Free Standing Tree House

Ask The Builder · 69: Free Standing Tree House

Available on iTunes

Animated GIF by Marty Hovey Copyright 1995 Marty Hovey

Free Standing Tree House Podcast:

Tim Carter received a free standing tree house email from Joe who lives in South Carolina. He sent an amazing video you MUST watch below. I pray that Joe leaves his video on YouTube as a teaching moment for thousands of future dads!

Joe wrote:

"I've built a free-standing treehouse for my 9-year-old son but I'm a novice in carpentry. Here is a video showing my nearly finished project and I'm wondering if using 3/8 in galvanized bolts in 4x4 posts was sufficient.  I had a professional carpenter visit yesterday and he said he would not worry about it, that the structure should last 20 years. But my son means the world to me and I just want to be sure that I haven't created a death trap."

Watch Joe's video, then LISTEN to Tim's advice in the podcast at the top of this page.


diagonal brace deck

Joe needs to put in FOUR of these braces. Two at each corner on two diagonal corner posts.

band board deck post support

Joe needs to scab on a 2x4 under the band board at each post. This treated 2x4 runs continuous from the underside of the 2x6 band board down to the top of the concrete pier.

Related Links:

Deck Bracing Tips

HOW TO CONNECT a Deck Railing Post to a Deck

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Related Links:

HOW TO CONNECT a Deck Railing Post to a Deck

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5 Responses to Free Standing Tree House

  1. Joe's first mistake was not applying for a building permit. I expect in most jurisdictions, a building permit is required for this type of structure. Essentially what Joe has built is a raised covered deck, most jurisdictions have a standard code compliant deck details package. Here is a link to the one from Fairfax County Virginia.

    Additional mistakes Tim did not mention are that the 2x6 rim joists should have been doubled, not a single board, the through bolts should have been 1/2 inch not 3/8 inch.

    Even with the corrections Tim detailed, this structure would not be building code compliant as there are many code violations.

  2. Wow! Back in the day, when my kids were young-I might very well have fashioned a free-standing self-leveling(!) house of pain, like Joe did! I thank God I did not. I have read your column for a long time Tim, and I enjoy it immensely. In reading your words over the years, I wonder that darn near everything I built, save for a flower planter, wasn't a bomb waiting to go off! Luckily, I tired of those efforts, and replaced them over the years. Now, I live in an apartment, and the leasing office is smart enough to prevent me from building anything. Keep up the good works-thanks, Jim Carpenter

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