Tree house

Last updated

A tree house in the park of the Chateau de Langeais in the Loire Valley, France Arba domo en la parko de la Chateau de Langeais 02.jpg
A tree house in the park of the Château de Langeais in the Loire Valley, France

A tree house, tree fort or treeshed, is a platform or building constructed around, next to or among the trunk or branches of one or more mature trees while above ground level. Tree houses can be used for recreation, work space, habitation, a hangout space and observation. People occasionally connect ladders or staircases to get up to the platforms.



Papuan tree house in British New Guinea, 1885 Picturesque New Guinea Plate XIV - Tree House, Kolari Village.jpg
Papuan tree house in British New Guinea, 1885

Prehistoric hypotheses

Building tree platforms or nests as a shelter from dangers on the ground is a habit of all the great apes, and may have been inherited by humans. It is true that evidence of prehistoric human-made tree houses have never been found by paleoanthropologists, but remains of wooden tree houses would not remain. However, evidence for cave accommodation, terrestrial human-made rock shelters, and bonfires should be possible to find if they had existed, but are scarce from earlier than 40,000 years ago. This has led to a speculative hypothesis that archaic humans may have lived in trees until about 40,000 years ago. [1] The skeletal changes due to the evolution of human bipedalism started at least four million years ago, but early bipedal hominins may still have spent some time in trees and retained some tree-climbing abilities. Early terrestrial bipedalism is supported by evidence such as fossilized bones and footprints (like the Laetoli footprints). According to the savannah hypothesis, this evolution happened as an effect of early humans adapting to life on the ground in savannah environements, partly for more energy-efficient locomotion.

Among indigenous people

Even today, tree houses are built by some indigenous people in order to escape the danger and adversity on the ground in some parts of the tropics. It has been claimed that the majority of the Korowai clans, a Papuan tribe in the southeast of Irian Jaya, live in tree houses on their isolated territory as protection against a tribe of neighbouring head-hunters, the Citak. The BBC revealed in 2018 that the Korowai had constructed some very high tree houses "for the benefit of overseas programme makers" and did not actually live in them. [2] [3] However, the Korowai people still build tree houses, not elevated but fastened to the trunks of tall trees, to protect occupants and store food away from scavenging animals. [4]

In modern societies

Trees have historically been integrated into the construction of buildings, for example the walls of a chapel, to provide support to a structure built around them. Chêne chapelle is an example of this practice. [5] Modern tree houses are usually built as play areas for children or for leisure purposes, but may also be used as accommodation in hotels or residential applications. In this case, the main part of the structure is built with more typical construction materials. The use of tree houses in this manner is part of a movement towards the practice of "living architecture". [5]

Tree houses may be considered as an option for building eco-friendly houses in forested areas, because unlike more typical forms of housing, they do not require the clearing of trees.

Support methods and technology

A stairway and roundwalk Treehouse access and roundwalk.jpg
A stairway and roundwalk

There are numerous techniques to fasten the structure to the tree which seek to minimize tree damage. [6]

The construction of modern tree houses usually starts with the creation of a rigid platform, on which the house will be placed; the platform will lean (possibly on the corners) on the branches. [7] In case there are not enough suitable supports, the methods to support the platform are:

Strutted treehouse utilizing tree attachment bolts in a public park in Burlington, Vermont BTV ForeverYoungTreehouse 20081015.jpg
Strutted treehouse utilizing tree attachment bolts in a public park in Burlington, Vermont

Struts and stilts are used for relieving weights on a lower elevation or straight to the ground; tree houses supported by stilts weigh much less on the tree and help to prevent stress, potential strain, and injury caused by puncture holes. [8] Stilts are typically anchored into the ground with concrete, although new designs such as the "Diamond Pier" speeds installation and are less invasive for the root system. [9] Stilts are considered the easiest method[ by whom? ] of supporting larger tree houses and can also increase structural support and safety.

Stay rods are used for relieving weights on a higher elevation. These systems are particularly useful to control movements caused by wind or tree growth. However, they are used less often due to the natural limits of the system. Higher elevation and more branches tailing off decreases capacity and increases wind sensitivity. [10] Building materials for hanging include ropes, wire cables, tension fasteners, and springs.

Friction and tension fasteners are the most common noninvasive methods of securing tree houses. They do not use nails, screws or bolts, but instead grip the beams to the trunk by means of counter-beam, threaded bars, or tying.

