Treehouse is completed!

Nine days, over $500 of lumber, and a river of sweat later, the treehouse is finished.  This morning I finished up the railings and made an outside  ladder for the big kids.  Since I last updated the treehouse saga I also added those diagonal bracings at the top of each post that connect to the upper deck (don’t know what they’re called, just know they are useful for stability).  I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.  There’s not a major piece of wood on this thing that doesn’t have about 5 three-inch screws in it.  With the exception of a few floor joists where I nailed in huge nails, the whole thing is put together with heavy duty screws.  This thing is probably tornado proof and we might end up out there when the next one comes our way.  

So, what has SirMuddyKnees learned by doing this project?  He’s learned that you never quite forget those things you learned a long time ago, like how to swing a hammer, how to make four posts level, etc.  He’s also learned you can do a lot with just a circular saw and a jig saw.  He would love to have a table saw, a chop saw, a radial arm saw, and all kinds of other cool tools, but you can certainly accomplish a lot without all these things.  What did the pioneers do before power tools?  Well, I guess they were too busy to worry with building a treehouse, that’s for sure.  In the end it’s been a fun time building this little treehouse. 

I would recommend it to any Dad who wants to build something that will last for his kids. Oh yeah, it’s also a great workout.  I’ve never been a big fan of the gym–all this exercise just for the sake of exercise.  I prefer to get my exercise by doing something useful outside that comes with an end-product that creates a sense of accomplishment.  You can’t get that on the treadmill, I don’t think.  Besides, at the gym, your knees do not get muddy and that, to me, is a bad sign.


How to build a treehouse phase II

Just in case you’re wondering if I’m one of those guys who starts a treehouse and never finishes it . . .

The second level of the treehouse is up and decked and about as well-supported as I can make it (for a treehouse). 

We ran into a lil problem on the second level.  Remember those 4X4 posts I sunk in the ground in a most meticulous manner in order to affix my 2X8’s to the outside of them?  Well, I didn’t quite bring them in far enough and I ran into a situation in which my 2X8’s wouldn’t quite span the distance on the second deck for the floor joists.  In other words, Margaret, I couldn’t make traditional floor joists.   I needed slightly longer boards, but lordy, hadn’t I bought enough lumber?  Don’t worry Joyce, a solution was proposed by the brain trust of this partnership: my wonderful and hardworking wife.   Make the floor joists diagonal, she suggested.  (“Remember,” I keep telling myself, “it’s just a treehouse.”).   So that’s what we did and you can see what the bottom of the upper deck looks like (not bad, if I do so say myself, kind of creative and crafty, if not completely structurally sound):

As you can see below, I put in a ladder on the inside corner, which leads up to a triangular size hole in the deck.  It’s kind of small, so if you’re not slim you might not fit through (sorry Aunt Ethel).  I’m thinking about how to design something that allows access for those folks who are a little “wide in the tide,” as my daughter so aptly puts it.  You know what I mean, a lil big in the rig.  I guess I could put in a ladder on the outside of this ladder. 

I certainly need to install a railing on the upper deck.  Notice the photo below left: what we have here is a deck on top of a deck, about 9′ high in the air with no railings.  The Safety Man would not approve.  BTW, my neighbor who is also the city’s building inspector came by yesterday, as he does when anybody in the neighborhood starts some major construction project.  I mean this thing is taller than your average back-yard plaything so it does sort of stick out.  We’re on good terms though, ’cause my dog likes his dog and his son plays music and I play music and we’re both just good ole boys anyway, me and the building inspector (I just think of him as _ _ _ _ _, my neighbor, not “the building inspector”).  So I was not surprised when he just smiled and said I was doing a good job. 

Well, I will work on making it more safe in the following days.  Btw, did you notice how dirty your knees get when you do work such as this?  Actually, I have a propensity to be muddyin’ up ma knees all the time.  I guess I’m just not afraid to get down in the dirt and get the job done.  I’ve noticed all my jeans give out in the knees first.  I’ve also noticed that this kind of work is a lot of fun, provided you’re not doing it day in and day out.   May SirMuddyKnees live on!

How to build a treehouse

Well, here’s how I’m building one anyway.  Like most Dads, I’ve been asked to build a treehouse.  We don’t have an ideal tree for this, but here’s what we did: 

This spring we cut down a half-dead non-bearing fruit tree.  It was hanging over the neighbor’s fence and had to go.  But I left a stump about 9′ tall in case we wanted to do something crafty with it, such as build a treehouse. 

