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Have the myriad stresses of modern life got you down?
If they have, it may be time to make your home in the trees where you can the gentle pitter-patter of the soft rains gets you in the mood for sleep each night. Imagine looking out your windows every day and seeing the beautiful birds serenading you as you succumb to a forest reverie.
Who wouldn’t want to escape the pressing concerns of everyday reality to be surrounded by the heart-aching beauty of the natural world?
A treehouse, whether low on the ground or seemingly suspended in midair allows you to shut out a reality that has become too intrusive. Because trees surround a treehouse, you get much-needed privacy from the prying eyes of neighbors.
You can use one as an office or a retreat. Or, if you’re really into the idea, you can live in it full time.
Treehouse living has incredible advantages that on-the-ground, traditional living cannot ever hope to offer. It’s not merely a fantasy. People nostalgic for their childhood and craving an ecologically friendly solution to their housing problems are building them in record numbers.
Whether it’s a desire to escape the deafening roar of a society slowly going insane or wanting to live closer to nature, more people every day are making a home for themselves in the trees.
A few people are even creating luxurious ones with all the amenities. Many high-end treehouses these days also look like a standard home inside, complete with classy granite kitchen countertops.
But if you’re reading this article in frugralforless.com, that means you most likely have minimalist tendencies. Rest assured, treehouse living can be a very economical way to live…if you do it right.
The Emerging Treehouse Culture
There’s an emerging “treehouse culture” that’s arising all over the globe. Everywhere you look on social media, you can see beautiful treehouse projects.
Many of these treehouses are a far cry from what you played in when you were a child. Some of these structures are so lavish, they wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of Architectural Digest.
If you want, you can even list them on Airbnb to make some extra money! There are tons of treehouses listed on the platform. That means the demand for them is off the charts.
In the most exotic, far-flung corners of the globe, savvy entrepreneurs are erecting elegant designer treehouses. These arboreal penthouses are custom-built and eco-friendly to boot.
In Turin, Italy, Luciano Pia designed a treehouse apartment complex that is breathtaking to behold. It’s situated on a busy street corner, yet incorporates nearly 200 trees. It’s called 25 Verde, and it’s gloriously majestic.
The popular imagination has latched onto the idea. And cultural interest in treehouses has rocketed through the roof. Whether designed as eco-lodges, recreational spaces, or private residences, treehouses are popping up all over the planet like the delicate purple bloom of a desert flower after a spring rain.
From simple one-deck shacks made from recycled materials to luxurious digs designed by legendary architects, treehouse living is very much “in.” You can vacation at a “treesort.” And, you can watch reality shows about treetop architecture, including the hit HGTV show The Treehouse Guys.
This show features some pretty awesome treehouse builds. And, it’s raised awareness of treehouses for adults.
At the same time, it’s increased demand for them. Because I know you’re frugal, the kind of treehouse you’ll be building won’t be one of these.
The Types of Fanatics
There are two types of treehouse fanatics.
There are those diehard adrenalin junkies who can’t wait to be high above the ground. They have a daredevil streak a zillion miles long and love to live on the edge.
There are also those who love the idea of living amongst the trees, but because of a fear of heights, only want to be a few feet off the ground. Treehouse living is suited to both types, because treehouse can be built to any height.
The Coolest Tiny Houses
There’s much to love about tiny house living. And treehouses are the coolest tiny houses of them all!
Tiny houses come in a dizzying array of shapes, sizes, and tastes. Treehouses are no exception. And because every tree is different, every treehouse is unique.
That’s because the best treehouses create an arboreal aesthetic that mirrors the characteristics of the forest.
Not Just for Kids Anymore
While treehouses fire up the imagination of any red-blooded child, an adult who has lost touch with this part of his being might be less than thrilled about living in one.
If adults can get past their initial reluctance, treehouse living is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with that being. Traditionally, treehouses have always been for the kiddies. But in this day and age, adults are rediscovering how much fun they can be. And, they can be a tonic for the soul—a healing balm for that which ails us.
Children use their imagination to turn a shabbily constructed tree fort into a pirate’s ship. Or, a lair hidden deep in a cave on a deserted island. They scamper among the branches because they intuitively realize the restorative power of play.
No matter if you’re six or 60, it’s hard to resist the appeal of a treehouse. From childhood retreats to grownup getaways, there’s something liberating about leaving the humdrum safety of the ground and ascending fearlessly into the exhilarating grandeur of the treetops that almost kiss the sky.
Inside even the most cynical of us there lives a child dying to set aside adult worries and frolic carefree in the branches. A treehouse beckons you to return to your childhood self.
Gone are the days when treehouses were magical hideouts exclusively reserved for children. As adults, we work much too much. We need to remember how to play. A treehouse can help with that.
