Wood Tree Houses
Looking for a fun and functional wood tree house? I design and build custom wood tree houses and play structures that take advantage of the unused parts of your backyard and transform them into special places to play and dream.
I focus on building structures that are not only can be used by both children and adults, but are excellent value for the money and built to last. The right craftsmanship, building techniques and materials make all the difference in whether your wood tree house will last 5, 10 or 15 years.
That is one of the reasons why I do all the work myself, so I can control the quality of construction and you don't have to deal with crews of workmen you have never met. My clients also hate having construction start and stop and stretch out for weeks, so I build for one homeowner at a time and stay on your project until it is done - usually completing most projects in one to two weeks.
I love creating a different design for each client which reflects the unique look and feel of your home and garden and makes a great place to play. Tree houses aren't just for kids anymore -- when your child outgrows it, it can be transformed into a place to retreat to with a book and a glass of wine or take a private nap in a hammock.
Below is my portfolio of tree house photos, as well as pricing for tree houses in the Los Angeles area and a detailed tree house design guide. I hope these will help you find the right builder and design a tree house you will enjoy for years to come.
Portfolio of Wood Tree Houses
My online portfolio features photos of my work so you can get an idea of the type and variety of custom tree houses, playhouses and play forts I can build. To see more details about a project, just click on a photo.
As a first step, I recommend that you look at lots of different tree houses to discover what you do and don't like. You can mix and match design ideas and accessories to create the perfect place to play. So take a look at the photos below and online. If you see what you want (or something close), we can use that as a starting point. For even more design ideas, check out the resources below. Then read over my design guide to get a really good idea of what you want, and the budget you want to spend.
When you are ready to get started, contact me and we can set up an appointment to tour your location, discuss design options and establish a budget, so I can give you a detailed estimate.
Freestanding Wood Tree House Multilevel Custom Tree House
Custom Wood Tree House Clubhouse on top of platform (detail)
Multiple Level Wood Tree House Free Standing Rustic Tree House
Multiple Tree Forts w/ Connecting Bridges Deck platform (detail)
Hexagonal Garden Gazebo Craftsman Inspired Playhouse
Play Fort in the Woods
Prices For A Custom Treehouse
A well built tree house should last for years and adjust to your child's changing needs as they grow. Unfortunately, not all wood treehouses are built well. And it can be difficult for a layman to tell the difference between one that is well built and one that will start having problems in a few years or poses a safety hazard. Good quality material and hardware, combined with superior building skills, make all the difference.
The cost depends on what type you are looking for: basic, custom or high end.
- A basic tree house or play house starts around $2,000, which pays for purchasing and installing a pre-made play structure and adding customizing accessories. For this type of tree house, please see the pre-made resources below or my related links.
- A custom wood tree house, play fort or play house costs from $5,000 to $10,000. That includes helping you select the appropriate tree or site, creating a design that will be useful and fun throughout its life, and building your play structure on site.
- At the high end, you can spend anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000. This covers the cost of envisioning, designing, building and accessorizing the playhouse or play fort of your child's dreams.
If you are purchasing a pre-made play equipment, remember to include the cost of on-site installation in your budget. You may also be interested in reading about comparing estimates.
Design Guide for Wood Tree Houses
This design guide provides information on how to achieve the look of a specific style, create the best design, and choose a location for your tree house or playhouse.
Tree House & Play Fort Themes
The first place to start when thinking about having a custom play structure designed is to think about the themes that best reflect your children's individuality favorite play fantasies and unique interests. A fairy princess needs a castle while a budding astronaut would prefer a spaceship.
You want to also look beyond the moment (and the latest children's blockbuster) to the activities that your children love and the emerging talents you want to help them discover. The right playhouse or tree house theme can grow with them and be a safe place to explore their interests. For example, if your child has an enduring love of astronomy, you can build them a "mini observatory" where they can set up a telescope, plaster the walls with star charts and fantasize about traveling to Saturn or colonizing Mars. If they love painting, you can build them an artist's studio complete with an easel, art supply cabinet and gallery space to hang their latest work.
