Mother And Daughter In Tree House With Tire Swing Looking At Father

How To Build A Backyard Treehouse Yourself

Katie Ziraldo10-Minute Read
July 20, 2021

Whether you’re interested in constructing a play area for your kids or in designing your own backyard getaway, building a treehouse may have found its way to your do-it-yourself list. But while some DIY projects are easy to achieve in an afternoon, others require more time, energy and money to achieve.

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to tackle your treehouse project – including how much you can expect to spend.

What To Do Before You Start Building

Before you commit to building a treehouse, there are a few important steps to take to set yourself up for success.

Make Sure You’re Allowed To Build It

If you think you can do whatever you want with your yard, you may be in for a harsh reality check. Certain zoning laws and encumbrances set by your neighborhood or homeowners association (HOA) may actually prevent you from being able to construct a treehouse on your property. To avoid unpleasant surprises down the road, make sure to check these laws upfront before you proceed to the planning stage.

Prepare Your Backyard For Your Treehouse

Once you confirm your ability to build a treehouse, the next step is to prepare and clean your yard for the project. First, make sure you have the room for your treehouse before beginning construction. Be sure to also consider the overall look and feel of the environment to ensure the treehouse project won’t make the yard look too cluttered or interfere with the existing landscaping.

How To Make A Simple Treehouse In 13 Steps

Your yard is prepped and it’s time to start building! But where do you start and what materials do you need? Keep reading for a step-by-step look at what you should expect.

1. Find The Right Tree

Young Girl Sitting In Tree

Picking the right tree in your yard may make or break your treehouse project. Finding a strong, sturdy tree on which to build is crucial, and depending on your yard layout, you may even find that using multiple trees is best.

Trees with distinct Y-shaped branches tend to be best if you have them, but you should also consider the type, height and quality of the tree itself. Hardwood trees, such as oak, maple and hickory, tend to be the most popular for bearing treehouses. Examine the tree for signs of damage to ensure it’s strong enough to bear weight, and stay away from trees with shallow roots, as they will provide a weaker foundation.

When choosing a tree, it’s also important to consider whether your trees abide by tree law, if applicable. 

2. Design Your Treehouse Plans

Couple In High End Tree House Reviewing Plans

Designing what you’re going to build can help you set a budget and take measurements, so it’s important to do this before purchasing any materials. When creating your blueprint, consider the size, height and overall style you’re trying to achieve.

There are several popular styles to choose – including double-decker and A-framed – with the most common being basic square-shaped.

The height of the treehouse should be high enough to provide your ideal view, without being so high that it will be dangerous for adults or children alike. Typically, a height between six and 10 feet is best. Measure the height from the ground to your platform location as well as how wide that platform will be. Write these dimensions in your plan alongside ideas for walls and safety railings.

3. Buy Your Materials

Stacks Of Lumber At Lumberyard

With your blueprint in hand, it’s time to buy your materials. The exact quantity of materials you need will depend on your specific treehouse design, but most treehouses require the following materials:

  • Lumber
  • Decking materials
  • Galvanized lag screws and washers
  • Galvanized joist hangers
  • Galvanized rafter ties
  • Nails, deck screws and a pulley

4. Gather Your Tools

Boy With Rubber Mallet And Wooden Plank For Treehouse

Equally important to the materials are the tools needed for construction. The following hand and power tools should be rented, purchased or prepared for building:

  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Level
  • Square
  • Tape measure
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Cordless electric drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Table saw
  • Ladder

5. Mount The Supports And Build The Treehouse Foundation

Man Installing Support Beams In Tree For Treehouse

A solid support structure is key to any safe and successful treehouse, so don’t underestimate the importance of this step.

Start by taking a strip of light wood and nailing it on one side. Then use a level to ensure the wood is horizontally straight before nailing the other end to the tree. The wood for the foundation should be placed about one foot lower than you want the floor of the treehouse to be, and for safety reasons, it should also be at least one foot higher than your head to avoid accidental injuries.

Once the strip of wood is in place, drill holes straight into the tree above each end. These will serve as markers for your foundation. Do the same on the other side so that all four corners are marked. Once all of the holes have been drilled, take down the strips of wood and measure the distance between each hole to determine the length and width needed for your platform.

Once you’ve measured and cut your wood boards, you’ll also want to drill holes in them to match the holes you’ve drilled in the tree. Drive screws through the holes in the boards and into those in the tree using a wrench. Washers should then be placed for additional foundation support.

