The Treehouse

July 9, 2017

There are plenty of posts here about treehouses, but I recently realized that have I neglected to share much about our own treehouse project.

Maybe because it isn’t finished.

There are two types of treehouses.

  1. The type built on HGTV by that treehouse guy.
  2. The type built by you, or me, and our kids, or grandparents.

These two types of tree house projects are not related in the way a new kitchen, built and designed professionally, is related to one done as a DIY project. These two types of treehouse are very different things.

The first is moneyed, transactional, and nothing more than hiring a contractor to build anything you might dream about (like a new kitchen). It can be satisfying, but only to a limited point.

The other (unlike a kitchen DIY), is adventure, romance, new skills, time spent, memories, and a source of unique pride. It will probably never be “complete” – which is all the better and not the point. A personal treehouse is more like a story and the end usually only comes with big life events (moving, graduation, passing).

Our is the later – and this is its tale.

Our treehouse dreams started when my babies were little. Grandpa (who can’t sit still, so always takes on a home improvement project during his visits) built the original platform in the trees. It had all the hallmarks of his “I am a professional engineer” style. 1) It has a unique design to overcome his daughter’s (me) random design challenges (i.e. no support poles, other than trees). 2) It is big. 3) It will withstand WW3.

After a week’s visit we had a platform, with a fancy cable suspension system, accessible by an impermanent ladder.

The following summer we added to it when I found a listing for a metal (fast!) slide and its corresponding vintage slide ladder on Craigslist.

The treehouse is on a slope and the backside is easily 10’+ off the ground. We added a cris-crossed rope railing woven between holes in horizontal boards. We painted it and then repainted it (the painting still needs to be finished).

As the kids got older, they undid some of the rope railing to make their own improvements. There was a rope pull to climb the slide backwards as well as a hoist for buckets. I feared that someone was going to get the rope wrapped around their neck as they went down the slide. And so the leftover floorboards from the barn floor project were used to replace the rope railing.

The aged floor boards look much better. I find cheapness and enforced resourcefulness can often lead to the interesting designs.

When the new railing went in, the slide moved around the side. It was just too steep coming off the back.
A couple years passed until my son was old enough to want to start building real stuff with real tools.
The treehouse was an obvious laboratory for experimentation. My son, daughter and husband agreed that obviously, a second level was needed.
I am not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable about the actual use of this new addition. It is dizzyingly high. Also, construction and building things with structural integrity are not among my husband’s core competencies. I cringe at their process.
So far they have a second platform, a wonky ladder to access it, a front wall that is way more completed than seems reasonable when there are no other walls, and a metal roof.  The existing wall does promise that maybe one day there will be a very fancy little building. It has cute windows (found in our barn) and cedar shake siding (because it seemed inexpensive when you think you need only a fraction of what it actually takes to side a small wall).  It is a fancy wall facade on a little platform 30 feet in the air.

I’ve come to really enjoy how romantic it looks – especially in the winter.
They dream of building three more walls, some small furniture, and equipping it with WIFI (delusional, but whatever). Instead of being annoyed at its incompleteness, I’ve come to think of it as a sweet garden folly, and we all get along.

This summer there is renewed excitement for seasonal progress on the tree house. We have a new portable generator and my son and husband consider it a “game changer”.  
No more up and down the ladder and back and forth to the barn to cut wood pieces. Neither will they be constantly juggling hundreds of feet of extension cords for power tools. Now that they have reliable onsite power, I have high hopes for another wall.
I regularly work with Troybilt to test out their products and help tell their stories.  I am eager to put their mobile generator to the test when we have our next power outage.
Stupid New England Overhead Power Lines + Weather + Trees = Constant Problem, Duh.
But until then, the new mobile power source is driving the creative spirit of our treehouse adventure.

In light of regional power outages in the recent past, many of our neighbors have installed backup home generators.  It makes sense when you work from home, or just don’t want to relive the trauma (even for a couple of hours) of being without power for 9 days because of an ice storm. Been there done that; living in “1876 house” is not my idea of the good life.
We certainly considered it too, but opted out knowing that as soon as we did, ice storms and power outages will somehow cease to be a problem. Murphy’s Law and all.

Until recently, I’d never considered a mobile generator unit.  But now that we have it, I wonder why permanent residential back-up generators are so much more common? We have all the security of an emergency power supply AND mobility to use it on the other 365 days a year when there isn’t an emergency.  When the power goes out, all we need to do is wheel this into the backyard, and start it up. There are plenty of outlets to power the well, a light, the internet, the microwave, and the TV (what else is needed in a storm?).  
Plus, we now we have extra power when needed. I really don’t like to think about the ancient wiring in our house and the electrical problems we’ve run into because of it. The generator might open the flood gates for more projects (erm, the floors need sanding…). But for now, I’m looking forward to the continued story of the treehouse.  


Images: Rochelle Greayer

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Troybilt. I am not an employee of Troybilt and all opinions are my own.




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  1. Clive says:

    What a great project! I had a treehouse just like this as a kid (minus the generator!) and you’ve certainly inspired me to get one started for my son. Best of luck with getting it completed 🙂

  2. James says:

    Wow, Pete Nelson from Treehouse Masters would be proud of this project. The photo where it is snowing with the natural light coming over the top of the treehouse is just magical.

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