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Which tree is the best for building a treehouse? How big and how high does the tree need to be? How many trees do I need? Is my tree healthy and how long can it live?  

To build a tree house, the tree is supplementary, support and foundation at the same time – therefore based knowledge about the tree is essential!

1. Which is the best tree for treehouse building?

Important: When building a tree house, there is no “most suitable tree”. The individual wood quality varies from species to species, from location to location, from tree to tree, but also within one and the same tree. The main influences are climate, weather, soil quality and exposure.

Each tree is unique!

Once you have internalized this, there are of course tree species that are better suited for building treehouses than others.

The following wood properties are good:

  • high wood strength
  • good wound sealing
  • rapid cultivation of reaction wood
  • high average life
  • large expected trunk girth
  • robust bark

In a Bachelor thesis we have evaluated the data from numerous studies and compiled a list from them; it shows us which trees are particularly suitable for building treehouses.

Especially suitable are deciduous trees such as beech, oak, lime, maple, ash and chestnut, as well as coniferous trees such as larch, pine, Douglas fir and fir.

Less suitable than sole carrier trees, birch and the species listed below.

2. How big should my tree be?

Large trees with thick trunks are better than small ones!

  • They move less in the wind.
  • You can put more treehouse screws.
  • The tree is usually more resistant to parasites and weather extremes.
  • You can reach higher!

The decisive factor for building a tree house is not the height of the tree, but the diameter of the trunk!

3. What is the Minimum Trunk Diameter MTD?

The trunk diameter ø is measured at the height of the platform (mean value); it should be at least 30 cm, or better 45 cm in the case of a main tree or a solo treehouse.

A large diameter brings advantages:

  • The tree is adult & resistant
  • It can withstand extreme situations (storms, dry seasons, branch breakouts, hail damage, etc.)
  • It can carry very heavy loads and is less susceptible to vibration
  • The fully grown tree consumes less energy for growth at altitude; it builds up safety reserves and uses these specifically for wound healing and the cultivation of reaction wood
  • When drilling, the percentage of injured tissue is lower

For the tree house construction this means, that the tree must be all the more massive:

  • The greater the load (dead load, wind, snow, wild parties)
  • The more screws are placed in a tree
  • The higher the tree house is fixed in the tree
  • The worse the tree species is suitable for treehouse construction
  • The worse the general condition of the tree is

 

The Minimum Trunk Diameter MSD ø for our Treehouse Screws GTS:

treehouse-building-screw-bolt-fastener-size-comparison-cross-section
GTS Allstar
MTD Main tree
45 cm
MTD Side tree
35 cm
Suitability according to the above list "birch or worse"
+ 5 cm
Treehouse very big and heavy
+ 5 cm
Lots of snow, frequent storms
+ 3 cm
Platform higher than 5m: per additional metre
+ 3 cm
More than 1 screw in the tree: each additional screw
+ 3 cm
GTS TOP / Friend / Free / Side
MTD Main tree
35 cm
MTD Side tree
30 cm
Suitability according to the above list "birch or worse"
+ 5 cm
Treehouse very big and heavy
+ 5 cm
Lots of snow, frequent storms
+ 3 cm
Platform higher than 5m: per additional metre
+ 3 cm
More than 1 screw in the tree: each additional screw
+ 3 cm
GTS Safety
MTD Main tree
20 cm
MTD Side tree
20 cm
Suitability according to the above list "birch or worse"
+ 2 cm
Treehouse very big and heavy
+ 2 cm
Lots of snow, frequent storms
+ 2 cm
Platform higher than 5m: per additional metre
+ 2 cm
More than 1 screw in the tree: each additional screw
+ 2 cm

1 cm = 0,4 inch

These values serve as a guide for Our Screws, and should be adjusted individually depending on the situation on site.

4. How do I know if the tree is healthy?

Decades of professional treehouse construction have shown that trees do not repel a tree house, but rather integrate it into their lives over time as a fixed component. This costs the tree energy, which will consequently be lacking in other places. But how do I know whether the tree is healthy and has sufficient energy reserves?

For private and smaller tree house projects a visual evaluation of the tree is sufficient.

You can see if the tree is healthy or sick.

 

Similar to humans (posture, skin, hair, scars, …), there are also visible signs of poor health in trees:

  • Unhealthy crown appearance (little and irregular foliage)
  • Many dead wood branches (without leaves)
  • Longitudinal cracks
  • Unhealthy dying bark (pest infestation!)
  • Woodpecker (insect infestation!)
  • Excessive moss
  • Hollow sound (knock test with hammer)
  • Many “secondary drives” (new branches growing out the middle of the trunk)
  • Mushroom fruiting bodies -> do not build here!!!

In addition to the tree, be sure to observe its location and surroundings – be careful with:

  • Very soft soils (weak root system)
  • Very wet soils or flood plains
  • Trees on steep slopes
  • Trees on rocks
  • Fungal or insect infestation on neighbouring trees
  • Species-specific diseases, e.g. dying ash and elm, chestnut (miner moth) and spruce (bark beetle)!
    Curvilinear, sloping trunk

Tree houses should only be built in straight and absolutely healthy trees.

If there are doubts about the health status of the selected tree, or if it is a public or particularly large project, a tree biologist or tree expert should be consulted in any case.

Always make your decisions in favour of the tree, reduce the tree house if necessary or use stilts for anchoring.

5. How many trees do i need to build a treehouse?

You can build your tree house in one tree or in several trees! The size and position of the trees in relation to each other are the basis for the design of your platform. Of course, you can also support your platform with stilts; natural, round robinia trunks (also acacia) are particularly suitable for this.

A good distance between the trees is 2 – 6m, with even larger spans you need very large wooden beam dimensions and the beams become tremendously heavy!

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