The Summer of the Treehouse

Trials and tribulations of that time I built a treehouse for my kids.

I've always wanted to build a treehouse, and having kids was a perfect excuse to finally build one! My oldest and I started discussing plans for a treehouse three years ago (when he was just three years old himself) and we were still knee-deep in the COVID pandemic. Dreaming up treehouse designs and what we'd build one day was a nice escape. I promised we'd build one in a few years, once he and his younger brother were a bit older.

Well, a few years went by, and suddenly it was the summer of 2023! Time to build a treehouse. I've always enjoyed constructing things with wood, because there are higher tolerances than the software I write. (Maybe never hire me to build you a house though. An actual carpenter will certainly cringe at that statement.) Screw didn't go in perfectly straight? Something not perfectly level? Eh, that's fine.

But unlike software development, where you can open up a blank file, start writing some code, delete some stuff, start over, try something else out, etc., building a treehouse requires planning and confident execution. Once you've got your dimensions and you start digging holes and cutting wood, you need to stick with the plan!

And so we built a treehouse. It was a lot of work. And a lot of fun. And a lot of time that my kids got to see their dad doing something exclusively for them (although let's face it, I get as much enjoyment out of it as they do) instead of spending time at the office. It was one of the highlights of my summer.


Here are some photos that help capture what we accomplished this summer!


The treehouse is 10 feet deep and 12 feet wide, and it's 4 feet off the ground. Is it technically attached to a tree? No. Did I originally want to do that? Yes, but using posts was simpler, and honestly, I didn't want to hurt any of our trees!


The stage in front was a very last minute addition, and wow, it would not have been the same without it. The kids love performing shows on it. It also serves as a raft, or a boat, or anything else that pops into your imagination.


I'm personally quite proud of this entranceway, mostly because I winged it. Also, it's very hard to build a ladder. That was perhaps the most troublesome piece of the treehouse to build, since you're no longer relying solely on 90 degree angles!


These shelves are fun, and the boys have already taken to storing their various pieces of wood (which they use as food to play restaurant). Also featured here is an old car mirror, courtesy of my late grandfather.


These rainbow flags or streamers really make it feel magical as you look out into the forest beyond our house. Thanks to my wife for constructing those!


Next phase of this project is to connect a pulley system between this tree and the treehouse, so that the kids can bring up buckets of whatever they find -- sticks, acorns, rocks, you name it!

Some other details

  • My kids and I had come up with lots of rough designs for months before we first broke ground. So many different ideas. But we eventually landed on this design, since it's better for my younger kids and, honestly, it was actually possible to build.

  • Speaking of breaking ground, digging these holes was tough work! Lots of roots. Luckily, I used these deck blocks, and so I didn't have to dig too deep. Note, however, that had this been any taller, I would definitely have had to dig post holes. Instead, I kept it closer to the ground and (probably) overdid it with the eight posts.

  • It's a lot of lumber. And almost all of it is visible, so you need nice-looking lumber. As a result, I could not use Lowe's, and I ordered (and had delivered) all of the lumber from a local lumber company. I highly recommend that. Basically the same price as Lowe's, but it's almost all good wood, and it's delivered!

  • It's also a lot of screws. Specifically, T25 screws. I thought I was crazy when I walked out of Lowe's with 600 screws at one point, but I almost used them all!

  • I struggled a bit on how to construct the spindles for the railing. I didn't want them to be horizontal, since that just turns into a ladder for the kids. But I also didn't want boring 2x2s as spindles, as that makes the treehouse look like a deck in the middle of the woods. In the end, I went with the wider dimensions and rougher texture of fence pickets. They are cheap, and I just had to saw them in half! I think it turned out nicely.

  • This took me many many days to build. And so I took on fewer clients this summer so that I could prioritize this project instead. I am so glad I did, and I am so glad that my self-employment affords me that flexibility!

  • I couldn't have done this without the support of my wife, who encouraged me to spend this time in the backyard tinkering with miter saws and circular saws and power drills. She played a huge role in making this dream become reality.

  • There are so many future possibilities! Beyond the pulley system that we'll be adding soon, there could be a bridge one day! Or a telescope! Or a periscope! Who knows! Plus, these dimensions should easily fit a tent, so future camping trips in the backyard are on the horizon.