There’s nothing like a good treehouse when you’re a kid. Just ask the kids of The Magic Treehouse, the Little Rascals, or the kids of The Sandlot, all of whom used their kid-only spaces high in the foliage as refuges from the indignities of childhood. And yeah, these all might be fictional characters, but real-life kids love treehouses, too.
With summer imminent, it’s a great time to build a treehouse of your very own, particularly if you and your kids could use a break from one another that doesn’t break quarantine. Luckily, there are lots of different ways to build a treehouse in your own backyard: there are DIY books and downloadable plans for the handy among us, and elaborate, professionally designed structures, packaged in kits, for the rest of us. Here, in order of decreasing commitment, are some of our favorites — options that work whether you want a simple arboreal platform or a structure out of the Swiss Family Robinson.
The Best Treehouse Kits
If you have some serious cash to drop, consider the Tinker Bell Tree House from Tiny Town Studios. It's technically cheating, as the structure is centered on a tree made of concrete, but it's hard to argue with the final product. From the outside, it looks like a house straight out of the shire surrounded by an ample deck. Inside, there's enough room for five kids to have a backyard campout, along with running water and electric lights.
Less a treehouse than a treehouse-themed playground, this playset does give kids an elevated place to play in the backyard, which is a big part of a treehouse's appeal, after all. It's especially great if you don't have a solid backyard tree but want to give your kids the next best thing. A climbing surface, roper ladder, tic-tac-toe game, two slides, and even a swingset comprise this ready-to-assemble kit, which gives kids no shortage of options.
The Best Treehouse Plans
This product is a digital download of two different plans —depending on if you have one or two trees to build with. Either way, you'll end up with a snug treehouse that packs three windows and an awesome trap door entryway into its 28-square-foot frame. A smaller design means this treehouse is cheaper and easier to build.
This treehouse plan is centered on an 8-by-8-foot platform that supports a 41-square-foot treehouse, with the rest of the space dedicated for a balcony. The roof cleverly hangs over the door to the treehouse, keeping it dry and making it a great place to read while listening to the rain.
We're very into this design, which lets the tree itself shoot up, right through the included deck that also serves as the ladder landing. The structure itself provides 40 square feet of enclosed space covered by a roof that slopes from 7 feet to 5½. If your backyard doesn't have a thick-enough tree, you can also build this one on posts and use a tree as a partial support so you get the look of a classic treehouse without a safety risk.
The look of this treehouse is dramatic, with a sharply sloping roof down to the platform broken up only by a cantilevered window — or is it a skylight? These plans include detailed schematic drawings and a rope and pulley system that lets parents deliver needed supplies to their kids without having to clamor up the ladder. There's also a fire pole kids can use to slide safely down to the ground when it's time to go inside.
This open-air structure is quite simple, with three diagonal beams attached to a single tree supplying nearly all of the support. The wall that wraps around it deliberately leaves space above and below, a touch that makes this whole thing feel more like a fort. With 42 square feet of floor space, this treehouse can accommodate several kids, who will feel more like they're immersing in nature than taking a refuge from it.
The Best Treehouse Books
Pete Nelson really loves treehouses. He has his own design and building firm, Nelson Treehouse and Supply, and claims to have built hundreds of the things over the years. This book is billed as a source of both inspiration and practical information about treehouses, containing as it does profiles of treehouses around the world and diagrams that illustrate the principles of treehouse construction. If you want to design your own treehouse, this book is a good way to get started.
If you're looking for a more straightforward guide with specific plans, the second edition of this guide from Black & Decker is a good pick. It includes sections on treehouse basics and building techniques, along with eight distinct plans for everything from an A-frame treehouse with a walkout deck to a shanty situated between four different trees.
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