To help you get started thinking, here are some common playhouse (and tree house) themes:
Houses, Cottages & Castles
- Miniature of main house
- Cottage: Rustic, Tudor, or Queen Anne
- Chalet: Alpine, Bavarian or Swiss
- Castle: Keep, Tower, Hill fort, Dungeon
- Fantasy or fairy tale dwelling
- Adobe: Santa Fe or Mission
- Nature hut or hooch
- Classic Barn, ranch house or bunk house
- Western or "Foreign Legion" fort
- Lodge house: Eastern Native American
- Log cabin or Homestead
- Western town: jail, saloon, stable
Tree House Themes
- Tarzan or Swiss Family Robinson
- Tree Bridges
Ocean, Space & Military Themes
- Ship: pirate or frigate
- Lighthouse or lifeguard tower
- Boat house
- Rocket, space ship or space station
- Military fort, bunker, foxhole, battlefield tank or armored car
Work Related Themes
- Clubhouse or school house
- Main Street: general store, beauty shop, garage, train station, fire or police station
- Laboratory: functional or mad scientist
- Restaurant or café
- Artist studio
Design Criteria & Location Considerations For Treehouses
- Use ~ As children age and adults mature, so do their need for spaces to play and dream. Consider the alternative uses you want your play house or retreat to be able to handle: sanctuary, studio, workout room, meditation center, fantasy zone, cooling off space. Design issues include:
- permanent structure (or built for easy knockdown for transport to another home)
- utilities (both current and future needs)
- physical access and interior space (sized for growing children, toys, guests and emergencies)
- child use (radiused edges, railing height and orientation, childproof hardware and outlets)
- oversight (do children or adults need to be seen or heard from the house)
- Structure ~ It should be well planned, especially if it will be used by children. Railings should be high enough so that small children cannot fall over or easily climb up on them. (Vertical uprights are preferred over horizontal rails which can act as ladders.) Metal hardware and bolts should be cut short and filed to remove sharp edges and burrs.
- Impact on Tree ~ I want to ensure the long life and health of your tree, so I like to minimize the impact of the treehouse on the tree itself. That means avoiding putting any nails or holes in the tree, or making it bear the weight of the structure. Free standing structures built around the tree with holes cut for the growth of the trunk and limbs are best.
- Site Selection ~ Proximity to trees, fences, animals, neighbors, streets and cars should be considered. Trees with tempting, climbable limbs should be kept away from high structures. The area should be free of large rocks, stumps, holes, cliffs and overhangs near where children can leap or fall. The ground around the structure should be padded with soft grass, chipped bark ground cover, sand or rubber matting.
- Noise ~ Also consider the noise of children playing in relationship to the main house, retreats and neighbors.
- Sunlight ~ Think about the path of the sun and the amount of sunlight and heat exposure during peak usage times throughout the day as well as the seasons. Consider where furniture should be placed to catch the sunlight or shade.
- Water ~ Excessive moisture can lead to premature aging, structural damage from rot and musty smells. The structure should be designed to shed rain and dew readily. Rain must have good drainage away from site. For the longest life, the structure should be allowed to dry out thoroughly.
- Finishes ~ Heat and light contribute to weathering, so a UV protective finish is important. Stains (clear, colored or solid) or paint are popular wood finish choices.
Design Options & Accessories
In addition to the general design criteria above, there are lots of options and accessories you can add to make your structure more functional and unique.
- Doors: front, back, trap
- Windows: openable, set in panes
- Skylights or translucent roofing
- Stories or multiple levels
- Porches & separate rooms
Utilities & Access
- Lighting: ceiling, reading lamps, sconces
- Heating, air conditioning, fans
- Water: water faucet, drainage sink
- Electrical outlets
- Music stereo or mounted speakers
- Telephone or data port
- Stairs, walkways, ramps, bridges & fire poles
- Ladders: rope or wooden access
- Sand pit & slides
- Swings: plank, porch or tire
- Bulletin or chalk boards
- Bells, whistles, doorbells
- Miniature train tracks
- Steering wheels
- Play appliances: sink, oven, refrigerator
Furniture & Accents
- Storage: built ins, closets, toy chests
- Secret compartments & panels
- Playhouse furniture: table, rocking chair
- Window planter boxes or seat
- Weather vanes, spyglass, flagpole
Selecting The Right Wood For Your Treehouse
To make sure you are delighted with your custom treehouse, play fort or play structure -- you want to choose the right building material. In Los Angeles, the popular wood (and composite) choices allow you to make tradeoffs in terms of cost, quality, color, visual appearance, ease of maintenance and the ability to resist the elements (water, sun and pests).
You need to select materials for ...
- the framing (posts and cross pieces) used to support the weight of the your treehouse
- the wood used for flooring, side panels, railings and trim
Wood For Framing & Substructures
The first type of wood to choose is for your framing -- the structure that holds your treehouse upright and level.
- Pressure Treated Wood ~ For hidden framing, I only use pressure treated lumber (see photo). This wood is treated with a variety of chemicals to make it resistant to termites and rot. In the last few years, a major change has been made to the preservatives used -- they are safer for the environment but less effective.
