Tree Fort Kick-off

I would like to introduce the best hideout in the neighborhood…

Yikes! I hope it, and I, can live up to that statement.

I had been wanting to build a playset for my two sons since we moved into our new house. We had looked at those commercially available ‘playsets’ from all the name brand stores. The sticker shock soon turned me away. During the process, the idea came about to construct a tree fort. I’m not sure how we came to that conclusion, but I am glad we did.


Disclaimer – I have no idea how to build one of these…that’s for you Asa Christiana . When there is something that’s new to me, I conduct a plethora of research on the subject. The last thing I want to do is create something I don’t like, won’t be used, or won’t be safe.

The first place I always turn (recently anyways) is my local library. I ordered a small collection of books on the subject of tree forts/houses, and some on the subject of deck building as well. Let me tell you…there are some insane tree houses out there! Well beyond what you will see documented here. I thought my design was a little over the top…now I know it is modest.

The best book that I found was ‘Build Your Kids a Treehouse’ by Black & Decker. I really suggest getting this book if you are going to tackle a treehouse. The book details how to select the correct tree for what type of house/fort you are building, as well as the correct way to attach it to the tree. You don’t want to kill the tree, and you don’t want to have someone getting hurt…which includes your ego if the thing starts to fall down. The book demonstrates the entire building process step by step.

The Design

The design I finally settled on is a combination of a few influences. The structural framing and decking is totally the design of the Black & Decker book. I didn’t feel comfortable deviating from their advise. The railing design was adopted from one of those commercial playsets available at the big name stores…I changed things up a little to suit my taste. The roof structure was adapted from another design I found online.

Download it – You can click on the picture at the beginning of the post to take you to the Sketchup page of my blog. From there if you select the tree fort, it will take you to the 3D Warehouse download page. I tend to deviate from the design/model during builds…mostly in terms of measurements…I don’t use a tape measure that often…just in the beginning. The rest is all relative dimension. This is especially true when you attach the knee braces to the tree. They can vary greatly in length depending upon the irregularities of the tree trunk. If you print cut lists from this model you would fail…you have to adjust as you build.

I just want to add that when I create a Sketchup model for use in a build, the final project may not match exactly. There are times when I change my mind during the course of the build…actually it happens quite a bit. So don’t be surprised if a few posts from now things look a little different.

I do also plan on permanently attaching a ladder to the rim joist of the platform..Then above the ladder, I am thinking about building a temporary gate to prevent the kiddies from accidentally falling out the opening. Both of these additions are not in the Sketchup file, as I have yet to decide how they will be constructed.


I have had requests from the clients (my two sons) for things like trap doors, ropes, poles, etc. The great thing about the design is that to make additional changes in the future won’t be too cumbersome. The funniest request I got was for a telescope…really?…not kidding. The thing I really want for myself is a zip line. How awesome would that be?

The Process

The process for this build will be interesting. Not only have I never built something in a tree or off the ground, but I have never attempted a deck either. In addition, I don’t have the tools available that I had planned on using. Whilst I am building this tree fort, my father-in-law is rebuilding his deck. He asked to borrow my sliding compound miter saw and I had said yes without thinking about the tree fort. I am a hand tool only guy now…but that was intended to be just for building furniture in my workshop. I do have enough sanity to keep some power tools around to work on things for the house. We could work it out sharing the saw, but that would require multiple trips back and forth…so, I will attempt to build this mammoth will hand tools only.

Let the adventure begin

Wish me luck…and send some Tylenol,