Steel in the tree
Do nails, screws and other steel parts damage the tree?
“Screws are harmful to the tree! Just one copper nail is enough and the whole tree dies!” – is that true?
Many people are initially averse to drilling into a living tree – understandably so. But is a small hole really a danger to the whole tree? How does the tree tolerate the steel foreign body? Are clamping fastening methods the better choice? Will the tree suffer in the long term from a treehouse?
Here we go into more detail about these concerns:
1. Concerns – steel is not compatible with the living tree?
Proof of this are, for example, the tree house constructions of Michael Garnier in the USA, which are over 20 years old. Numerous experiments show – the tree does not repel the steel, but envelops it, fully integrating it into its living situation (see photos: Out’n’About Treehouse Resort 2016):
2. Concern – The screw damages 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 point. Thanks to its enormous energy reserves, the tree can easily cope with such situations.
The advantage of Tree Screws over branch breakage: The wound is immediately closed again with the screw – so no insects or fungal spores can get in.
3. Concern – The tree will suffer in the long term from the treehouse?
This worry is lost when one knows how adaptable and resistant mature trees are. If a tree has survived the difficult years of growth, that alone is proof of its incredible survival power.
In the course of their lives, trees are repeatedly confronted with injuries and problems:
These include natural influences such as:
Forest fires, droughts, permafrost, floods, avalanches, lightning strikes, branches breaking off during storms and snow, loss of leaves due to hail, fungal and insect infestations, …
But also damage caused by humans:
Car crashes, root damage during earthworks, cut-off of water supply by new buildings, compaction of the soil and thus lack of oxygen supply for roots, damage by neighbouring felling operations, …
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 to withstand many times its daily stress. It is not for nothing that trees are among the oldest living creatures on earth!
Trees are true masters of survival and know how to adapt quickly to new situations!
A survey of 18 professional treehouse builders showed that out of 2253 treehouses built, only two trees died as a direct result – that is far less than 1 per thousand. (Source: Bachelor thesis by Onja Johannes Hardorp, 2017, HNE Eberswalde).
Treehouse professional Johannes Schelle raves about his treehouse, which he bolted to a beech and a lime tree 12 years ago: “The trees have a magnificent crown and bloom every year for a fortnight longer than all the other trees in the garden.”
4. Concern – Why screws at all, aren’t “injury-free methods” inherently better?
So-called “injury-free” attachment techniques can also damage the tree. Since no direct intervention is necessary, they seem more harmless at first; the damage only becomes apparent in subsequent years. As the tree continues to grow in thickness, clamping techniques (tree loop, cuff, clamping techniques) often lead to constriction of the nutrient-conducting tissue.
This bruise is more extensive and ultimately more damaging than the punctual injury caused by a screw.
Even stilts can severely damage the tree if you injure the root system during foundation work (similar to branch outbreak, open wound for fungal spores).
Learn more about the best fastening techniques here…
5. Conclusion – The Treehouse Screw as “State Of The Art” of Tree House Building
In our tree house forge “Baumbaron” we have been gathering our experience with various tree house fixings for over 13 years and 250 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 now build with Treehouse Screws – these were specially developed for the permanent and sustainable fastening of large loads in the living tree!