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How do trees get along with screws, nails, bolts and other steel objects?
“Screws damage the tree! Just one copper nail is enough and the whole tree will die!” Is that old myth true? Many people are initially averse to drilling into a living tree – understandably so. But is a small drill really a danger for the whole tree? How does the tree get along with the steel foreign object? Are clamping fastening methods the better choice?
We will discuss these concerns:
1. Concern – Steel is not compatible with wood?
The combination of steel & wood harmonises perfectly!
Proof of this is, for example, the over 20 year old treehouse constructions by Michael Garnier in the USA.
Numerous experiments have shown that the tree does not repel the steel, but envelops it, fully integrating it into its life situation (see photos: Out’n’About Treehouse Resort 2016).
2. Concern – The screw hurts the tree?
Every screw hole is an intrusion into the tree, but trees know how to deal with this kind of injury very well – it is similar to a branch break:
The hole cuts off some water and nutrient lines. Immediately afterwards, the tree begins to heal the wound by selectively storing resins and oils to seal the wound. In the following years, it will form extra-strong reaction wood at this site. Thanks to its abundant energy reserves, the tree can easily cope with such situations.
The big advantage over branch breakage: the wound is immediately sealed again with the treehouse screw – so no insects and fungal spores can get in.
3. Concern – The tree will suffer from the treehouse in the long run?
This concern is lost when one knows how adaptable and resistant adult trees are. If a tree has survived the difficult years of growth, it is already a proof of its incredible survivability.
Throughout their lives, trees are repeatedly confronted with injuries and problems:
Natural influences such as:
Forest fires, droughts, permafrost, floods, avalanches, lightning strikes, branch bursts during storms and snow, leaf loss due to hail, fungal and insect attack, …
But also man-made damage such as..:
Car impact accidents, root damage during earthworks, section of the water supply through new buildings, compaction of the soil and thus lack of oxygen supply for roots, damage caused by neighbouring felling work, …
A vital tree can cope well with such extreme situations, as it has large energy reserves (carbohydrates & fats) in its adult state. Its entire structure is designed for a multiple of its everyday load. It is not for nothing that trees belong to the oldest living beings on earth!
Trees are true masters of the Art Of Survival and adapt quickly to new situations!
A survey of 18 professional treehouse builders showed that out of 2253 tree houses built, only two trees were directly affected – far less than 1 per mille. (Source: Bachelor thesis by Onja Johannes Hardorp, 2017, HNE Eberswalde)
Treehouse professional Johannes Schelle raves about his treehouse, which he screwed to a beech and a lime tree 12 years ago: “The trees have a magnificent crown and flower two weeks longer every year than all other trees in the garden.”
4. Concern – Why screws at all? Are injury-free methods not inherently better?
So-called “injury-free” fastening techniques can also have a negative effect on the tree. Since no direct intervention is necessary, they initially appear more harmless; the damage only becomes apparent in the following years.
If the tree continues to grow in thickness, looping techniques (tree loop, cuff, clamping techniques) often lead to constriction of the nutrient-conducting tissue.
This constriction is more extensive and ultimately more damaging than punctual injury by a screw.
Even stilts can cause severe damage to the tree if the root system is injured during foundation work (similar to branch breakage, open wound for fungal spores).
Read more about the best fastening techniques here…
5. Conclusion – Treehouse Screws as “State Of The Art” of Treehouse Building
In our treehouse carpentry “Baumbaron” we have been gathering our experience with various treehouse fixings for over 12 years and 200 successful tree house projects – our conclusion:
- Trees easily tie steel objects into their living situation.
- Normal screws from the DIY store are not suitable for fastening a tree house, they are not designed for such large loads.
- Wrapping methods are damaging to the tree in the long term, as they hinder the tree in its natural thickness growth.
- The injury / contact area should be as small as possible and the tree should be able to easily wrap around the foreign body.
Almost all professional treehouse builders worldwide nowadays build with Treehouse Screws – these have been specially developed for the permanent and sustainable fastening of large loads in the living tree!