Invasive methods are all methods that use nails, screws, bolts, kingpins, etc. Because these methods require punctures in the tree, they must be planned properly in order to minimize stress. [11] Not all species of plants suffer from puncture in the same way, depending partly on whether the sap conduits run in the pith or in the bark. Nails are generally not recommended. [12] A special kind of bolt developed in the 1990s called a treehouse attachment bolt can support greater weights than earlier methods. [13] [14] [15]


Treehouse at Alnwick Gardens in the United Kingdom, with walkways through the tree canopy The Treehouse - - 32426.jpg
Treehouse at Alnwick Gardens in the United Kingdom, with walkways through the tree canopy

Since the mid-1990s, recreational tree houses have enjoyed a rise in popularity in countries such as the United States and parts of Europe. [16] This has been due to increased disposable income, better technology for builders, research into safe building practices and an increased interest in environmental issues, particularly sustainable living. This growing popularity is also reflected in a rise of social media channels, websites, and television shows specially dedicated to featuring tree houses around the world. [17]

Increased popularity has, in turn, given rise to demand for businesses covering all building and design work for clients. There are over 30 businesses in Europe and the US [18] specializing in the construction of tree houses of various degrees of permanence and sophistication, from children's play structures to fully functioning homes.

Popularity of tree house hotels is equally growing due to the popularity in the glamping and unique accommodation industries with a number of booking websites offering accommodation in tree houses. [19]

Building regulations

Many areas of the world have no specific planning laws for tree houses, so the legal issues can be confusing to both the builder and the local planning departments. Treehouses can be exempt, partially regulated or fully regulated - depending on the locale.[ citation needed ]

In some cases, tree houses are exempted from standard building regulations, as they are considered outside of the regulations specification. An exemption may be given to a builder if the tree house is in a remote or non-urban location. Alternatively, a tree house may be included in the same category as structures such as garden sheds, sometimes called a "temporary structure". There may be restrictions on height, distance from boundary and privacy for nearby properties. There are various grey areas in these laws, as they were not specifically designed for tree-borne structures. A very small number of planning departments have specific regulations for tree houses, which set out clearly what may be built and where. For safety during the tree house construction, it is usually best to do as much work as possible on the ground, taking long-term viability into consideration. [19]

Protest communities

The tree house has been central to various environmental protest communities around the world, in a technique, popularized, known as tree sitting. This method may be used in protests against proposed road building or old-growth forestry operations. Tree houses are used as a method of defence from which it is difficult and costly to safely evict the protesters and begin work. Julia Butterfly Hill is a particularly well known tree sitter who occupied a Californian redwood for 738 days (from December 1997 to December 1999), saving the tree and others in the immediate area. Her accommodation consisted of two 3 square metres (32 sq ft) platforms 60 metres (200 ft) above the ground. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geodesic dome</span> Spherical shell structure based on a geodesic polyhedron

A geodesic dome is a hemispherical thin-shell structure (lattice-shell) based on a geodesic polyhedron. The triangular elements of the dome are structurally rigid and distribute the structural stress throughout the structure, making geodesic domes able to withstand very heavy loads for their size.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scaffolding</span> Temporary structure used to support a work crew and materials

Scaffolding, also called scaffold or staging, is a temporary structure used to support a work crew and materials to aid in the construction, maintenance and repair of buildings, bridges and all other human-made structures. Scaffolds are widely used on site to get access to heights and areas that would be otherwise hard to get to. Unsafe scaffolding has the potential to result in death or serious injury. Scaffolding is also used in adapted forms for formwork and shoring, grandstand seating, concert stages, access/viewing towers, exhibition stands, ski ramps, half pipes and art projects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Korowai people</span> Indigenous ethnic group of Indonesia

The Korowai, also called the Kolufo, are the people who live in southeastern Papua in the Indonesian provinces of South Papua and Highland Papua. Specifically their tribal area is split by the borders of Boven Digoel Regency, Mappi Regency, Asmat Regency, and Yahukimo Regency. They number about 3,000 people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rivet</span> Permanent mechanical fastener

A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener. Before being installed, a rivet consists of a smooth cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. The end opposite the head is called the tail. On installation, the deformed end is called the shop head or buck-tail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timber framing</span> Traditional building technique

