Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Little House in the Woods

Diane Phillips is the Technical Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library.  Read Diane's  column in the June 11, 2015 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

 A few months ago, on a chilly spring night, my family and I were looking for something interesting to watch on TV. We stumbled across Treehouse Masters with Pete Nelson and his crew. We’d never seen an episode before but were intrigued by the premise of a professional treehouse builder and curious to see what he’d build. After watching a few episodes, we were all having the same idea: we need a treehouse in our backyard!

If you’ve never watched the program, you should make the time to scope out an episode or two. You’ll notice that most of the structures are quite elaborate and take big budgets to produce some truly awe inspiring dwellings. Some treehouses were even larger and better equipped than my ground house, as Pete Nelson sometimes refers to a regular house rather than one that sits on, in, or beside a tree. We knew we couldn’t construct something of similar stature nor invest as much financially into the project as shown on TV. We did have many fantastical conversations discussing if we could build the perfect treehouse, what would it look like. Some of our ideas included a kitchen, fireplace, loft space for sleeping and skylights to watch the stars. Back in reality, we realized that if we were going to build one, we needed to do some research and make some plans.

While my husband searched the Internet and found some great resources online, I went to the library and searched the online catalog to see what our library had on the topic of treehouses. I was pleasantly surprised that there were a lot of books out there. I went a little crazy and checked out twelve, a few of which were written by the Treehouse Master himself, Pete Nelson. In his first book, Treehouses: the Art and Craft of Living Out on a Limb, he gives some tips on building but mostly stories and photos of some treehouse projects. In Home Tree Home: Principles of Treehouse Construction and Other Tales, Mr. Nelson gives more information on the planning and actual construction of a treehouse from a builder’s perspective, which includes selecting the tree, planning the design, including considering local building permits, and building the treehouse.

Online, my husband found the Treehouse Masters site, Nelson Treehouse & Supply. Of course, they offer their services to build a treehouse and include a questionnaire for potential customers to provide information for a potential project. The site has an FAQ page that answers most questions you might have and has a section on resources that includes This site provides building advice and has links to plans you can purchase and online shopping for tools and books, as well.

While my husband was consulting the online sources, I continued to peruse the books that I checked out. There are some great authors out there who provide valuable information for the general homeowner to build his or her own treehouse. Two that we found to be the most helpful were Tree Houses You Can Actually Build and Treehouses & Playhouses You Can Build, both by Donald and Jeanie Stiles. They provide sound advice on the project from start to finish and share realistic designs that any handyman or woman can do. Although we liked these books, some of the others we consulted were filled with different designs and plans. A Treehouse of Your Own by John Harris guides the reader through building a particular structure but also provides tips for changing things up to suit your requirements or ideas. We looked at this one for some ideas and general building principles. A few others we found helpful were: The Complete Guide to Treehouses from the Black & Decker DIY Series, The Best Tree House Ever: How to Build a Backyard Tree House the Whole World Will Talk About by Maurice Barkley, and The Complete Guide to Building Your Own Tree House by Robert Miskimmon.

With our research done and some ideas floating around, we were ready to pick the tree. We ventured into the backyard where we, luckily, had several options. We picked one that could provide a view while not being intrusive on the neighbors. We’ve just begun the project and are excited to see the final result. Although it will be a simple structure, unlike our daydreams, we all agreed that a skylight would be a necessary addition so that we could look at the stars.