Successful Treehouse Adventures
Gus Guenther built one in less than three weeks on a shoestring budget up in Alaska in the 90s. His project required less than 1,000 board feet of wood, and most of it came from a mill near him.
He used framing lumber ranging from 2 by 12s to 2 by 4s. He also needed four, ¾ by 14-inch galvanized lag bolts with washers to anchor the base of the house to the supporting trees.
Gus even installed French doors. This was the one extravagance he allowed himself. He was able to live off the grid by using a generator. His total cost was only $2,500.
On Pender Island in British Columbia, there is the frugal yet cozy Raven Loft, a small 165 square foot treehouse on a half-acre plot of land. The owner, Geoff de Ruiter, built his treetop dwelling mostly out of reclaimed or secondhand materials.
His total cost? Only $8,200!
The plot cost him an additional $35,000. There’s nothing fancy about this arboreal getaway. It’s a rustic rectangular structure that those who are accustomed to more luxurious digs would shy away from.
But if you’re into economical ways to live, something similar to this might be right up your alley. And, if you’re reading this on frugalless.com, this is the kind of treehouse that’ll probably appeal to you.
The Raven Loft is Geoff’s vacation retreat, so it’s equipped with necessities such as an induction cooker cooktop, composting toilet, a sink with its very own water reservoir, and a small fridge.
While it doesn’t have a shower, there’s a pub nearby that, strangely enough, lets people get a five-minute shower for only a $1.00. Other treehouse enthusiasts have showers installed in their treehouses for little cost.
Before we get down into the nitty-gritty of treehouse construction, let’s look at the disadvantages.
No matter how careful you are, your treehouse will do some damage to the trees that hold them. All that walking around at the base of the trees compacts the soil. This harms the root systems.
The weight of the treehouse in the branches causes stress to the roots. Most trees are resilient and can survive the damage, but think twice before building in a tree that has sentimental value to you.
If you live high up in a tree, this means you’ll most likely have to climb a steep ladder to get to your bedroom. This can be a drag if you have to do it every day. That’s not a big deal when you don’t have too much to carry. But having to carry groceries or furniture up that steep ladder can prove to be a significant inconvenience.
To solve this problem, some builders use dumb waiters and rig pulley systems.
Another thing you have to think about is that as you get older, climbing up to your leafy loft can prove to be a painful and challenging experience.
A severe storm warning means something different when your abode is a tree. When you live in a traditional house, a tree falling in your yard is an inconvenience. But not the end of the world. But if you’re in the tree and it falls, it can mean the ruination of your home.
Or, even injury or death.
Living in a tree could make you susceptible to adverse weather conditions. Most tree houses are on stilts, so they’re not exactly stable. Trees can be pretty sturdy, but a powerful storm can uproot the hardiest of them.
For better or for worse, treehouse living entails living with the creatures of the natural realm. You’ll see more spiders, bugs, and other creepy crawlies than you ever hoped to encounter in your lifetime. And, woodpeckers can be a pain if they try to look for grubs in the trees supporting your structure.
Every once in a while, a skunk may show up and challenge you to a battle royal. Are you up for that?
Things to Think About Before Getting Started
If you’re one of those itching to make their home in the treetops, there are a few things you need to do before embarking on your arboreal adventure. First, you need to find a suitable location. You can either buy the land outright. Or you can make a deal with a landowner to rent his property.
Start researching possibilities as soon as possible, because you may have to apply for a building permit. But prepared to jump through some hoops, as the foundation for your structure isn’t a conventional one.
It’s a friggin’ living tree, and there’s nothing in the code about that.
Some building inspectors might get a little testy about this. Lots of municipalities categorize treehouses as “alternative living structures.” The laws governing them can get tricky.
But before drawing up plans for your structure, it’s necessary to get the idea okayed with your local government officials. Building codes are complicated these days. It’s hard to know what we can build on our properties.
Building codes vary by state and even town, so you’ll need to check with your local municipality to find out everything that’s required.
Problems with Neighbors
If you’re building one that’ll be visible to your neighbors, discuss it with them in advance to avoid problems.
Also be aware that if you’re trying to construct your treetop getaway smack dab in the middle of a subdivision, the homeowners’ association that has jurisdiction might not be enamored of the idea. So, find out if your local government and homeowners’ association will allow you even to build one in the first place.
Mortgage and Insurance Problems
You might have lots of difficulties getting traditional homeowners’ insurance, too.
Because treehouses can be so hard to get to in case of a fire, many insurers refuse to do it. And even if you do find an insurer willing to underwrite a policy, it’ll probably be more expensive than those for traditional houses.
You’ll probably have to pay in cash if you’re not building your own because most banks won’t approve a mortgage for such a structure.
Building the Darn Thing
What’s great about building treehouses is that they don’t require complicated construction techniques or fancy equipment. Also, you don’t need much of a construction crew for so small of a project.