Timber framing and "post-and-beam" construction are traditional methods of building with heavy timbers, creating structures using squared-off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs. If the structural frame of load-bearing timber is left exposed on the exterior of the building it may be referred to as half-timbered, and in many cases the infill between timbers will be used for decorative effect. The country most known for this kind of architecture is Germany, where timber-framed houses are spread all over the country.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Longhouse</span> Type of house

A longhouse or long house is a type of long, proportionately narrow, single-room building for communal dwelling. It has been built in various parts of the world including Asia, Europe, and North America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Log house</span> House built from wooden logs

A log house, or log building, is a structure built with horizontal logs interlocked at the corners by notching. Logs may be round, squared or hewn to other shapes, either handcrafted or milled. The term "log cabin" generally refers to a smaller, more rustic log house, such as a hunting cabin in the woods, that may or may not have electricity or plumbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Treenail</span> Wooden fastener

A treenail, also trenail, trennel, or trunnel, is a wooden peg, pin, or dowel used to fasten pieces of wood together, especially in timber frames, covered bridges, wooden shipbuilding and boat building. It is driven into a hole bored through two pieces of structural wood.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Treetops Hotel</span> Building in Kenya

Treetops Hotel was a hotel in Aberdare National Park in Kenya near the township of Nyeri, 1,966 m (6,450 ft) above sea level on the Aberdare Range and in sight of Mount Kenya. First opened in 1932 by Eric Sherbrooke Walker, it was built into the tops of the trees of Aberdare National Park as a treehouse, offering the guests a close view of the local wildlife. The idea was to provide a machan experience in relative safety and comfort. From the original modest two-room tree house, it has grown into a 35-room hotel. The original structure was burned down by The Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA) during the 1954 Mau Mau Uprising, but the hotel was rebuilt near the same waterhole and has become fashionable for many of the rich and famous. It includes observation lounges and ground-level photographic hides from which guests can observe the local wildlife which comes to the nearby waterholes. The hotel closed in October 2021.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stilt house</span> Houses raised on piles over the surface of the soil or a body of water

Stilt houses are houses raised on stilts over the surface of the soil or a body of water. Stilt houses are built primarily as a protection against flooding; they also keep out vermin. The shady space under the house can be used for work or storage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Framing (construction)</span> Construction technique

Framing, in construction, is the fitting together of pieces to give a structure support and shape. Framing materials are usually wood, engineered wood, or structural steel. The alternative to framed construction is generally called mass wall construction, where horizontal layers of stacked materials such as log building, masonry, rammed earth, adobe, etc. are used without framing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wall plate</span> A horizontal, structural, load-bearing member in wooden building framing

A plate or wall plate is a horizontal, structural, load-bearing member in wooden building framing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of Thailand</span>

The architecture of Thailand is a major part of the country's cultural legacy and reflects both the challenges of living in Thailand's sometimes extreme climate as well as, historically, the importance of architecture to the Thai people's sense of community and religious beliefs. Influenced by the architectural traditions of many of Thailand's neighbors, it has also developed significant regional variation within its vernacular and religious buildings. Although Siam urged to identify themselves as a modernized state, Western culture and influence was undesirable and inevitable. In an attempt to become distinguished, Thailand's ruling elite gravitated toward selective Modernization to avoid the undesired Western influence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pole building framing</span> Construction method

Pole framing or post-frame construction is a simplified building technique that is an alternative to the labor-intensive traditional timber framing technique. It uses large poles or posts buried in the ground or on a foundation to provide the vertical structural support, along with girts to provide horizontal support. The method was developed and matured during the 1930s as agricultural practices changed, including the shift toward engine-powered farm equipment and the demand for cheaper, larger barns and storage areas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Out'n'About</span>

Out 'N' About is a southern Oregon company that operates treehouse bed and breakfasts and assists with the construction of treehouses. It is located out and about 10 miles (16 km) Southeast of Cave Junction, Oregon,

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bush carpentry</span> Improvised building methods, in Australian English

Bush carpentry is an expression used in Australia and New Zealand that refers to improvised methods of building or repair, using available materials and an ad hoc design, usually in a pioneering or rural context.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Treehouse attachment bolt</span>

