How To Build A Treehouse: Take Your Dream To New Heights

how to build a treehouse


When I was a kid, I always dreamed of building a tree house complete with a cozy reading nook, a sturdy rope swing, and open windows so we could climb directly out into the woods. Didn’t we all?

As most children grow into adults, they lose sight of their tree house-building dreams and put money down on a traditional home. However, some more adventurous adults have made it their mission to hang onto the whimsy of their youth and live in a luxury tree house full-time.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

While I truly enjoy life in my tiny house, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a tree house. I’d love to build my own tree house someday as another way to live the tiny life!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Is Building A Tree House You Can Live In Realistic?

Is Building A Tree House You Can Live In Realistic

When considering life in a treehouse, most people wonder if it’s a realistic dream. It can be, depending on the type of tree house you’re able to build.

live in a tree houseThere are the classic, backyard kind of tree houses that you build with your dad using scrap wood and some basic tools. Then, there are the majestic, castle-like tree houses that appear on HGTV shows. These upgraded tree houses can stand the test of time when built right.

The idea of living in a luxury tree house may seem like an unrealistic, magical pipe dream. However, tree homes are gaining a lot of popularity in the alternative housing world.

What began as the tiny house movement quickly turned into a widespread love for many different kinds of alternative housing like van life, barndominiums, or even a geodesic dome house. What’s special about choosing to build a tree house as opposed to another alternative housing option is the sense of serenity, whimsy, and nostalgia that comes along with tree house life.

When Did Luxury Tree Houses Become So Popular?

While tree houses have been used as long-term dwelling places for native tribes in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific for centuries, they have just recently taken such a massive foothold in the Western world as part of the more eco-minded, off-grid, slow-living movement.

Additionally, tree houses have become increasingly popular in the tourism industry, particularly in Costa Rica, India, and other exotic tourist destinations, making them one of the most highly sought alternative housing types on Airbnb.

Staying in a tree house Airbnb is a wise way to test the waters and see if the tree house life is truly for you! If you do choose to build a DIY tree home, you should consider renting out your own tree house to make some extra cash!

luxury tree houses are popular

Tree House Rentals Around The The U.S.

Tree House Rentals Around The World

Can A Tree House Truly Be A Home?

People often have doubts as to whether or not a house in the trees can feel like a full-time home, but advances in technology and building efficiency have made luxury tree house living more than possible — it’s downright awesome.

luxury tree house livingMost luxury tree houses today have full utility set ups, off-grid electricity systems, and are just as stable if not more stable (due to more intensive building code checks on alterative dwelling spaces) as houses on the ground.

Of course, there are some hang ups to treehouse living, like increased swaying due to bad weather, sporadic losses of solar power due to lack of sun, and the inability to connect power lines vertically. Even so, luxury tree houses can be made into a full-time house that you and your family can comfortably live in and enjoy.

Should I Live In A Tree House? The Pros And Cons

The Pros And Cons of Living In A Tree House

Deciding to live in a tree house is a huge leap, and may leave you questioning whether this alternative lifestyle is truly for you. There are several advantages and disadvantages to the tree house lifestyle.

Pro: Tree Houses Are Environmentally Friendly

Living in a tree house is an eco-conscious move. It may seem like building a tree house would be less environmentally friendly, as it may pose damage to the trees themselves, but the way that luxury tree houses are built actually reduces their overall impact

It’s common for treehouses to be built with recycled materials, which reduces the amount of waste generated. Tree houses commonly rely on renewable energy sources to get them up and running, as they can’t be easily connected to traditional power lines.

Pro: Living In A Tree House Brings Privacy And Freedom

Choosing to live in a tree house can also provide you with a lot more privacy and freedom than life in a traditional home or apartment would. You won’t be surrounded by lots of neighbors, but, instead, hidden amongst the trees. It also keeps you from having to deal with HOA housing laws and hoops that come with life in a traditional dwelling.

Pro: Tree House Life Helps Your Wallet

Living in a tree house can be a financial investment. It tends to cost a lot less to run utilities like water, gas, or even plumbing and electricity. Treehouse homeowners also frequently consider installing solar panels, adding insulation to the home, or installing water tanks, all of which lower the overall cost of running the house. While the initial build may be expensive, the money saved over time is worth it.

Con: Space Is Limited In A Tree House

Let’s face it — tree houses have a limited amount of space. While many luxury tree houses are built to be anywhere from 100 square feet to 1,000 square feet, it will likely be smaller than most traditional homes. A tree houses is limited by the amount of weight the tree is able to hold, which will depend on the size, species, and condition of the tree.

