Treehouse Attachment Comparison

Screw, bolt, threaded rod, nail, collar, suspension, rope – what is best?

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How to attach a treehouse in a tree without damaging it? We show you the best fastening techniques for building a treehouse!

One thing should be clear: the tree comes first!

It is not only the pillar that supports our treehouse, it is above all a valuable organism that should not be injured unnecessarily. Damage caused by incorrect fixings often only comes to light decades later.

Trees grow – trees move!

This is what distinguishes treehouse building from “normal building”. To ensure that even the grandchildren still enjoy the treehouse, it is important to know exactly the different attachment methods and their area of application.

1. Treehouse Screws – State of the Art

The first “tree screws” were introduced to the market about 30 years ago under the names Garnier Limb” and “Treehouse Attachment Bolt – this is how the success story of modern treehouse construction began.

Nowadays thousands of treehouses are built worldwide every year with tree screws!

Buy special tree house screw Technical details Made in Germany

The idea of the screw is to imitate a natural branch. The injury on the tree is punctual and similar to that of a branch break, i.e. the tree knows exactly how to react to injuries of this kind: it seals the wound, stores fungus-inhibiting substances, and forms stronger reaction wood. The “artificial branch” continues to grow year after year, and after some time the screw becomes a permanent part of the tree.

As you are creating a wound, the carrier tree should have a good wound response. More info here: “Choosing the right tree”

Studies on treehouses and in climbing forests have shown that bolting methods cause less damage to the tree in the long run than wrapping and pressing methods (rope & clamping technique).

Example images:

Advantages of the Treehouse Screw:

  • Well-proven & field-tested fastening technology since > 30 years
  • Tree can grow freely – no crushing and constriction
  • High load-bearing capacity – Loads are introduced directly into the trunk
  • No maintenance
  • Many screw accessories
  • Independent of tree growth – Large variety of platform design
  • Failure is slowly becoming apparent through plastic deformation in wood.
  • Aesthetic imitation of branch

 

Disadvantages:

  • Load capacity can vary with type of wood – see grafic
  • High cost

 

Field of Application:

You will find more detailed information about our Treehouse Screw here:

2. Rope Attachment – Hanging your treehouse

A very elegant & low-injury method is to suspend the platform with steel ropes. The system consists of three parts:

  • Tree support sling (also called “tree protection belt”, “tree guard cable”)
  • Cable & turnbuckle (steel or Dyneema)
  • Anchorage on carrier beam (e.g. ring nut + carriage bolt)

The “tree protection belt” is placed around a twig (preferably a U-twig) or a stable branch forking. The rope is tensioned by means of a turnbuckle. The anchor point should be located as centrally as possible on the main trunk, so that the loads are introduced directly into it, and the construction does not begin to sway in the wind. Avoid large lever arms and ensure that the rope course is as vertical as possible.

Well suited are trees with a thick, robust bark (dead bark), e.g. oaks and chestnuts. Beech trees are less suitable because their very thin bark offers little protection against abrasion.

Advantages of Hanging Technique:

  • No open wound
  • Low cost
  • Very high load capacity with direct introduction into the trunk (4 – 8 tons)
  • Tree can move freely
  • Subsequent height adjustment via turnbuckle possible
  • Can also be retrofitted

Disadvantages:

  • Rope routing can be annoying
  • Can swing strongly during storms
  • Failure of cable or broken anchor point can happen abruptly, without visible advance notice (Treehouse Screw Attachment, on the other hand, indicate their failure by slow deformation).
  • According to DIN, tree loops must be replaced every 8 years.

Field of application:

  • Anchor point is an external branch fork or V-twig –> low loads
  • Anchor point is directly at the main trunk & U-twig –> high load possible
  • Good alternative to Tree Screws for very soft woods (willow, …)
  • Excellent for temporary installations

3. Cuffs – Be carful with long term damage!

Cuffs usually consist of a two-part steel ring that encloses the tree trunk; the technique works similarly to a belt using contact pressure. Steel profiles are welded to the sides, to which the support structure (wooden beams) of the treehouse is attached. In order to prevent slipping, the collar can additionally be fastened to the tree with screws.

To prevent the tree from being strangulated, the steel ring must be adjusted to the tree’s thickness growth every few years. Cuffs are particularly interesting for single trees whose trunks no longer grow much in width.

Advantages of cuff attachment:

  • No open wound (if no securing screws).
  • Load is transferred directly into the trunk
  • Very high load possible

 

Disadvantages:

  • Assembly requires a lot of experience
  • Expensive special design by locksmith
  • Log should be very round
  • Tedious readjustment every 3 – 5 years
  • Danger of flat crushing on the main trunk -> complete pipe system impaired, predetermined breaking point
  • Studies have shown that after 10 – 20 years there are often massive problems with the sleeve technique!