6. Build And Attach The Platform To The Supports

Daughter And Father Building Together Outside

First, determine which direction you want to run your decking, as this will determine the direction of your floor joists, which need to run perpendicular to the deck itself. Measure and cut your support and floorboards. In addition to the boards needed for the flooring itself, six additional boards should be cut at the same length as your decking. These boards will be used for support beneath the decking.

Attach four boards to another board running perpendicularly beneath them. When building your platform, be sure to take measurements to make sure these boards leave enough space for the tree trunk. Once the boards have been connected, it’s time to lift the platform into the tree and attach it to the supports you’ve placed!

Screw the remaining board onto the other side of the platform so that each side of the tree has a support beam and use rafter ties to attach the platform to the supports. Finally, floor joists should be placed about 16 inches from the center of the structure. We recommend using one-inch galvanized nails and a hammer to attach the joist hangers and rafter ties instead of screws.

7. Cut And Attach The Necessary Braces

At this step in the process, you may worry about the wobbly support system you’ve built – but that’s what braces are for! To avoid wobbling, you’ll want to add some diagonal bracing beneath the structure. Depending on the sturdiness and whether you are using one tree or two, some treehouses may only require one set of diagonal braces, while others could benefit from two sets with one on either end. Cut angled braces at a 45 degree angle using your miter saw, and attach to the foundation post using 3-inch deck nails.

8. Attach Flooring Or Deck Boards

Man Using Drill To Build Platform

With your foundation built and braced, you’re ready to attach your deck boards. These can be connected to the platform using deck screws and an electric drill, or with a nail gun and 2-inch wood nails. You may also have to cut holes in the boards for the tree trunk or branches to go through. When making these cuts, be sure to account for tree growth over time. If you want your treehouse to last for years to come, leave some wiggle room in your holes for the tree to grow.

9. Install Framing And Siding

Treehouse With Great Siding

Your floor is finished! Now let’s focus on the walls. First, determine and measure the desired height of your treehouse roof to begin building your frame. Once you have your measurements, cut your studs and attach the first running horizontally against your platform using 3-inch nails and a framing nailer. Then add vertical studs across the horizontal one, typically placing one vertical stud every 16 inches for stability. And be sure to frame out the spaces where you’ve planned for doors and windows.

You’ll also need to build the frame for your eventual roof. Cut a slightly longer piece of wood to use as the ridge beam, which will run across the highest point of the roof. At this point, it’s helpful to stand up two additional temporary studs at the center of the treehouse to support the ridge beam until it’s connected on each side. Then attach your rafters to the ridge beam on one end and the frame on the other, placing each rafter about 2 feet apart. Once all beams are in place and attached, the temporary studs beneath the ridge beam can be removed.

With your frame ready to go, measure and cut your siding and attach using your framing nailer by nailing the siding into the gable end walls.

10. Cut Doorways And Windows

Doorway cut out in treehouse

Use a saw to cut out holes for doors and windows and to remove any excess wood. If you choose, you can give your treehouse a more finished look by also installing trim around these areas. This trim can be easily constructed using leftover lumber and attached using your nailer.

11. Put The Roof Overhead

High End Treehouse With Lime Green Roof

Cut two pieces of plywood sheathing at a slightly longer length than the rafters and attach on either side of the ridge beam using your framing nailer and 3/8-inch nails. The longer cut of this wood will provide a comfortable overhang on either side of the roof. Like the flooring, be sure to also leave enough room for the tree itself.

12. Add A Safety Rail

Treehouse With Safety Rail

For safety purposes, it’s always a good idea to build a handrail for all treehouses, even if only adults will occupy it. Attach a safety rail section around the deck area, leaving space for the ladder and entrance, and connect the railing to your foundation posts using rail connector brackets.

13. Attach A Ladder

Young Girl Peeking Through Treehouse Ladder

Now that your treehouse is built, you’ll need a way to climb into it. There are several ladder options, from rope ladders, to ladder stairs and the more conventional wooden ladder with rungs. Whatever type of ladder you choose – attach to the front of your treehouse using your drill and 3-inch deck screws to ensure it’s safely fastened.