Con: Lack Of Accessibility

It will also be harder to build a tree house that is accessible to all mobility types. Tree houses often utilize ladders, lofts, ropes, and bridges to create the structure, which can be harder to navigate for an elderly person or someone with limited mobility. While it’s certainly possible to create a fully or partially accessible treehouse, it will come with a higher price tag.

Con: Weather Issues Are A Bigger Deal

The lofty elevation of tree houses makes them more susceptible to inclement weather and all that comes along with that. Tree houses sit at a higher altitude than other homes, making them a quicker target for lightning or storm damage. They also tend to sway with the wind, regardless of how sturdy you build them. Some weather-related challenges are inevitable, even if you safeguard your structure with extra sturdy material.

are tiny houses safe

Design Inspiration When Building A Tree House

Tree House Design Inspiration

There are hundreds of different ways you can go about designing the ideal tree house. Some tree house homes are circular while some are square. Some have multiple stories while others just have one.

Many tree house homes have lofts, balconies, and plenty of windows to let in an abundance of natural light. Whatever your style, there is a design out there for your perfect tree house home.

Tree House Design Examples: Interior

Some of my favorite tree house interiors are ones with huge balconies, multiple bedrooms (or a roomy bed nook or loft) and a kitchen nook or a pull-down kitchen. I also really love when there’s a fireplace in the tree house for a cozy night in.

Many people use furniture, wall dividers, counters, or other inventive solutions to separate spaces in their one-room circular tree house. Lots of tree house interiors also use the wall space between windows as storage space with bookshelves.

Another of my favorite tree house features is the bed nook. If you don’t have room to integrate an entire bedroom in your treehouse, try making a sleeping nook instead. On the flip side, if you do have extra space, you might consider including a sunroom, atrium, or greenhouse within your home.

tree house with a view
tree house living space
tree house bedroom
large treehouse living room
tree house design
tree house living room
sleeping nook in treehouse
tree house bedroom design
bedroom in a tree house
large tree house bedroom
treehouse bedroom and loft
treehouse open living space

Tree House Design Examples: Exterior

Some tree house exteriors are simple and humble, while others are designed in a very luxurious, ostentatious manner. It really just depends on the house aesthetic that is most fitting to your personal lifestyle.

Several treehouse exteriors are complete with elongated walkways that go from the woods up to the front door. Other tree house homes are designed with intricate porches complete with string lights, rope swings, hammocks, or winding spiral stairs. The possibilities are endless!

contemporary tree house design
modern tree house design
exterior of tree house
multi story tree house
tiny tree house
tree house exterior
tree house two story
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cabin like tree house design
tree house design

Tree House Plans: Simple Tree House Floorplans

Simple Tree House Floorplans

Creating the perfect tree house that you and your family love to live in is all about perfecting your floorplan. If I was building my own tree house, I know I’d want room for my book collection, lots of big windows, a cozy porch, and ample space for my off-grid kitchen so I could whip up some nice dinners. I’d also include a little extra space for when friends or family come to visit my sky castle!

Tree House Floorplan With Kitchen Nook

This basic treehouse floorplan is complete with a cozy kitchen nook and a surrounding platform deck. The decagon shape allows for the tree to be positioned right in the middle of the main floor with room for a queen or twin bed.

Tree House Floorplan With Kitchen Nook

Tree House Floorplan With Kitchen, Bath And Living Room

Built out with a kitchen space, fully functioning bathroom, and living room, this tree house floorplan offers a single floor with some division. The bathroom is adjacent to the bedroom, while the living room and kitchen are part of an open concept. A platform deck sits off the kitchen and living room, creating a luxurious balcony.

Tree House Floorplan With Kitchen Bath And Living Room

Floorplan With Surrounding Tree House Platform

This tree house floorplan includes a rectangular surrounding platform upheld by two separate trees. The interior is an open concept entry space, living room, and kitchen nook. You could easily use the couch as a sofa bed! This floor plan is perfect for a tree house used as a guesthouse or accessory dwelling unit.

Floorplan With Surrounding Tree House Platform

Tree House Floorplans With Oval-Shaped Deck

This simple yet unique tree house floorplan has an oval-shaped interior surrounded by a crescent-shaped outer deck. One unique element of this floorplan is that the interior has several walls that divide the bedroom and bathroom into individual rooms. The kitchen and living room are connected and open up directly to the widest part of the outer deck for additional living space.

Tree House Floorplans With Oval Shaped Deck

DIY Tree House: How To Build A Tree House In Seven Steps

How To Build A Tree House

You don’t need an expert construction and design team to build a tree house. However, it will take lots of time, effort, planning, funds, and safe execution to create and maintain such an innovative home. If you’re willing to put in the work, your dream tree house is within reach.