 

Field of application:

  • Treehouse in straight tree with round trunk
  • Mature tree – trunk diameter does not increase much more
  • Tree with robust bark
  • As an alternative to rope suspension, and screw in very soft woods (if no suitable attachment point for tree loop available)

4. Stilts – On the safe side

Stilts are used when there are concerns about the load-bearing capacity and health of the tree. To avoid overloading the tree, a combination of stilts and other fixing methods is often the only sensible thing to do. Depending on the dimensions of the stilts, high loads can be supported. This in turn makes it possible to use heavier materials, which are particularly attractive in luxury areas (stone slabs, solid wood, bathtubs, …).

You can also build a treehouse on a cut tree trunk!

Advantages:

  • Simple assembly
  • Load capacity virtually unlimited –> heavy construction possible
  • Tree trunk is not injured
  • Statically easy to calculate and very safe –> optimal for public projects
  • Less objections from nature conservationists

Disadvantages:

  • No “real floating treehouse”
  • Supports and stiffeners disturb aesthetics
  • Root damage due to earthworks & concrete foundations

Field of Application:

  • Stilt houses can be erected around any tree
  • Wherever the tree is too small, too crooked, too old, too weak
  • For very soft woods (willow, etc…)
  • In combination with other fixing methods

Attention with the foundation work! Even if it happens below the ground, root injuries are at least as bad as sawing off branches. Root damage should be avoided above all in the immediate vicinity of the trunk (1 – 1.5 m)!

5. Through-Bolting – Alternative Rope Attachment

The technique of bolting through is popular with treehouse builders as well as in tree care (tree crown protection). Depending on the load, a 20 – 40 mm hole is drilled through the entire trunk or branch. Then you push a suitable threaded rod through the hole, and attach a large washer & nut to one side, and a ring nut to the opposite end – this is the anchor point for the rope.

Advantages:

  • High pull-out resistance
  • Is well overflowed by tree growth
  • Low costs

Disadvantages:

  • The thicker the trunk, the more complex the assembly: very long drill required, difficult handling
  • Core is drilled through – core rot can spread in two directions

Field of application:

  • Light, horizontal rope and cable attachments

6. How NOT to do – damage due to incorrect fastening

Example pictures – This is how you should NOT build a treehouse:

Normal screws

Stay away from nails, normal wood screws or similar from the DIY store with a diameter < 20 mm! These are not designed for the high alternating load in the tree and can suddenly fail. We also strongly advise against replacing the quality of the screws with quantity – the tree will thank you!

Clamping and pincer techniques

Also avoid clamping techniques where support beams are pressed directly against the bark. This leads to bruising, impaired growth and predetermined breaking points. Waterlogging can collect at the contact zone – the wooden beams will rot and a weak point will develop.

Wrapping rope and loop cables

Crushing is also caused by wrapping ropes and steel collars that are not regularly readjusted. The result is a disturbed water and nutrient supply to the tree, and in the worst case the tree dies or breaks off at the constriction.

Laying beams directly on top

Another possibility is to lay the beam directly on a branch fork or a twig – but this construction is only suitable for smaller loads. The fork must be very stable. Remember that crushing, waterlogging and bark abrasion can also occur here.

We recommend all these methods only for temporary installations < 3 years!

7. Table – Treehouse fastening techniques in direct comparison

The following table shows the evaluation of a survey of 16 professional treehouse builders and 2 tree biologists (Bachelor thesis Onja, 2017)

Tree-friendly
Cable suspension with tree strap
++++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
+++
Through-bolting
+++
Cuff
++
Free thickness growth
Cable suspension with tree strap
+++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
++++
Through-bolting
++++
Cuff
+
Easy installation
Cable suspension with tree strap
++++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
+++
Through-bolting
+++
Cuff
+
Maintenance
Cable suspension with tree strap
+++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
+
Through-bolting
+
Cuff
+++++
Costs
Cable suspension with tree strap
++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
+++
Through-bolting
+
Cuff
+++++
Stability + Safety
Cable suspension with tree strap
++++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
+++++
Through-bolting
+++
Cuff
++++
Design possibilities
Cable suspension with tree strap
++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
+++++
Through-bolting
+
Cuff
++

8.Conclusion – Choosing the right tree

There is no “perfect fastening technique” in treehouse construction – each technique has its clear advantages and disadvantages. Often a combination of different fastening techniques is the best solution for treehouse and tree!

Although looping and clamping methods are at first glance gentler on the tree, there is always the danger of large-scale constriction.

Injurious methods (e.g. tree screws) initially seem daunting, but are more sustainable and safer. Trees have developed strategies over millions of years to deal with such wounds. The great advantage is that the tree firmly integrates the steel screw into its living situation. In addition, the wound is directly sealed – in contrast to a branch break.

In fact, Treehouse Screws have become accepted worldwide in professional tree house construction! They are considered the safest and most sustainable fastening method!

The trees should be fully grown, healthy and free to move. Also plan for thickness growth over the next 10-20 years.

As the mechanical and static properties are difficult to estimate from a living tree, the fixings should not be loaded to their limits:

Safety factor > 2

Dive deeper into the world of treehouse building… read on!

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