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How to attach a treehouse platform safely in the tree without harming it? We show you the most important fastening techniques:

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 fastenings often only comes to light decades later. 

Trees grow – trees move!

This is what distinguishes treehouse building from “normal building”. So that even the great-grandchildren can still enjoy the tree house, 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 tree house construction began.

Meanwhile, thousands of professional and private tree houses have been built on these Treehouse Screws!

The basic idea of the screw is to imitate a natural branch. The injury to the tree is punctiform and resembles that of a branch breakout, 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” is walled around year after year, and after some time the screw becomes an integral part of the tree. As a wound is created, the carrier tree should have good bulkheading capacity and a good wound reaction. It must be vital and have no internal rot in the area of the screw. Read more about “Choosing the right tree”.

 

Advantages of the Treehouse Screw:

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

 

Disadvantages:

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

 

Field of Application:

  • For permanent installation > 20 years
  • Maximum safety at maximum load
  • Trunk diameter > 30 cm

You will find more detailed information about the treehouse screw here:

2. Rope Attachment – Hanging your treehouse

A very elegant & low injury method is the hanging of the carriers by means of rope. 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 holding loop 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
  • If tree gets crushed, then only on top side
  • Subsequent height adjustment via turnbuckle possible
  • Can also be retrofitted

Disadvantages:

  • Less freedom for platform and treehouse position – depending on cable anchor point
  • Susceptible 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).
  • Rope run can interfere
  • 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-piece steel ring that surrounds the tree trunk; the technique works similar to a belt using contact pressure. In order to prevent the steel ring from slipping, it can also be attached to the tree with screws.
Be aware: so that the tree is not tied off, the steel ring must be adapted every few years to the thickness growth of the tree.

Advantages of cuff attachment:

  • No open wound (if no additional screws)
  • Load is introduced directly into the trunk
  • High load possible

Disadvantages:

  • Assembly requires a lot of experience
  • Tree trunk should be round
  • Expensive special design
  • Tedious readjustment every 3 – 5 years
  • Danger of flat crushing of the main trunk –> complete line system impaired, predetermined breaking point
  • Long time studies show, that there are many problms with cuffs after 10 – 20 years, because the trunk diameter cannot grow freely

Field of application:

  • Cuffs are particularly interesting for single trees whose trunk diameter does not increase much.
  • Tree with robust bark

4. Stilts – On the safe side

Stilts are used wherever there are concerns about the bearing capacity and vitality of the tree. In order not to overload the tree, a combination of stilts and other attachment methods is often the only sensible solution. Depending on the dimensions of the stilts, extremely high loads can be absorbed; this in turn allows the use of heavier materials, which are particularly attractive in the luxury sector (stone slabs, solid wood, bathtub, …).

It is also good to build a tree house on topped logs.

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

Disadvantages:

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

Field of Application:

  • Stilts houses can be built around any tree
  • Everywhere where tree is too small, too crooked, too old, too weak

Attention with the foundation work! Even if it happens in secret, 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

This is a variant to attach ropes to the tree; this technique is also frequently used in tree care and tree crown securing. A 20-30 mm hole is drilled through the entire trunk or branch. Then a suitable threaded rod is pushed through the hole and a large washer & nut is attached on one side and a ring nut on the opposite end – this is the attachment point for the rope.

 

Advantages:

  • Very high pull-out resistance
  • Is well overflowed by tree growth

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 – Amateur anchoring techniques!

Normal screws

Stay away from nails, normal wood screws or similar from the hardware store, with a diameter < 20 mm! These are not designed for the high alternating load in the tree and can suddenly fail. We also strictly advise against replacing the quality of 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 long-term bruising, impeded growth and predetermined breaking points. Waterlogging can collect at the contact zone – the beams will rot, and a weak spot will develop.

Looping ropes

Crushing is also caused by looping ropes and steel collars that are not regularly readjusted. The result is 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

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

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

 

7. Table – Fastening methods compared

The following table shows the evaluation of a survey of 16 professional tree house 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
+
Costs
Cable suspension with tree strap
++
Treehouse Screw (GTS Allstar)
+++
Through-bolting
+
Cuff
+++++
Maintenance 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 anchoring method

There is no “perfect fastening technique” in treehouse construction. Each technique has its clear advantages and disadvantages. Also, you will not always find the perfect tree on site. Therefore, each project must be decided individually.

The tree, as the support for the treehouse, should be mature, healthy and able to move freely. Plan also for the thickness growth for the next 10-20 years.

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

Safety factor > 2

Although looping methods are at first glance more tree-friendly, there is always a risk of large-scale constriction with them.

Injurious methods initially act as a deterrent, but are more sustainable and safer. The great advantage is that the tree firmly integrates the steel part into its living situation. In addition, the wound is directly sealed – in contrast to branch breakage. Trees have developed strategies over millions of years to deal with such wounds.

In the meantime, Treehouse Screws have proven to be the safest and most sustainable fastening method worldwide!

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

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