If you build it the right way, your treehouse will last a long time. But keep in mind that building a house in a tree presents a vast array of challenges that traditional homes don’t have. And, you might hear from some that it’s going to be prohibitively expensive to build one.
This is poppycock! There are people out there living in $10,000 treehouses they built with their own hands.
The Design Phase
If you have the skill, you can design it yourself. Or, you can enlist a designer to do the job for you if you want to spend the money. Find one who can come up with some useful, yet innovative features that’s an expression of your unique personality.
After all, you don’t want your treehouse to look like everyone else’s!
At the Learning with Experts website, you can learn all the skills you’ll need to know to construct your own home amongst the trees. It’s only $39 to attend a virtual classroom of no more than 20 students.
If you want a better experience, you can pay $155 and get one on one attention with an expert instructor. In this course, you’ll learn how to plan your apartment in the sky. Next, you’ll learn how to build your platform.
Then, you’ll learn more advanced techniques.
If you’re up for it, you can even add in all those cool features you dreamed about when you were a kid. Like, trap doors, slides, hidden compartments, and water cannons. You can even add cool walkways suspended by cables, rope bridges, and zip lines.
Other than what the trees can support, the only limits are those of your imagination!
You get to decide how it’s going to look.
Plumbing and Electricity
It might be a little difficult to provide your treetop abode with running water. That’s because trees are pretty high, and this factor interferes with water pressure.
And during winter months, your pipes could be at risk of freezing. Also, getting rid of the wastewater can be a little challenging. Another problem with treehouses is that it’s a bit difficult hooking them up to traditional electrical lines. But in the end, all of these issues are but minor speed bumps for a treehouse fanatic determined to manifest his vision in glorious reality.
The truth is, with a little ingenuity, you can have both electricity and running water. Some people have done it while staying within a frugal budget.
The Start of Construction
Once you finalize your plans, you can finally begin your project.
After you’ve got a few skills under your belt, gather the materials from which you’ll build the treehouse of your dreams. In warmer latitudes, make sure you get wood treated to prevent termite infestation. Try to use salvaged materials to be frugal and eco-friendly.
Next, find a suitable cluster of trees for your arboreal sanctuary. Choose a healthy hardwood tree with broad, load-bearing branches at least 8 inches in diameter.
It’s imperative that you choose reliable, healthy trees with deep roots. Enlist the assistance of an expert to make sure the trees are healthy before you begin construction. By doing this, you’ll ensure the longevity of both your structure and the trees supporting it.
Build your platform as close to the trunk as you can get. Add diagonal bracing for support. Don’t tie constricting material to the branches such as wire or rope. This is bad for the tree. To accommodate tree movement and growth, allow gaps around any branches or trunks that go through the treehouse.
It’s so much easier to build the rest of the treehouse if the floor is level. This way, it can support the entire weight of the structure.
To do this, you can lay beams across the branches. Or place the beams between the trunks of different trees. To make sure a big treehouse remains stable, center the load over the trunk. Then, spread the weight over a couple of branches.
To make your work easier, build your pieces on the ground. Then, raise them into position.
Bolts and Fasteners
Don’t run bolts through the trees. And don’t use too many fasteners. One large bolt is preferable to many smaller ones. This way, there’s less potential damage to the tree. If you damage the bark, bacteria and disease can enter through the puncture hole and kill the tree.
Use extra-long large bolts for attaching your treehouse to the tree.
Allow a two-inch gap around the tree if it passes through the floor. Add a three-inch gap if it passes through the roof.
You can order special treehouse fasteners from suppliers such as garnierlimb.com. These bolts give the tree more room to grow. Plus, they hold more weight than regular bolts.
Specialty treehouse fasteners are worth thinking about if you want your trees to live a long and healthy life.
Make sure you know what the wind is like in the area where you want to build. With strong winds, living in a treehouse can be like being out to sea on a boat in choppy waters. This can even make you seasick!
There are other touches you can add to make your domicile more ecologically friendly. These are things like solar panels, double-glazed windows, and a water collection and recycling system.
If you want a big treehouse, build a few structures, and connect them with suspended walkways. This way, it won’t be too much for the tree to support.
Now it’s time to finalize your moving plans. If you’re accustomed to living in bigger quarters, it might take some getting used to living in a treehouse. Try to get rid of your extra stuff before moving day.
Think through your organization before unpacking to make sure you’re going to have room for everything.
Keep everything neat, tidy, and organized, so you don’t get overwhelmed by being in a small space.
So there you have it! If you’re a frugal-minded individual who wants to reconnect with nature, treehouse living might be just the thing for you. It’s more than a move into new surroundings and a new home.
It’s also an arboreal adventure that might add years to your life, and more joy to your soul.
What do you think of the idea? Let me know in the comments!