There are two sorts of people, those who had a treehouse as a kid and those who wanted a treehouse. A treehouse is a magical place, here you dream, strategise, hideaway, and forge live long social skills, memories and even relationships. A treehouse says, someone who is truly loved, lives here. The South African climate is ideal for almost year-round play in a treehouse, which incidentally is also a great value add to your home. We spoke to a few pros for inspiration and tips.
Tackling the task of building a treehouse or getting a professional to do it for you will take some meticulous planning and thought. The tree to be used should be considered carefully. Get a professional in to make sure that the tree/s you decide to use is healthy, has no illness, is well-rooted, and has reached its peak growth.
Ian Weerts from Rustic Structures says “Every tree is different. You need to find a suitable tree and plan the treehouse around the tree. Ideally you don’t want to attach anything to the actual tree. Planting poles around the tree to accommodate the structure is the best way to go. This not only makes your structure stronger and safer – but it also eliminates any problems that the tree may give later in terms of movement“.
It is also important to consider the type of wood you will be using. Consulting with a professional is vital. You need to know what you are doing. If a structure is not built to the proper safety standards there can be accidents. Wood also needs to be treated to last longer.
Bruce Breedt from the South African Wood Preservers Association (SAWPA) says, “Whether you decide to use untreated timber and apply surface protective coatings, or buy chemically pressure treated wood from the get-go, is up to you, but it is highly recommended that you consider using pressure treated wood treated to the correct exposure (H) class and that it is approved and certified in accordance with SANS standards. Using preservative treated wood, i.e., pressure impregnated with preservatives in accordance with SANS standards by registered and approved preservative treatment plants, ensures long service life and protection against decay and insect attack. Bruce recommends a minimum of H3 for above–ground use and H4 for in–ground contact is advised.
DIY or Get a Guy
Nicholas de Marillac St Julien aka The Treehouse Guy says DIYing a treehouse requires some serious skill and knowledge. He finds that many homeowners don’t have the time to take on the project and rather contact him to do the job for them. Nic says “It takes years to learn how to keep a treehouse in a tree. Knowledge comes with experience and experience is important when it comes to building a treehouse”. He suggests getting a professional to at least do the structure of the treehouse for you. Trees can be complicated and professional treehouse builders know them best.
There are numerous ways to jazz up a treehouse. From gorgeous adult-friendly furniture and comforts to something as simple as hanging string lights, it will add a perfect touch of class to your treehouse. Some treehouses can even double up as a guest room and adding the perfect additions will make for the perfect spot for your guests to unwind. Textured pillows, colourful rugs and even some artwork is an easy way to take your treehouse from drab to fab.
Bruce continues, “Builders should decide early on, how the type of wood they use will affect their budget. Treated wood is more expensive and is a good idea if your treehouse is more than just a play area for the kids”.
Adding plumbing and electricity can also challenge the builder and will essentially also make the treehouse building project more expensive. You can build a treehouse from as little as R5000 to as much as R150 000 and up.
Adding a swing, a slide or even a fireman pole will be a hit with the kids for sure! It adds a sense of adventure to any treehouse design. You can also keep it simple with a rope swing or add monkey bars if you’re feeling ambitious. Then, the only thing better than one treehouse is two. You can also build your treehouse close to the pool and have a slide aimed at the water.
Nic adds “Ziplines are extremely popular at the moment”. The kids love it and usually comes along with the request for monkey bars.
School in Session
With our new normal, we are spending much more time at home. Many parents have decided that home-schooling is a safer option for their kids and have decided to create the classroom at home. Turning a treehouse into a spectacular classroom with Wi-Fi from the house is an excellent way to get the kids outdoors while they learn. Treehouses can be insulated and waterproofed as well, so the elements will never be a problem.
Nic says “Oak trees are very popular and people love putting treehouses in them at the moment. Over the last year every single treehouse I have built has involved an Oak tree”. Oak Trees are very difficult to work with, but if done correctly, they can last up to 100 years.
INSPIRATION: The popular TV show, Treehouse Masters on Discovery has made it very clear that a treehouse is not just a tiny play platform for children anymore. In each episode on the popular TV show, the team designs and builds custom treehouses for clients all over the world, but it does not stop there. They liaise with interior designers and decorators to create the most suitable environment for the family for whom they are building the treehouse.
**Need some assistance? Reach out to the professionals mentioned in this article.