How To Build A Tree House: Tools And Materials

Before building, you’ll need to gather the right tools and materials. This is crucial to creating a safe, sturdy, livable tree house!

Tools And Materials Needed To Build A Tree House

  • Lumber
  • Decking materials
  • Galvanized lag screws
  • Galvanized hangers
  • Galvanized rafter ties
  • Nails and deck screws
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Level
  • Square
  • Tape measure
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Cordless electric drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Table saw
  • Ladder and pulley

tiny house tools

Step One: Research Your Local Building Codes

Like with tiny houses, you can’t just put a tree house anywhere. If you want to live in a tree house full time, look into the building codes in your area to see what’s allowed where you live. For any housing option other than your primary dwelling, there are likely restrictions in place on what you can build.

research building codesSome tree houses are legally classed as “temporary structures,” similar to a backyard garden shed. However, the installation of permanent electrical or water connections may change the classification of the treehouse, as it could be considered fully habitable.

Specific building restrictions will vary from area to area, but will likely be a lot stricter in suburban or urban areas. It is usually possible to build on your own land in rural areas without pushback.

learn about tiny house building codes

What Are The Building Laws For Luxury Tree Houses?

  • If the tree is on a protected species list, you cannot build in it at all. This restriction is sometimes called the Tree Preservation Order.
  • Livable tree houses have a maximum height restriction of around 4 meters or 13 feet. This is from ground level to roof peak, so it’s easy to exceed when building a treehouse.
  • No part of the treehouse should be built within a set distance of the edge of the property, usually around 3 meters or 10 feet.

Step Two: Choose Your Tree House Floorplan And Design

Once you’ve determined your dream tree house is legal where you live, it’s time to choose the layout that works. When creating a floorplan, make sure that you take all the necessary measurements to create a blueprint that’s sized to scale.

After doing this, take a look at the blueprint you’ve created and devise a logical building plan. Which pieces of your tree house does it make sense to build first? Which parts should you save until last? Make sure that you leave space in your design for embellishments you may want to add into your tree house later on.

Tree House Floorplan And Design

Step Three: Assemble Your Platform And Lift It Into The Tree

Assembling the platform of the tree house is one of the most important aspects of the building process because it’s the base and foundation of your tree house. Before putting any nails into your lumber, you’ll want to cut the beams and lay them out to ensure a precise fit. Cut two of your support boards the exact length of the treehouse deck, and the rest that same length minus the thickness of those boards.

tree house deck platformUsing your deck screws, attach the four slightly shorter support boards perpendicularly to one of the deck-length boards, making sure to space them so that when you place the platform in the tree, those boards will miss the trunk or large branches completely. Leave the other end of the platform open, so you can slide it onto the tree.

Once the platform is assembled, you’ll likely need the help of a friend or two and a pulley to lift it into the tree where you can center and temporarily secure it with tie-down straps or something similar. Screw the remaining deck-length board to the open end of the platform, making sure the completed base is centered and square.

tree house pro tip

“To ensure your platform is perfectly square, measure the diagonals and make sure they’re exactly the same.”

Step Four: Add Braces Below Your Platform To Secure The Tree

It’s imperative that you anchor your platform deck to your tree in a manner that allows it to fully support the weight of your tree house. The best way to do this is by adding diagonal wooden braces to the bottom of your platform deck and attach them using specialized galvanized steel brackets.

tree brace for attaching tree houseAttaching diagonal braces between the base of your platform deck and the sides of the tree is crucial to prevent your treehouse from wobbling too much in the wind or breaking and collapsing under its own weight.

The number of tree braces needed and the placement and positioning will depend on the weight and dimensions of your house. You’ll likely need somewhere between four and 10 wooden bracing beams between your platform deck and trees. Some tree houses use singular beams that connect the tree to the deck at a diagonal angle. Other tree houses use pairs of beams, or even three beams in the shape of a triangle to brace the structure.

When building the tree house, you’ll use two different kinds of beams to brace the platform: the knee beam and the spreader beam. The knee beam is the diagonal beam that connects a galvanized nail to the side of the tree and the vertical spreader beam connects to the actual platform. Make sure you cut the top of the knee beam at an angle that supports the rest of the structure.

tree house platform assembly

After you’ve built the platform braces, you’re going to use your rafter ties to attach the platform to the braces you’ve built for it. Just hammer the rafter ties flat against each joist as you’re attaching them. Then, use the extra galvanized nails to attach joist hangers.

