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Treehouse Fantasy

 
 
sozobe
 
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:05 am
So I make little earrings and sew curtains but what would really make me happy is a table saw and a really big pile of two-by-fours. I often have this urge to Create, large-scale.

We have this big ol' "stump" in our yard. It's the remains of an enormous cottonwood that was struck by lightning several (ten? not sure) years back. The top half+ keeled over onto the neighbors garage, and the remainder was just left as-is. It's still quite tall, I'd guess about 30 feet. But it's just a stump -- no branches or anything coming out of it.

I always worry about the "stump" finishing up the keeling-over business, as it's not only tall but very wide -- about 3 feet in diameter, possibly four. (Squinting at it from here, haven't measured it.) It seems good and solid for now, but who knows.

So, I had this idea. Chop it down, leaving about 6 feet of stump. I'd think that being only twice as tall as it is wide would be pretty stable. IF the wood is basically OK (and everything that follows depends on that, otherwise get rid of the whole thing), I was thinking it would be cool to build a treehouse on top of the stump.

The idea would be that the top of the stump would be a platform about 3 feet in diameter (I'd want it to be level and flat, is that extremely difficult to achieve right there?). Then I'd build a larger platform on top of it, probably 2X4's 12" apart, I was thinking 9' x 9' but it could be smaller.

Problem # 1 -- how would I make the platform square? If I wanted a rectangle 3 feet by 9 feet, that would be easy -- just get a bunch of 9-foot-long 2X4's, and hammer them into the stump with super-long super-strong nails (though even then the ones on the edges wouldn't have a lot of purchase). But if I want to make it square, the extra three feet on either side would need support. Would the platform provide enough support for a sturdy treehouse if I (not sure of the term, made notches so that the 2X4's would fit together -- like, cut out a 2" X 2" chunk from each), and then overlapped them? So it would be a 9' X 9' grid of 2X4's. Would the fact that they'd be 2 X 2's in places make them too likely to snap at those spots?

Once I get a good stable platform, the rest would be more straightfoward I think. Lay a wood floor on top of the grid, frame up walls and a roof (I think we have a bunch of old but unused roof shingles in the basement), and have three large windows and a door. A ladder to get up to the door, and maybe a zip line to get out. :-P

(There's a good sturdy tree right across the yard from it).

This would be for the use of a 5.5-year-old (well, depending on when we actually did it, that's how old she is now) and hopefully on up. I like the idea of her taking her homework out there when she's a teenager...

I'd definitely want it to be strong enough to hold parental units if we decide to visit, plus several (4?) kids at once.

Anyway, I like lots of things about this idea, but I'd love to get feedback from more sober and experienced minds, on any and all aspects.

Thanks!
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blacksmithn
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:10 am
I like the idea, but from what I have read the cottonwood is a "notoriously weak" wood. Before going to the time and expense of building such a delightful structure, you might want to consult an arborist.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:12 am
Ohhh! Treehouses!

Mo's current treehouse terrifies me so I'm just reading along for ideas.
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:49 am
Great idea! I mean, bookmark.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:49 am
Good information on cottonwoods:

http://www.gpnc.org/cottonwood.htm

Particularly:

Quote:
The heartwood typically rots from the larger limbs and trunk of a cottonwood. If a windstorm breaks one of these hollow branches off, providing access to the interior, they can provide homes for squirrels, raccoons, and opossums or even a hive of honeybees.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:53 am
Yeah, the steps would be something like:

1.) Chop.

2.) Inspect. If it's rotted, forget it, and remove the whole thing. If it's pretty solid looking THEN

3.) Have an arborist look at it, THEN

4.) Build.

If it's not rotted, and is pretty solid looking, does it matter if the wood is a relatively soft one? As in, a 3- or 4-foot-diameter chunk of wood is going to be pretty strong even if it's softer than say oak, right?
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:54 am
(I just caught "honeybees", hmmm, I think there isn't really access into the trunk but I have no idea.)
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blacksmithn
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 09:58 am
I wouldn't be concerned so much about the trunk snapping and falling over as I would about the ability to fasten anchors (nails, lag bolts, etc.) into a soft wood. Of course, there's "soft" wood like pine and there's soft wood like balsa. That's where I'd consult the arborist.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:00 am
Ah, that makes sense. Good point.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:02 am
Oooh, there was a book I read about in a rave review years ago, with the most amazing photos and stories about treehouses, that I wanted so badly ... but I couldnt afford it ... I think this is the one! ->

The Treehouse Book, by Peter Nelson, David Larkin (Editor)

You can browse in the book there, the introd pages anyway.

