Though everyone always asks Dan Wright, founder of Treetop Builders in West Chester, Pa., about the most extreme structures his company has built, it’s the traditional backyard treehouses for kids that remain the most popular choice for homeowners throughout the country.
In 2003, Wright, a former homebuilder and a recreational climber, decided to focus exclusively on treehouse construction as a more creative outlet. Since then, his company has built more than 400 treehouses – 90 percent of which are designed as backyard escapes for children.
“Families want a place for their kids to express their imaginations,” Wright says. “Climbing is instinctive and kids will climb a tree with or without a treehouse. But when you add a treehouse with a ladder or a cargo net, kids have a special place of their own and feel like they’re getting away with something they wouldn’t normally be allowed to do.”
The first step to planning a backyard treehouse is to ensure you have the right tree.
“I have my favorite species of trees to work with, but first and foremost, I need a healthy tree,” he says.
Given his druthers, Wright says a white oak, a chestnut oak or any hickory tree would make the optimal base for these treetop hideaways. The trunk needs to be 10 to 12 inches thick at the floor of the treehouse. (Depending on the species, that’s about a 20-year-old tree.) Floors should be at least 8 feet high, so that the kids feel they’re just out of reach of their parents and are able to own their independence.
The other thing homeowners need to consider is their local zoning regulations. In some municipalities, a treehouse is considered a structure and requires a permit and a formal plan approval. Others require little to no oversight. These laws could limit the overall height of the structure or how close it can be to a property line.
The most common structures (with a roof, walls and a window) take one or two weeks to build and will start at $8,000 to $10,000 in the Philadelphia-area market.
Wright says seeing people experience one of his treehouses for the first time is as fulfilling now as it was when he started 13 years ago.
“When you see kids taking ownership of a space that’s just for them, it’s the best thing in the world,” he says.
For more information, visit www.treetopbuilders.net
or call 610-696-1066 and be sure to visit Booth #101 at the Philly Home Show.
PENNSYLVANIA CONVENTION CENTER
JANUARY 13-16 & 20-22, 2017.