Step Five: Build The Flooring Of The Tree House

With your platform entirely secure, it’s time to assemble and install the deck, which is your actual “flooring.” When choosing the material for your treehouse floors, you want to choose something that will last for years.

In my opinion, a highly durable hardwood floor is the best material for treehouse flooring. It’s important to choose a hardwood that is naturally rot-resistant. If you are set on choosing a softwood flooring, cypress is probably the best choice.

Best Wood Species For A Tree House Floor


  • Oak
  • Red Oak
  • Brazilian Cherry
  • Hickory
  • White Oak
  • Maple
  • Birch
  • Walnut


  • Cypress
  • Pinewood
  • Spruce
  • Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Douglas
  • Fir
  • Hemlock

To create the floor of your tree house, start by laying out your entire deck in the same way you’re going to install it, leaving a slivered gap between boards. Don’t forget to measure and cut holes in the exact place in the deck where the trees will fit through, leaving room for growth and movement.

tree house pro tip

“Leaving a small gap between deck boards allows for drainage and extends the life of your treehouse.”

Once you’re satisfied with the layout of your deck, get up on the platform and start nailing it down.

tiny house flooring options

Step Six: Add Your Walls And Windows

Next, it’s time to add the walls and windows to your tree house. For safety purposes, I suggest using acrylic plastic sheets in place of glass for windows. Tree houses are more susceptible to weather damage, so using plastic is far less likely to break.

For tree house walls, choose a material that is strong and durable, but also fairly lightweight. I suggest either plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). Using plywood or any type of particle board will help keep the walls strong without adding too much weight to the home.

choosing tiny house windows

Step Seven: Build Your Tree House Roof

Build the roof last. The most common materials used for the base of a tree house roof are shingles, roofing felt, or tarpaper.

tiny house roofFor more advanced roofing options for your tree house, consider including additional framing, waterproofing, or intricate shingle work. If you want to stick to the basics, a well-supported tarp or prefabricated roof can do the trick for you.

After the roof has been built, it’s up to you to add the final embellishments. Some people add rope swings, bridges, lofts, additional windows, a cozy porch, and more to their tree house home. The power is in your hands here!

Building A Livable Tree House: Common Questions And Concerns

Questions About Building A Tree House

The decision to live in a tree house is somewhat of a risk. You’ll want to make sure you iron out the kinks and find answers to any and all questions before committing.

Is Living In A Tree House Safe?

It’s surprisingly safe to live in a tree house as your primary home, as long as you cross your T’s and dot your I’s when it comes to building and maintaining the home in a safe manner.

Building your tree house in a healthy tree with strong building materials and lumber is crucial. Keep in mind that trees are living, growing, changing things.

You’ll need to take extra precautions to update your building model as the tree grows and changes around your home. Do not cut away branches or pieces of the trunk or remove large amounts of bark or wood. This might expose the tree to certain infections and disease that could cause the tree to rot from the inside and destroy the foundation of your house.

Signs Of An Unhealthy Tree – Do Not Build If Tree Has The Following

  • Unhealthy crown (little and irregular foliage)
  • Deadwood branches (without foliage)
  • Elongated cracks
  • A crooked trunk (bad statics for treehouse)
  • Unhealthy or dying bark (signifies a pest infestation)
  • Woodpeckers (signifies an insect infestation)
  • Excessive moss
  • Hollow sound (knock the trunk with a hammer)
  • Extra secondary shoots in the middle of the trunk
  • Fungal fruiting bodies (highly dangerous, do not build here under any circumstances)
signs of unhealthy tree

Apart from checking in with the health of the tree, you’ll also want to take extra precautions to build the house safely. There are a few ways to ensure this happens.

Additional Tree House Safety Tips

  • Build the tree house no higher than 10 feet in the air
  • Use tall railings to safeguard from dangerous falls
  • Place ladders in sturdy positions where they can’t wobble
  • Avoid splinters by sanding down rough edges of the structure
  • Use ropes and railing to add extra protection to the tree trunk

What Type Of Trees Are Best For Tree House Living?

As we know, every tree is unique. However, there are a few shared qualities that matter most when it comes to choosing the perfect tree for building a permanent tree house.

The Best Trees For Tree House Living Share Similar Features

  • High wood strength
  • Quality wound sealing
  • Quick cultivation of reaction wood
  • High average life span
  • Large expected trunk diameter
  • Robust, textured bark*

*important for rope fastening and ladders

best trees to build a tree house in

While it’s true that many trees check all of these boxes and make great foundations for tree houses, there are a few species that standout as superior.