If thats the book I think it is - and I think so - its also got the most eccentric stories of grown adult folk who went to live on their own in treehouses for various reasons - and a faint memory links this pic below with the story of a retired robber who built a completely self-sustaining place deep in the forest, several stories high, with its own water system.

http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0789304112.01.IN02._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

But the blurb also says that "Detailed how-to information, including plans and drawings, is woven with behind-the-scenes tales of each structure's occupants".
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:05 am
Oh also lots of how-to books on building treehouses on Amazon btw: "Tree Houses You Can Actually Build : A Weekend Project Book", "A Treehouse of Your Own : A Step-by-Step Guide to Building an Amazing Treetop Retreat", "How to Build Treehouses, Huts and Forts"..
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blacksmithn
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:07 am
It'd be kinda cool if you could build the house in such a way that a doorway could be cut through the middle of the tree so you could get from one side to the other by passing through the tree itself. I have no idea if that's even possible without dangerously weakening the tree, but it might be worth a thought.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:17 am
That would be so cool!

Or a "Swiss Family Robison"-style entrance if it really is rotted on the inside but has a solid-enough ring around it, where there's a door in the tree and then a ladder inside and you emerge into the treehouse from the inside...

Prolly not practical, but sure fun to think about.

Thanks for the links, nimh!

The stuff I'm finding on cottonwoods is not encouraging. :-? If I have this good solid 6-foot stump, even if the wood is rather soft, I could probably fashion some sort of a cap on top of the stump, don't you think? As in, rather than relying on bolting things to the wood, making a sort of graduation hat (hard to describe), where the stump is the head, and the mortarboard is the platform. ?

I'm hoping it's strong enough that I could just bolt stuff to it though; various branches have fallen from the cottonwood and I'd say it's closer to pine than balsa -- it seems pretty solid.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:19 am
I had an old tree down by the swamp that I considered taking down because it was obstructing my view of the baby giraffes but on a whim I decided to build a tree house and, to this day, I have never regretted that decision.



http://www.g21.net/autugrax/tree_house.jpg
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blacksmithn
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:20 am
When did the Chinese move in next door?
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:21 am
The wood smells like egg rolls.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:24 am
Mo actually spends more time playing under his treehouse than in it.

Maybe you could use the tree, as is, as a central support for some kind of teepee type roof with some sort of deck raised just a bit off the ground around the bottom. Then you could use a couple of 4x4s to connect the roof to the deck and either build walls or use canvas walls.

It would be more of a fort than a treehouse but the tree would still be central to the design.
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blacksmithn
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:28 am
sozobe wrote:
That would be so cool!

Or a "Swiss Family Robison"-style entrance if it really is rotted on the inside but has a solid-enough ring around it, where there's a door in the tree and then a ladder inside and you emerge into the treehouse from the inside...

Prolly not practical, but sure fun to think about.

Thanks for the links, nimh!

The stuff I'm finding on cottonwoods is not encouraging. :-? If I have this good solid 6-foot stump, even if the wood is rather soft, I could probably fashion some sort of a cap on top of the stump, don't you think? As in, rather than relying on bolting things to the wood, making a sort of graduation hat (hard to describe), where the stump is the head, and the mortarboard is the platform. ?

I'm hoping it's strong enough that I could just bolt stuff to it though; various branches have fallen from the cottonwood and I'd say it's closer to pine than balsa -- it seems pretty solid.


Once you cut it to size, assuming it's safe to build on, I'd suggest sealing the top with something to prevent dry rot. Like that tar-like stuff they put on tree limbs after they cut them off.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:31 am
That sounds cool, too!

The starting point with this though is that the stump as-is isn't very trustworthy. First I was thinking about how we need to get rid of the whole thing, then I was thinking hmm, maybe leave 6 feet of it... but I'd be nervous about making it a purposeful play area for sozlet as it is.

Could do that with another healthier tree while we wait to deal with this one though... hmmmm....
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 May, 2006 10:33 am
Another good point, blacksmithn!

I was thinking that the fact that it would be sheltered from the rain would help, but hadn't thought of dry rot.

What about the lumber used on the structure itself? The same kind they use for decks? Just regular wood, and then varnish it or paint it?
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