This is the story of our DIY treehouse born of a big childhood dream and a small adult budget…(AKA Treehouse Master Dreams on a Treehouse Miser Budget)
And it begins, like so many great stories do…with a Disney movie, and an 80’s hair metal ballad.
*This post contains affiliate links. Please read our full disclosure policy HERE.*
Three boys, Fritz, Ernest and Francis are shipwrecked on a deserted island with their parents and with survival skills would make McGyver envious, set out to make that island a home. It was one of my favorites.
Swiss Family Robinson. A fantastic book, and to me, an even better movie. A movie which initiated my lifelong quest to have a treehouse.
Several decades later, we moved to our house out here in the country, with three kiddos in tow. And one of the things that sold me on this house in the first place was this…
The world’s most perfect-ist treehouse tree. I saw this thing, and it was like the heavens opened up and you could hear the angel choir singing (to the tune of Oh What a Beautiful Morning) “Oh what a beautiful treehouse tree… la dee dee…I’ve got a wonderful feeling everything’s going my way…”
Yep, that was the song I heard…from a distance…BEFORE we bought the house. The song I heard AFTER we bought the house?
Here comes the 80s…ready? Who remembers a band called Faster Pussycat?
TONS of it. Vines as thick as my fist that would come creepin’ up right behind me, as the song goes. Big, BIG bummer. ESPECIALLY since I am super duper extra allergic to that stuff. It crept at least 30′ up into the canopy of the tree. Swiss Family Robinson dreams dashed…for the moment.
Eventually, we found the “poison ivy” whisperer. Awesome lady…about 65 or 70 years old. Little lady…maybe 5′ tall. She came, by herself, and single-handedly eradicated the poison ivy from that tree. It was amazing. I felt like Cinderella, and she was my fairy godmother (keeping with the Disney theme).
We sprayed the areas where the vines had previously been with a clear acrylic paint so that no one would get poison ivy from the residual oil of the vines. And with that, the tree was prepped for glory.
Only a couple hurdles left to jump. First, getting my husband on board with the plan. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a big Disney fan growing up (insane, I know). He didn’t see the draw of a treehouse. He figured we would spend all kinds of money on it, and time building it, and it wouldn’t get used. BAH HUMBUG.
So, I took matters into my own hands, and stole some 2×4’s from the garage, and bolted them to the tree. It was a (literal) step in the right direction, I figured.
Next hurdle. Call Pete Nelson.
If you are a treehouse lover, you KNOW Pete Nelson. He’s got a show…Treehouse Masters. Seen it? In my head, I figured, if I want a treehouse, THIS is my go to guy. So I pop over to the site where you can apply to be on his show. I start filling out the application. Name, address, email…budget. Budget? Check one: charity build, under 75k, 75-100k etc etc up to 300k+
I guess I’d be “charity build”?? This is not what I had in mind. I pop from the application on over to the company’s website, where my prospects continue to death spiral. The cost of a design alone is about 15k. Holy Mother of Trees.
I weep. And stew. Then scheme.
Out of nowhere one day, I see in my neighbor’s driveway that she has a slide out at the curb, headed for the dump. So I do what any neighbor would do…steal it (ok, not really. I ask her if I can have it, and she kindly says yes). The slide moves from one side of the street to the other, and I drag it straight over to the tree. Voila…we now have a stairway and a slide. I am NOT giving up this lofty Swiss family dream without a fight.
And you know what happens?
The kids love it.
Just a simple slide in a tree. They think it’s the coolest thing on the planet. So, my husband finally jumps on the treehouse wagon. At least partially on.
There’s still the matter of cost. So eventually, I SIGNIFICANTLY lower my expectations, and come to the realization that Pete Nelson will not be a part of this plan. So Pete is out, but Craig is IN.Craig? You may know Craig. He’s got this giant list.
I consult with Craig, and after a couple weeks, Craig’s list helps me score my treehouse. We purchase a used swingset/play structure from a family whose kids have grown. For $200, we buy it and haul it back to our house on a trailer…
Here comes our DIY treehouse!
That’s it up there. Didn’t even bother to disassemble most of it. We really wanted the structure to have as little impact on the tree as possible.
The tree would be the central figure in our DIY treehouse structure, but really, this was mostly going to be a freestanding play structure, surrounding the tree.
Up go the swings. We anchored one side of of the swing set to the tree.
And our thrifted yellow slide stayed in front of the DIY treehouse.
On the other side, we stood the tower portion up close to the tree, and attached the original components of the play structure. A slide, a rope ladder, a rock wall, etc.
And to get from the tree to the tower, we built a walkway…
On one side of the walkway, we built a railing, using spindles taken off of our DIY deck. The other side is flanked by a tree branch that acts as a rail.
And also an awesome spot to make a little tree fort.
Atop the tower is a great place to steer the ship, and look out over the farm land. Maybe someday, this wheel will raise and lower a staircase up to the tree, just like in the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse…but for now, this is pretty ok.
And that’s where things stand with our DIY treehouse right now. The kids play out here all the time. They run. And climb. They get dirty, and a splinter every now and then.
They relax. Swing. Listen to crickets.
Gaze up at sunbeams, or moonbeams through the leaves.
For about $250 total, we now have a functional DIY treehouse!
In this, our “giving” tree. For $200, maybe about $250 if you consider the scrap wood we used to build the bridge section, and some hardware we purchased for securing the swing set and platform to the tree…we have ourselves a DIY treehouse.
Now, it doesn’t have it’s own functioning kitchen, or gristmill, or multiple stories…but there’s time for all that, and plenty of room to dream. For now, it’s giving our kids that treehouse experience that I’d dreamed of.
It’s a refuge. A safe haven for kid-dom. A place to unwind and make believe. It’s the greatest stuff of childhood.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still take a Pete Nelson treehouse, if offered, any day of the week. He’s for sure the treehouse master. But after this project, I think we can officially be called the treehouse MISERS. And I’m pretty darn pleased about that.
As Father Robinson said in the movie, “Don’t you sometimes feel that this is the kind of life we were meant to live on this earth? Everything we need, everything, right here, right at our fingertips. You know, if only people could have all this and be satisfied, I don’t think there’d be any real problems in the world.”
Pssst…before you go, I sure would love to hang out with you again really soon! Sign up now and get a FREE copy of “Builder-Grade To Beautiful: 10 Totally Transformative Home Decorating Solutions, All Under $100!” Click here to enter your email or on the image below. Your copy will be sent right away!