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!