So this is a treehouse built around a tree but not in it.  After getting my kids’ input, I drew up a sketch that was basically an 8′ square platform with railings, about 8′ off the ground, and roof-less for stargazing.  I decided to drop four 4″X4″ posts in the ground and build a deck-like structure about 8′ up, leaving about two feet of the tree sticking out of the floor and room for 3′ railings all around. 

I used an elaborate set of stakes and mason-string to plot my four holes, placing them in a way that 8′ boards would fit around the outside and of course squaring them up as close as possible (for a treehouse).  Of course I had help all the way on this part: 

So at the end of the first day, here’s what we had: four gigantic (4X4x12) posts in 2′ holes, more or less level and square, staked up and ready for concrete.  I had enough concrete to set two and a half of the posts the first night.  The next day I went for more supplies and finished the concreting.  To establish a firm footing around the poles, I poured in a layer of concrete mix (not soupy, but muddy), added a layer of gravel from the driveway, tamped all that down good (my trusty helpers did a lot of tamping), and repeating until the hole is full.  That way you are using the hardpacked gravel and concrete to support the holes, not just the concrete.  This builds strength and reduces the likelihood of cracking. 

The plans became more elaborate at this point.  We debated over putting in a lower deck for the younger kids.  Then we decided to just put in a ground level deck (or about a foot off the ground), that younger kids could play on and adults could sit and sip a cold beverage.  So now we’re building not one level but two. 

OK, the next day it was time to establish a level line on all four posts for the first floor, and I was thankful for the summer I spent in Greensboro working for Paradise Decking.  Those boys sure know how to build decks, so if you live in Greensboro, North Carolina, and need a deck built, call them up.  They can build you a huge one and it will be solid. 

So anyway, for nine bucks I bought these plastic gizmos that you put on each end of a garden hose (or “hose pipe,” as we call it in the Southern U.S.).  Fill up your hose with water and you have a water level.  The Pros use a long clear plastic hose, but do you know how much clear plastic tubing is at the General Supply?  About a buck a foot, and you need at least twenty feet. So this gizmo did the trick, established our level lines on the four posts, but it was not easy.  You just have to be patient.  Did I mention that we’ve been under an excessive heat advisory so we try to work early in the morning and later in the evening, but man it’s hot and humid any time. 

OK, with our level points determined, it was time to build the lower level deck.  I used all the scrap wood I could find while maintaining some level of aesthetic quality.   I used two 2X10s and two 2X6s for the outside boards (don’t know what you call them).  For floor joists I used pressure treated 2X4s.  I plan to do the top right with 2X8s for the outside boards and 2X6s for the floor joists. 

Oh, don’t forget the carriage bolts for the corners.  I used one for each board, which meant two on each corner, totaling 8.  For bigger decks, we alway put two on the end of each board (4 in each post), but I think one per board is plenty for this project.  Here’s my helper installing a carriage bolt:

So at this point I was out of lumber and it was time to buy the decking boards and the rest of it that would be needed.  Here’s where we are now, first floor almost completely decked:

That’s a honeysuckle bush held up with a bungee chord.  I ‘m going to see if she’ll survive.  Doesn’t the lower deck look like a great place for a cup of coffee?  Well, not in this 100 degree heat but come Fall, this will be a nice sanctuary. 

OK, now I just have to build another deck like this, only about 7’ above the first floor.  That won’t be hard at all.  BTW, have you checked the cost of lumber lately?  Here’s my first lumber purchase on the left and my second on the right. 

Those 4X4s were 15 bucks at Lowe’s.  And you know decking ain’t cheap.  Also there is the cost of decking screws and other hardware, the new drill bits you’ll need for the carriage bolts, that new sawblade you’ll need to replace the old one, and of course the brand new professional tape measure you’ll need that is suitable for such work.  The 12′ one in the drawer that no longer locks just won’t cut it.  But remember, this is just the SirMuddyKnees way.  When I do something, I like to do it with quality.  That goes for the tools, the materials, and the work itself.  It’s just better that way.  Read Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for the reasons why this is so.  It’s all about Quality. 

All for now.  I’ll keep you “posted.”  Get it?