The Best Tree Species For Building Tree Houses

best tree species for building tree houses
  • Douglas Fir
  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Hickory
  • Acacia
  • Boxelder
  • Western Red Cedar
  • Sycamore
  • Ash
  • Cherry

How Much Weight Can A Luxury Tree House Hold?

Knowing the max weight your tree can hold is crucial to building a sturdy treehouse. That weight will depend on the species of tree that you use, and especially whether or not you use a softwood or hardwood tree.

Wood Species Specific Gravity Compressive Strength (psi) Bending Strength (psi) Stiffness (Mpsi) Hardness (lb)
Alder, Red 0.41 5,820 9,800 1.38 590
Ash 0.60 7,410 15,000 1.74 1,320
Beech 0.64 7,300 14,900 1.72 1,300
Birch 0.62 8,170 16,600 2.01 1,260
Butternut 0.38 5,110 8,100 1.18 490
Cherry 0.50 7,110 12,300 1.49 950
Chestnut 0.43 5,320 8,600 1.23 540
Elm 0.50 5,520 11,800 1.34 830
Hickory 0.72 9,210 20,200 2.16 N/A
Hard Maple 0.63 7,830 15,800 1.83 1,450
Soft Maple 0.54 6,540 13,400 1.64 950
Red Oak 0.63 6,760 14,300 1.82 1,290
White Oak 0.68 7,440 15,200 1.78 1,360
Poplar 0.42 5,540 10,100 1.58 540
Sweetgum 0.52 6,320 12,500 1.64 850
Sycamore 0.49 5,380 10,000 1.42 770
Walnut 0.55 7,580 14,600 1.68 1,010

Managing the weight distribution evenly is arguably even more important than the actual capacity of the tree. Distributing your tree weight evenly prevents excess swaying or tilting, so the structure lasts longer.

How Much Weight Can A Tree House HoldAdding a large treehouse to a tree will inevitably affect its weight distribution, especially if the treehouse leans out to one side of the tree. Over time, if the weight is pulling significantly harder in one direction, the tree will gradually become more vulnerable to cracking.

My best suggestion to avoid cracking is to split the weight of the treehouse evenly across two or more trees. Doing this will keep the net weight stable, straight down through the trunk. Managing weight distribution is easier when building a circular or polygon shaped treehouse, because the net weight of the treehouse also centers itself through the middle of the tree.

Tree houses heavier than 1000 kilograms or 2,200 pounds will take a toll on any tree.

How Many Trees Are Needed To Build A Livable Tree House?

You can build a fully livable tree house with anywhere from one tree to several trees. More important than the number of trees used is the size and position of the trees in relation to each other.

How Many Trees Are Needed To Build A Livable Tree HouseYour trees are the basis for the stable construction of your entire home. The best rule of thumb here is to keep the distance between the trees at about 2–6 meters or 6–20 feet.

If the trees are too far apart, you’ll be forced to use abnormally large beam dimensions and the beams will become incredibly heavy, leading to the home likely breaking.

If your trees are too close together, the weight may be unevenly distributed, leaving a large portion of your tree house home unsupported.

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Tree House?

The average cost of a luxury tree house today can vary widely. I’ve seen nice, livable tree houses end up costing the homeowner anywhere from $7,000 to $150,000, depending on the size of the tree house, the intricacy of the design, the utility needs, and more. Tree house projects can be as basic or fanciful as you choose to make them!

Here’s what is and isn’t allowed when doing the challenge

Costs Of A Luxury Tree House

  • Average cost in the U.S.: $7,350
  • Average price range: $7,000–$15,000
  • Low end: $3,000
  • High end: $200,000

Factors That Impact Cost

  • Size and number of stories
  • Design and construction complexity
  • Hiring building help
  • Complexity of utility install

Is Life In A Luxury Tree House Right For Me?

Overall, choosing to live in a luxury tree house isn’t for everyone. Living in a tree house certainly won’t feel like life in a traditional home. However, if you’re willing to try something entirely unique, the tree house lifestyle just might be worth your while.

Your Turn!

  • How will you design your own luxury tree house?
  • What actions do you need to take to start building your own tree house home?
  1. Treehouse, boxcar, yacht, houseboat, earthship, THOW, yurt… All of these have always seemed to me such a romantic and adventurous way of living!

  2. Great article! Thanks a bunch.

  3. I’m guessing a washing machine is probably a no go in a tree house? 😂

  4. Great article. Inspiring! We have stayed in a Tiny Home. A treehouse is next on our “rent for fun” list. What is your advice if you want one built, but don’t want to do it yourself? Any tips on finding reputable builder?

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