I leave in 3 days for the big build trip. I've been reading up on framing, trying to prepare for a full week of building. There's a lot for me to learn, and I'm pretty sure it's not all in a book. The book I have been using is titled "Graphic Guide to Frame Construction", which has been very helpful.

I've sketched out a few concepts, starting with a rough floor plan.

I decided to have a loft for sleeping and storage. The floor plan with a bed on the main level was getting too crowded. In order to have a loft be usable, I went with a high pitched roof (12 in 12, in the parlance of our times). This should allow for a bit of movement once you get into the loft, at least enough to crawl into bed.

After those decisions were made, I started with a more detailed layout of the walls, floor, and roof. I tried keeping everything as simple as possible, since I know we'll be short on time.

I don't yet know what sized windows or doors I'll be using, so most of the detailed work isn't laid out yet in the CAD. I'd like to have 4 or more windows, and a few skylights would really be nice. Our friend Tommy has kindly offered up what spare windows and doors he has in storage. Andy has also offered to help get the walls and roof up to the platform via crane.

I tried lowering the loft so that the joists would be at around the same height as the windows. I also made sure that the eaves don't hang below where I expect the windows to be.

Who knows what we'll end up with at the end of next week. It'll be interesting to compare these drawings with the final product. Here's hoping no one falls out of the tree or gets hurt!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Leveling the platform

I headed back to the farm in May to check on the platform and do a little work. Since I could only get away for a long weekend, I didn't plan on making much progress. I hoped to level the platform and add a few more attachment points. Having a backup attachment point on each trunk would add some piece of mind.

I was also curious how things held up over the winter. My dad had put a tarp over the platform after I left last fall to try to keep things dry.

There wasn't much debris on top, and the tarp looked like it had held steady over the winter. There was no obvious rubbing on any of the trunks, and things generally looked great. The galvanized hardware was looking brand new.

I'd brought a bunch of wire rope slings to use as backup attachments. These were drastically cheaper than chain and were rated plenty strong for what I wanted to do.

I quickly realized that they would not fit onto the same clevis as the turnbuckles. Since I hadn't brought extra clevises, I had to give up on adding the additional attachment points this trip.

We switched our focus on leveling the platform. When I'd left it last year we couldn't quite get things level using the turnbuckles. In order give us enough play we had to cut a few more lengths of chain. You can see in the below picture that we were completely at the end of travel in one of the turnbuckles.

We also swapped out one chain/turnbuckle combination for a wire rope sling. Since one point could be a static length, we thought we'd save the turnbuckle for some other task. Also, we wanted to see what the wire slings looked like on the tree!

We managed to get everything level, and leave about half of the throw in each remaining turnbuckle. This way if things change as we build onto the platform, we'll have a bit of leeway to level things out again.

We buttoned the tarp back up, and I took off, hoping to get back in October to actually build some walls and a roof. That looks like it's going to happen, and I'll have a few more helpers this time. Hopefully the next entry will have a lot more progress!