Do Treehouses Need Permits?

The short answer, as far as I can tell, is no. And the neighborhood seems surprisingly cool and impressed with it. I looked at the city websites to do some diligence, but the closest I could find was a deck or a shed. Decks have certain accessibility requirements that are not possible in a treehouse, but I did make sure that the upper section has a rail at 3′ high. With regard to sheds, they have a maximum height of 15′, which I think I’m pretty close to, and certain offset requirements from the property edge. While the treehouse goes up to the property edge, that’s from 10-15′ up in the air, not at ground level. Furthermore, it’s a temporary structure, and I intentionally constructed it to be removed after the summer is over. So my plan for now is to leave it as is unless somebody complains. That’s the boring part of the post out of the way.

In April, Ed wanted a treehouse. He had grand ideas for a multistory monstrosity with rope ladders and turret weapons and all the things. Over the course of a few hours, we built a structure and a ladder using existing scrap wood.

It looked decent, but was a little sketch, so I spent an evening in the following week fixing it up a little more securely, both structurally and in its ratchet strap attachment to the tree (no nails or bolts).

Danielle and I ate lunches up there frequently, and for a few weeks this was fine, but Ed’s request for a second level nagged at me, and the cramped nature of lunches made me consider it more and more.

Towards the end of May I decided to go for it. I put together the shopping list, and for about $150 in lumber and hardware, plus some extra lumber we still had from previous projects, I spent a couple hours building the platform that was about 7’x7′, on top of 2 2x6s strung between branches, with 2x4s on top at 12″ centers and 1/2″x6″ fence planks for the decking. It’s solid and there’s no concern about its structural integrity. The first evening we had dinner up there, without rails.

The next day I put the rails up. 24″ lattice, with an extra rail at 36″. It looks great, and only took another 3 hours. I also got an outdoor rug for a little softness and ambiance, and fairy lights for evening cuddles, and made a nicer ladder to get up to the second level. Now it’s a real treehouse. The first level is just an intermediate step to it.

I did design it to be dismantled, though. The rails should come off in sections, and the deck unscrewed from the joists that are only ratchet strapped to the tree.

Since putting it up, I’ve had a number of guests, and everyone has enjoyed it thoroughly. 4 adults is no problem, and I’m sure we could cram more up there but it gets a little crowded. We eat many of our meals out there. It’s one of the most successful home improvements I’ve done.