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How to Build a Safe Tree House

A tree house can be an exciting way for kids to enjoy the outdoors, but it also needs to keep kids safe while they play. If you’re thinking of building a backyard tree house, prioritize your children’s safety by considering the following safety tips:

Pick a Strong, Healthy Tree

Of course, the first thing you need for any quality tree house is the right tree. Only a solid, strong tree can withstand the added weight of a tree house and extra pressure from children playing. Look for these qualities when deciding on the best option:

  • Damage- and disease-free. Your tree house won’t last long if its foundation isn’t healthy. Check the roots, trunk, and limbs for disease. Elms and sycamores tend to be more susceptible to disease than other types of trees.
  • 90-degree-angle branches. Tree limbs grow naturally in a variety of sizes and shapes, but those that grow at 90 degrees are the strongest and easiest to build on.

Some types of trees are sturdier than others. If possible, build your tree house in an apple, oak, fir, beech, or ash tree.

Build at a Safe Height

Depending on your children’s ages, you might want to build your tree house lower to the ground instead of high in the branches. Young children in particular could fall out of the tree house and get injured. The lower the house, the safer the children will be—in fact, if your children are five or younger, consider building the tree house level with the ground.

You should also build a low tree house if you live in an area with high winds, since a dangerous windstorm could snap off the tree’s branches. If you’re concerned about wind or injuries, build the tree house in the lower third of the tree.

Use Sturdy Wood

Construction-grade wood will give you the sturdiest tree house possible. In general, you should use pressure-treated 2x4s as the main support elements. Cedar and redwood are long lasting, durable, and sturdy enough to endure both weather and boisterous playing.

Scrap wood might work for the house’s decorative elements, but only use strong, reliable wood for the structure.

Take Every Precaution to Build Safely

Before you build any structure—including a tree house—take these steps:

  • Start with a design in mind. Don’t go into the building process blindly. Working without a plan or blueprint will cost you time and money. The lack of planning can also cause you to overlook crucial safety steps.
  • Find out if you need a building permit. Depending on your city’s laws and your tree house’s size, you may need to acquire a permit before you start. Getting the proper permits from your city will help you ensure that your building plan is safe.

Similarly, don’t overlook any crucial aspects of the construction itself. For instance, you should add joints and posts as you build. It might be tempting to skip this step, but these stabilizing reinforcements add structural stability. Anything you can do to make your tree house safer for your kids is worth the extra time, labor, and materials.

Hire a Professional

If you have a good set of carpentry skills and can put in the time to construct the tree house correctly, a tree house can be a manageable DIY project. However, if any of the above tips seem overwhelming, or if you’re worried about building the tree house to meet safety standards, hire a professional.

It’s time to let your children enjoy their dream tree house. When you follow the tips above, you’ll help your little ones enjoy their summer without worrying about injuries. If you’ve built a safe, successful tree house in the past, please share your safety advice in the comments!


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