Treehouse attachment bolts or TABs are specialized bolts engineered for treehouse construction. Various models and trademarks exist, with names such as Garnier limbs (GLs); tree anchor bolts; artificial limbs; heavy limbs or hyper limbs (HLs); special tree fastener or stud tree fastener (STFs).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stilts (architecture)</span> Poles, posts or pillars that raise a structure above ground or water level

Stilts are poles, posts or pillars used to allow a structure or building to stand at a distance above the ground or water. In flood plains, and on beaches or unstable ground, buildings are often constructed on stilts to protect them from damage by water, waves or shifting soil or sand. As these issues were commonly faced by many societies around the world, stilts have become synonymous with various places and cultures, particularly in South East Asia and Venice.

Horace Burgess's Treehouse was a treehouse and church in Crossville, Tennessee, United States. Construction began in 1993, mostly by Burgess, who says that, in a vision, God commanded him to build a treehouse. It became a popular local attraction and was unofficially called the largest tree house in the world. It was closed by the state on August 30, 2012, for fire code violations. On October 22, 2019, the tree house completely burned to the ground in less than 15 minutes under unknown circumstances.

A Dai bamboo house is a type of stilt building primarily constructed of bamboo as the traditional form of housing for Dai people. The lower floor was about seven or eight feet high. Horses and oxen were hitched to the posts. There was a terrace near the upper stairs, which turned into a large long room. The rest of the house was a largely open space with a low roof, sloping on both sides, with eaves to the floor and, generally, no windows. If the eaves were slightly higher, there were small windows on both sides and a door on the back. In the middle of the building was a fireplace, burning day and night. The roof was covered with thatch and the doors and windows are made of bamboo. The construction is easy. It only took a few days to cut down bamboo and gather neighbors together to build it. These houses are perishable and had to be repaired each year after the rainy season. This construction method was conducive to damp roof, and drainage of rain suitable for topography of the PingBa area.


  1. Donald R Perry, Interpreting evidence: Tree houses, 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook, SAGE Publications, 2010, page 365-366
  2. "Human Planet: Tribe's treehouses not real home, says BBC". BBC News. 5 April 2018.
  3. Sweney, Mark (4 April 2018). "BBC admits treehouse scene from Human Planet series was faked". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077. Archived from the original on 17 August 2022.
  4. Head-Hunters Drove Papuan Tribe Into Tree-Houses, ScienceDaily
  5. 1 2 Thomas Vallas (25 May 2017). peer reviewer Luc Courard. "Using nature in architecture Building a living house with mycelium and trees". Frontiers of Architectural Research.
  6. Gozzi, Jacopo (30 June 2012). "TreeHouse Village, university thesis project". Issuu. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013.
  7. "Garden Tree Houses". Cheeky Monkey Tree Houses. Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  8. "Professional Construction of Tree Houses". Tree Houses by Tree Top Builders. Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  9. "Diamond Pier" . Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  10. Bahamon, Alejandro (2007). Treehouses Living a Dream . New York, NY: Collins Design. p. 8. ISBN   9780060780012.
  11. "Types of tree house support". The Treehouse Guide. Archived from the original on 9 May 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  12. "Dangerous tree house design and safety issues". The Treehouse Guide. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  13. Miskimon, Robert; Chmienlnicki, Steven (2008). The Complete Guide to Building Your Own Tree House: For Parents and Adults Who Are Kids at Heart. Atlantic Publishing Company. pp. 88–89. ISBN   978-1-60138-244-3 . Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  14. "What are the differences between Treehouse Attachment Bolts and Garnier Limbs?". Treehouse Supplies. Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  15. Garnier, Michael. "Official Garnier Limb® Origin and Histree". Out'n'About Treesort. Archived from the original on 6 September 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  16. Henderson, Paula; Mornement, Adam (2005). Treehouses. London, UK: Frances Lincoln Ltd. p. 7. ISBN   0-7112-2437-4.
  17. "Treehouses around the world on a map". Treehouse Map. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  18. "Treehouse building companies". The Treehouse Guide. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  19. 1 2 Sado, Nathan (12 December 2022). "Starting a Glamping Business". All About Glamping. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  20. Henderson, Paula; Adam Mornement (2005). Treehouses. London, UK: Frances Lincoln Ltd. p. 65. ISBN   0-7112-2437-4.
  21. "List of Treehouses in Kerala, India".

Further reading