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Treehouse Trivia
How many carpenters does it typically take to build a treehouse?
There is no typical build! On an average we have three to four men per job working hard long days. If it is a smaller job we can sometimes get away with two men. It all depends on the treehouse size and detailed work. Sometimes it just comes down to how many you can fit in the treehouse at one time?!
Nelson Treehouse and Supply
Q. "What are the "dos and don'ts" about protecting the tree?"
  • Use single, large bolts or TABs (treehouse attachment bolts) for main supports.
  • Line bolts up vertically on the tree if using more than one bolt - it's better to disrupt only one channel of nutrient flow. When doing this, keep the separation around 18 inches and never less than 12 inches. This way the tree will treat the second bolt as a separate wound. Both wounds will be compartmentalized separately by the tree, thereby reducing the risk of rot between penetrations. If the penetrations are too close to each other, the tree will treat them as one wound and rot could set in between the bolts, increasing the chances of pull-out.
  • Use metal or metal faced brackets where movement is inevitable (like sliding joints).
  • Drill the correct sized hole carefully with a sharp bit to avoid errors and leave a clean wound.
  • Use angular blocks or brackets to provide flat vertical or horizontal surfaces for beams.
  • Treat the tree with respect as a living thing.
  • Use nails for main supports-- they are much weaker than bolts, can work lose more easily , and because it requires more nails to do the same job as a bolt, the tree suffers more overall damage. Do not use cables or ropes wrapped around branches for support. These wear away at bark and sensitive layers below, and as the branch grows it becomes strangled, cutting off nutrient flow to the rest of the branch.
  • Position bolts that penetrate the tree vertically closer than 12 inches to one another.
  • Cut away excessive amounts of bark or wood to provide a flat surface (like to ensure a beam is bolted on vertically).
  • Use more nails or screws than you need to temporarily position supports.
  • Let any part of the tree house touch the tree directly. The entire treehouse should rest on your support system. Otherwise the tree suffers friction burns when it sways in the wind. As with ropes and cables, this destroys living tissue and starves the branches of nutrients. A particularly bad practice is to rest one end of a support in a fork of the tree to allow the treehouse to move in the wind. This causes massive damage due to the motion and weight bearing down on the surfaces in contact.

Q. "Permitting: What are the permitting requirements/building codes for constructing tree houses?"

This varies widely according to your location. You will have to contact your local planning department to find out specific restrictions in your area. For a discussion about permit considerations, see our Permitting page.

Q. "Many Nelson Treehouses I've seen use metal brackets. Can these be ordered?"

Yes they can! We have our most commonly used hardware for sale at our store. We can also fabricate any custom hardware you might need for your special project.

Q. "Do you need to have a tree to build a treehouse?"

No. It's possible to build platforms on posts, on top of which forts and playhouses can be placed. Nelson Treehouse and Supply has built a number of these, but we prefer working in trees. On the other hand, we often use poles to support long spans. These help stabilize the treehouse and take some of the burden off the tree. We have made faux trees for projects. They can look just as attractive as real trees and hold a pretty heavy load.
There are a number of companies out there that deal only with post supported houses, and there are many plans available in books that are designed for this kind of accurately shaped and sized platform.

Q. "I'm worried about hurting the tree. Won't nails, bolts and screws damage or kill my tree?"

This is a very common concern from people who want to preserve the safety of their tree. You will find that in almost every case, correctly fitted attachments cause minimal damage to a tree. Our Philosophy is to minimize penetration of the tree. We don't use nails or screws to attach to trees.

Q. "Does anyone live full time in a tree house?"

Some folks do, but there are challenges (see below).

Q. "Does Nelson Treehouse and Supply build treehouses suitable for living in?"

Yes, we sure do. Give us a call!

Q. "Do you or any other company sell pre-fabricated treehouses?"

We design and build treehouses on a project-by-project basis. Every tree house is different because of the size, shape and type of tree it is in. We do sell plans that can be used in a wide variety of tree configurations. With a couple NTS consulting hours we can modify the plan of your choice to fit your trees.

Q. "I'm concerned about lightning. Is a lightning rod a good solution?"

If your treehouse is at the highest point in the area then lighting is a concern, and some people do install lightning rods. We suggest consulting with a local lightning rod contractor if you are concerned. Ideally a lightning rod would be used in a tree other than the one supporting the treehouse.

Q. "What is a possible 'Hole-in-the-Roof' solution for keeping rain out of a treehouse?"

We typically do not design treehouses with trees penetrating the roof because there is no good way to create a fully waterproof seal between the roof and the tree. Our suggestion is that you use a flexible collar that fits around the tree, but is flexible so that the tree will not be girdled over time. Make sure that any water traveling towards the opening is diverted by a valley or "cricket".

Q. "Are there articles or published data regarding significant treehouse engineering practices?"

Please read this article about treehouse engineering and visit

Q. "I'm considering using knee braces to support the treehouse I'm building in a single tree. Do you sell simple knee brace attachments?"

There is no "catch-all/one-size-fits-all" single tree knee brace per se. A typical (entire) knee brace is composed of (in its simplest form) a piece of timber (4x6, 4x8, etc.) oriented in a diagonal position with an attachment system of some kind at the top (the structure end) and some sort of attachment system at the bottom (the tree end). We typically use a combination of paddle tabs and lag bolts for this task, both of which are available through our store.

Q. "I have some trees that I think will work for a treehouse. How do I create a Tree Layout Plan?"

Tree Layout is one of the most important steps to building your dream treehouse. To learn more about how to go about this please refer to our Treehouse Guide.

Q. "What is the best way to paint or polyurethane a tree house? Can I spray polyurethane to seal it?"

Polyurethane is generally used for interior finishes. We use penetrating oil products to protect the exterior of our treehouses. Penofin Blue can be sprayed, however we prefer brushing or rolling, which encourages the product to soak into the grain of the wood. Also, these products are rather expensive and sprayers can be wasteful. Verde cannot be sprayed, but is extremely environmentally friendly, and odorless. Latex paint is also fine for exterior finishing, but we prefer to showcase the natural beauty of the wood rather than cover it.