Costs Of Building A Treehouse

As we’ve mentioned, the exact costs involved in building your treehouse will depend on the size and design as well as the type of materials you choose to use during construction. Building a treehouse would likely not qualify for a home improvement loan as it may be considered a luxury – so to help you determine how much this project will really cost, we’re breaking down each of these cost factors in detail. The following cost estimates were determined by Fixr, a home remodeling cost center.

Size Of The Treehouse

The size of the treehouse will directly impact the quantity of materials needed during construction, which will then impact your wallet.

Treehouse Size (In Feet)

Cost Estimate

6 x 6

$2,000 – $6,000

8 x 8

$4,000 – $10,000

10 x 10

$6,000 – $15,000

12 x 12

$9,000 – $17,000

 

Treehouse Design

The treehouse design will also play a role in its cost, as the more elaborate the design, the more expensive it will be to achieve.

Treehouse Design

Cost Estimate

Square

$6,000 – $15,000

A-Frame

$6,000 – $15,000

Hexagon

$12,000 – $25,000

Octagon

$15,000 – $30,000

Double-Decker

$15,000 – $55,000

 

Buying Materials

Last but not least, the cost of constructing your treehouse will also depend on the type of wood used. It’s important to use rot-resistant wood, making the most popular choices cypress, redwood and cedar.

Lumber Material

Cost Estimate

Cypress

$4.50 – $5 per square foot

Redwood

$5 – $17 per square foot

Cedar

$8 – $20 per square foot

 

Renting Or Buying Tools

When planning your budget, be sure to account for any tools you may need that you don’t already own. If possible, borrow these tools from friends and family members to cut costs. If you can’t gain access to the tools this way, you’ll have to rent or buy them, the cost of which may easily add up. For example, a standard electric drill can easily cost $25 per day to rent.

Tree Removal

Depending on your yard, you may also need to remove a nearby tree to make room for your treehouse. Tree removal costs vary depending on the height of the tree as well as the tree’s health and the risk involved in its removal. On average, the cost to remove a tree from your property may fall anywhere between $75 and $1,500.

Hiring Professional Builders

If constructing a treehouse feels too advanced for your skill set, it might be a good idea to hire professional builders instead. Of course, this means tacking additional labor costs onto an already expensive project, but it may be worth it for the peace of mind alone. Most professionals will charge around $100 to $150 per hour for these services, so the more complicated and time consuming your design is, the more you’ll pay for its construction.

Buying A Prefab Treehouse

If you’re looking for a simpler route, buying a prefab – or preconstructed – treehouse is also an option. These treehouses can be purchased and assembled yourself or by a professional. These prefab construction kits tend to run anywhere between $400 and $1,600 depending on the size and style. But if you want to hire a contractor to assemble it, make sure to account for the labor, which may add up to $3,000 to your project’s total costs.

DIY Treehouses To Inspire Your Creativity

The process of building a treehouse is often long and sometimes tedious – so make sure it’s worth it by choosing a design you really love. The following are just a few of the design elements you can consider.

Utilize Creative Ladders

Treehouse with rope and ladder

There are several options for getting into and out of your treehouse, including multiple types of ladders. But for added fun and personality, consider adding additional features like a rope swing, slide or rope climb!

Add Some Color

Child blowing bubbles in red treehouse

Looking for more affordable ways of personalizing your treehouse? Consider adding some pops of color! Whether you choose to paint the entire treehouse or maybe an accent door, this can be a cheap and simple way to bring your treehouse to the next level.

Embrace Nature

Treehouse covered in ivy

The ideal treehouse is the perfect balance of indoor and outdoor environments. Consider embracing natural beauty by incorporating vines and other plants in your design. It may take some time for these plants to grow, but it’ll be worth it in the long run!

The Bottom Line: Find The Right Tree And Go From There

There’s no question: Building your ideal treehouse is both costly and time consuming, especially if it’s your first venture into building a structure. But with the help of this guide – and potentially a professional builder, if your budget allows – you can build a backyard bungalow that will last for years to come.

Looking for your next project? Check out other DIY home projects you may be able to tackle!

Check Your Credit Score

Create a Rocket Account to check your credit score.

Create Account

Katie Ziraldo

Katie Ziraldo found her love of writing through her experience working with various newspapers, such as the Detroit Free Press. Her financial literacy stems from her four years as a Recruiter, when she learned the details of every role in the mortgage process. As a writer, she uses that knowledge to create relevant content for homeowners to help them reach their goals.