How to Build a Tree Fort

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A tree fort is a great project for kids or adults. Building one can teach kids about carpentry and other building skills, while getting them outside and having fun. Tree forts don't need to be fancy; they can be built out of leftover wood from other building projects, or out of logs and sticks. It is important to educate kids about safety when building and using tree forts, as a fall could cause injury or death.

Things You'll Need

  • Lumber
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Saw
  • Hose
  • Extension cord

Choose the Right Tree

  • Choose a tree that is sturdy and has lots of space between its branches. Alternatively, you can build a tree fort with lumber that spans between three or four trees. Nailing things into a tree shouldn't damage it if it is healthy, but be careful not to strip off the bark. If the bark is cut off all the way around a tree, it will die.

  • Determine how high up you want to build your tree fort. If it is for young children, it should probably not be too high. For older kids who are responsible, a high tree fort can give them a fun sense of secrecy and freedom.

  • Choose a deciduous (non-evergreen) tree if possible. Kids playing in certain species of evergreen trees will come home covered with pitch.

Make the Floor Sturdy

  • Lay out horizontal boards either between trees or between the branches of a large tree. Be sure that these are securely fastened to the tree, as they will be holding up the entire structure. Supporting beams are stronger when their longer dimension is vertical. For example, a 4 by 6 foot structure is much stronger when it is laid down so that it is 4 feet wide and 6 feet high.

  • Lay boards across these supporting beams to make a floor. You can also use plywood if you have it. Whatever creates a solid floor that doesn't give or bounce when you walk on it is fine.

  • Secure a railing around the perimeter of the floor at about three feet high. Like the beams that support the floor, these boards should be very secure because they will be preventing people from falling out of the tree fort.

Build Some Extras

  • Build a roof over the tree fort if you are feeling ambitious. This provides the added fun of being able to be in a tree in the rain without getting wet.

  • Run a hose up into the tree and secure it to one of the branches for running water in the tree fort.

  • Run an extension cord into the tree and you've got all the comforts of the suburbs in your tree fort.

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References

  • Photo Credit House on the tree image by Valery Shanin from Fotolia.com
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