Building a treehouse is both fun and challenging, but if you want to ensure the final product is safe for occupants, there are a number of safety steps you should take. Before you start hoisting wood into your favourite tree, make sure it's ready. Let the following tips guide you:
1. Start with a visual inspection of the tree
Before you load a tree with a house that is going to hold your children or yourself, do a thorough visual exam to ensure the tree looks safe. You want to see healthy flexible wood that moves naturally in the wind rather than visibly rotten wood, dead leafless wood or branches that are weighed down and bowing under their own weight.
2. Investigate the tree internally
If the tree looks sturdy, check out its internal strength through a PiCUS sonic tomograph. Designed to find weaknesses and internal rot, this test involves strategically filling the tree trunk with carefully positioned nails. A tree expert then gently taps the nails with a hammer to send sound waves between the nails in the tree.
During the PiCUS sonic tomograph, the technician uses a PiCUS instrument to measure the velocity of the sound waves moving through the tree. Based on how quickly and how far the sound waves move, the technician can estimate where your tree has rot and how that may affect the safety of your tree house.
3. Trim the tree
After you have determined that your chosen tree is safe both inside and out, talk with an arborist about trimming or removing any unsafe branches.
Unless you are experienced in effective tree trimming, do not start removing branches on your own. That could hurt the strength and integrity of the tree. However, an arborist who is experienced can let you know which branches you can remove to make more room for your treehouse and which should be retained for stability and safety.
4. Spread the load
In some cases, it is possible to find the perfect tree that can hold all of the weight of your treehouse in its branches, but many trees simply are not this strong. Unless you are sure after speaking with a professional that your tree can handle the weight of the treehouse you plan to build, plan to spread the load around.
Distribute the weight from the treehouse over two different trees. Alternatively, plant support beams in the ground and use them to hold some of the structure's weight.
5. Use special hardware designed for treehouses
Putting an excessive amount of hardware straight into your tree can cause damage to the tree and ultimately weaken it. You will have to use some hardware that gets put directly into the tree during the building process, but if you want to reduce the amount of hardware you use and minimise damage, you should use hardware designed specifically for treehouse building.
For example, treehouse attachment bolts are designed to hold heavy loads, meaning you don't have to put as many bolts into the tree. These coarse threaded bolts are built to go deeply into the tree's trunk to provide stability without creating too much damage.
6. Contact your home insurer
In spite of taking every precaution possible from using PiCUS sonic tomography to using special bolts, accidents can happen. So that you are financially covered in the event of a tragedy, make sure you contact your home insurer before you start building.
Talk with your insurer about covering any injuries that occur in your treehouse or because of your treehouse, and see if your insurer has any requirements. For example, they may require you to have your tree analysed by a professional before you build in it, or they may require you to use building designs that have passed certain inspections.