- Redwood ~ For visible framing, such as posts and cross beams you can upgrade to redwood for a better appearance.
Wood Choices For Treehouses
There are two choices for these larger structures. Based on your needs and budget, I can also build out of other woods.
- Redwood ~ A distinctive pink/red colored wood which ages to gray. The red heartwood is naturally resistant to damage from termites and moisture. Any white part of a redwood board, known as sapwood, has little resistance to termites and rot. I use Construction Grade Heart Redwood, commonly known as Con Heart (see photo), which has no sapwood and some knots. For a beautiful and durable structure, this is your most cost effective choice. I can also use more expensive grades of redwood, if your budget permits.
- Mangaris™ (Red Balau) ~ A dense grained, reddish-brown hardwood (see photo) from Indonesia/Thailand that ages to a silver gray like Teak. It stains up like Mahogany and is more durable than Redwood. For a high end structure of exceptional durability and striking looks, consider Mangaris. See the rich color of the unstained wood (see photo).
Related Links and Resources
If you need ideas and inspiration, check out these resources, clip magazine pictures, look through your vacation photos and keep an eye out for what you like in the neighborhood.
The more you know about what you like and don't the easier it is to create and build something you will be delighted with for years to come.
Here are a few books I recommend.
Knack Treehouses: A Step-by-Step Guide to Designing & Building a Safe & Sound Structure
This informative guide covers all aspects of treehouse building and has many inspiring photos of small and adult living treehouses. My work is featured on page 26.
Kid's Places to Play
by Jeanne Huber
This book is full of ideas and inspiration for creating play houses, tree houses and play areas. LA Public Library book
Backyards for Kids: Playhouses, Sandboxes, Tree Forts, Swing Sets, Sports Areas, and More
by Ziba Kashef
Lots of ideas for creating fun places to play and grow up -- places that will create memories that last a lifetime.
A Shelter in the Garden: Playhouses, Treehouses, Gazebos, Sheds, and Other Outdoor Structures
If you already have a great garden and wnat to add a structure to it, this book is full of great ideas to help you design your own.
Rustic Retreats: A Build-It-Yourself Guide
by David & Jeanie Stiles
Here are great ideas for creating a variety of themed treehouses and play houses -- from a log cabin or wigwam to a yurt, river raft, and garden pavilion. LA Public Library book
Children's Playhouses: Plans and Ideas
by Tina Skinner
This book will provide lots of inspiration with its hundreds of exterior and interior photos of playhouses and tree houses. LA Public Library book
New Kidspace Idea Book
by Wendy Jordan
Although this book only features about 20 photos of outdoor playhouses, it is a great book for getting inspiration and ideas for designing spaces (bedrooms, bathrooms and play areas) for kids. LA Public Library book
Ultimate Guide to Kids' Play Structures & Tree Houses
by the Editors of Creative Homeowner
This book outlines ten playhouse projects and talks you through all the safety features.
Treehouses & Playhouses You Can Build
by David & Jeanie Stiles
These authors have a terrific series of books about treehouses and playhouse that are worth a look. Check out their web site at Treehouse Books by David and Jeanie Stiles.
Children's Spaces: From Zero to Ten
by Judith Wilson & Debi Treloar
A wonderful book for becoming inspired to create a unique space for your young child, full of ideas and photos of real spaces and rooms.
I also recommend checking out these online resources for more ideas.
Out of Area Builders & Accessories
Unfortunately, since I build everything on site, I can not build and ship you a tree house or playhouse. If you live outside of the Los Angeles area, check out these online sources.
They are also great sources for accessories as well as basic treehouses and high end playhouses.
- Daniels Wood Land of Paso Robles, CA
This "intermediate" level builder of whimsical tree houses offers pre-made tree houses that come with their own tree -- a nice feature if do not have the right tree in your backyard. (Remember to add on the cost of installation to your budget.)
- Signe's Little Houses of Lancaster County, PA
Beautiful pre-made miniature houses for role playing, picnics, and sleep overs. You select the size and then customize all the interior and exterior details. They ship all over the USA and the playhouse arrives fully built.
- Barbara Butler's Play Structures
This premier "high end" level playhouse design and construction firm located in San Francisco offers many designs with whimsical touches and installs in the Los Angeles area. Featured in numerous articles and TV shows, they are masters at playhouse design and their clients include celebrities and people who see their playhouses as an investment.
Please do not copy photos and text
Last Updated: Jul 26 2012