10 Day Treehouse, Step by Step

As my fiancée and I are heading out from a beautiful weekend spent relaxing in Argyle, NY, we sign the guest book and notice a comment from a previous guest proclaiming excitement to see the treehouse slated to arrive sometime in the coming months. We say our goodbyes to the host, and I mention my former employment as a treehouse carpenter, and two months later my friend and I are breaking “ground” for my first solo treehouse build. With a strict timeline of 10 days, it was long hours but incredible fun to put together this treehouse! You can stay here through AirBnB.

Day 1 – Arrival and Site preparation

After two months of planning off of photos and site measurements provided by the owner, arriving on site was an exciting ordeal. We pulled up with a trailer full of tools, beams, and milled rough lumber.


Partially loaded truck ready to head to NY!

After deciding on the final site location, we trimmed some limbs and laid out the posts that would become the footings for two posts supporting the front of the treehouse. Measurements were finalized, and as the sun began to set we marked the footings to be dug the next day.


Getting the site ready for a treehouse!

Day 2 – Footings, TABs, and Beam Installations

Camping and building a treehouse is a surreal combination of ground by night and trees by day. Cooking was time consuming, but the first cup of coffee over a camp stove with a day of tree housing looming was a magical feeling.When we weren’t camping in the field, we were staying in a quaint guest house on the property stocked with tea and coffee.

Day 2 was perhaps the most strenuous of the endeavor, as digging 4′ footings into bedrock and drilling 3″ diameter holes to hold TABs with underpowered hand drills leaves hands blistered and muscles sore. Two 4′ x 12″ diameter footings were dug and poured in the morning with the specialized hardware set in place. Two TABs were installed as well, letting us hoist the first beam (sistered 16′ 2x12s) in to place.


Dennis working on TAB installation.

By the end of the day, we were resting with a level beam thanks to the water level, and curing footings. The trees chosen to be the backbone of the treehouse are a red oak (right) and two ashes (one pictured on left above).

Day 3 – Post installation

Friend #2 arrived on day #3 and gave us a much appreciated hand with hoisting posts and eventually laying out the joists. We felled a 14″ diameter oak tree near the site and used the trunk as posts for the treehouse. The base was notched with a chainsaw to mate with a metal coupling that had been set in the concrete footing.


Dennis and Ryan laying out the chainsaw notch.

Curved lumber is difficult to work with, and there was much head scratching as to how best to orient the tree to deal with supporting the load of the treehouse. Eventually it was decided that since the tree had functioned for 30+ years in an orientation, best to preserve that same orientation.

After notching the base of each post, we raised the posts onto the footings and secured them with bolts and temporary 2x4s. Again, we used the water level to determine level from the rear beam to the raised posts, and they were notched with a chainsaw to provide stability against racking. Having a snug fit is always the way to go, rather than relying on fasteners in shear. Easier said than done, however, when using a chainsaw atop a ladder for some fine carving. IMG_1627.jpg


Braced posts with first joists.

To brace the front posts, we again used lumber from the felled oak. Massive lag bolts were used to fasten the diagonal support to the post and beam. The natural look saves money and increases overall sustainability of the treehouse.

The dimensional lumber for the build was all rough cut, and provided by Drumm’s Sawmill in Schyulerville, NY. The material is gorgeous, sourced locally, and in my opinion this rough cut lumber is the most aesthetically pleasing look for a treehouse.

Day 4 – Joist Layout and Blocking

On day 4, we were able to throw up the final joists, and add some blocking for support. Joists which were full size 2×10 boards, were required for the house, but also for the continuous deck area around the front and left portion of the treehouse. The odd angles of the funky deck were time consuming to block out, and additionally required extra consideration due to a split trunk ash that interacts nicely with the deck.


Finished joists with blocking.

At the end of the day, my helpers and I picked up some 2×6 T&G to become the subfloor, as well as some full size 2×6 for the decking, planed on one side. While they were doing this, I worked on starting deck railings from natural posts, again from the felled tree. Day 4 came to a close putting some deck boards on the front patio.


Adding decking to the front patio.

The main body of the treehouse is a 12’x14′ footprint, with a 1’x3’cutout for the landing at the entrance. The roof overhangs 3′ in the front, for 12’x16′ of covered space. The deck on the front wraps around to the side, for roughly another 80 sq. ft. of outdoor space.

Day 5 – Subfloor, Decking, and the First Wall!

At this point, the structural work was finished, and standard carpentry becomes the majority of the work. We next finished the subfloor and the decking, and began on the walls and deck railings. My friend Dennis Walter rocked the railings for the next couple days, as I worked with my fiancée raising the 4 main walls.


Finished subfloor and funky decking.


Always make sure your knees can come back out!


First wall up!

At the end of the day, the first wall was raised, and the railings were beginning to take shape. Walls were sided before being raised, so as to minimize the need for scaffolding, ladder, and tree climbing. The weather was gorgeous, and was an incredible environment to work in.

Day 6 – Walls and Railings

We had hit our stride at this point, chugging forward with walls, railings, and window planning.


3 walls!

Day 7 – Final Wall, Roof, and Railings

Day 7 included the raising of the final wall and the beginning of the rafter installation. Work progressed on the railings as well, with preparations being made for the staircase and landing as well.


Fiancée tasked with rafter flush cutting

The decorative rafter in the front was from milled red oak from my Alaskan Mill. It had been milled several months before the job, and therefore had sufficient time to dry. Window and door trim were made from thinner live edge wood also from my Alaskan mill, to match. The overall look of the treehouse is very natural, from the natural posts and railings, to the live edge decorative rafters and trim.


Scrap wood bonfires are the best bonfires.

Day 8 – Finishing touches on the rafters, staircase, and railings

Day 8 was a whirlwind day, throwing together the final rafters, staircase, and railings.


Preview of the treetop views.


Final treehouse framing.

With the walls raised and the roof framed, the treehouse was now incredibly sturdy. The gentle swaying of the treehouse in the wind is very pleasing, and the outdoor patio area is a great place to relax.

Day 9 – Roofing and Interior Work

The first rains during the job held off until 3/4 of the roofing was installed. One of nature’s gifts during this build. Siding was added to the front wall, and tin roofing added to the front, leaving the rear roof sections to be covered with clear plastic to provide a view to the treetops from the loft.


Siding on the front, tin roofing on top.


Clear roofing over the soon to be loft. Let the rain begin!

With the roof installed, we began adding the windows and other finishing touches on the exterior. IMG_1770.jpgIMG_1776.jpg


We were the treehouse’s first guests this night.

Day 10 – Wrap up

Day 10 saw the successful wrap up of the treehouse. The ridge cap was installed, the loft built, and the front doors and front siding added. IMG_1787.jpgIMG_1798.jpgIMG_1800.jpgIMG_1803 (1).jpgIMG_1807.jpgIMG_1817.jpgIMG_1824.jpgIMG_1810.jpgIMG_1827.jpg

We packed up camp, cleaned up the site, and hit the road. Hope you enjoyed the photos and description of the job! You can check out other work on my website or flickr.


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