Corbin's Treehouse - Corbin Dunn, Santa Cruz, CA
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Archive for the 'Treehouses' Category

The Wedding Treehouse – Updated Plans

I decided to redo my wedding treehouse concept. I wanted something far enough out in front of the trees to suffice as a proper area to stand for the ceremony, and the typical umbrella treehouse design seemed like a good idea, so I went with it. This design can be seen in some old treehouse books, such as Nelson’s “Home Tree Home” (the basic treehouse building bible — I used it when I built my last big treehouse about 10 years ago).


I’m opting for a half-round treehouse for several reasons:

1. Cost/wood — a lot of the wood I’m using is reclaimed from when my deck was built (they are 2×8’s used to form the cement retaining wall)

2. Time. I want to get it done sooner than later.

3. I don’t want to kill the tree. The diameter isn’t that large, and I’m afraid that sticking a ton of lag bolts into the tree will kill it if I go entirely around the tree. Even with lag bolts half way around the tree could potentially get damaged, but, I don’t think anything will happen since redwoods are *very* resilient. These redwoods have survived a fire that happened a long time ago (at least over 35 years ago, since the main house has been there that long. )

I’m a little late at writing my blog entry..since I’ve already got a start on the treehouse, but the next steps were to fabricate the treehouse brackets. That’ll be the next entry..

Tree Top Builders

I would like to give a big thanks to Dan Wright, from Tree Top Builders out in PA. Dan has been building some amazing treehouses for quite some time and is well experienced in the art of treehouse building. He offered to talk to me a bit about my new “wedding treehouse” design and gave me some great feedback for how I could improve it. He quickly pointed out how my lower-horizontal brace would easily be over-stressed by the knee braces, and it would need to be really beefy wood (or made of steel) in order to withstand the forces exerted on it. I had not thought of this and he had a great point! I’m definitely more of a a software engineer than an architect, and I wish I had more formal training in architecture and engineering. Dan suggested using several knee braces coming out from the tree, and some other things that got me re-thinking about my design. In the end, I decided to scratch my two-tree approach, and design a single-tree knee brace version using custom brackets. The more I thought about the two-tree approach, the more I realized it would simply pull apart like my old treehouse eventually did. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes (instead, I want to make new ones).

When I built my first few treehouses, I didn’t have the option of using steel brackets attached to the tree. The cost (and hassle) of getting them made wasn’t worth it. Plus, I really enjoy doing stuff myself. Learning how to weld has opened up a lot of new ideas and possibilities for me, and I figured some treehouse brackets would be something within my skill set. I’ll post more details later as my new treehouse progresses.

It is quite cool that people can make a living out of building treehouses, and in many way I envy Dan for building treehouses all day long. But, don’t get me wrong; I really love my job at Apple and working on Cocoa is highly rewarding. Dan has a ton of treehouse experience, and I highly recommend anyone who is serious about building a real treehouse to call him (or some other treehouse company) and get them to properly design your treehouse, or even build it for you. They will build it to last!

Here are a few great pictures from Dan that I’d like to share with anyone who happens to read my blog. It is quite interesting how people are now using steel brackets into pipe to hold the lower knee braces; it gives some space to the tree to allow for growth.

Finally Finished.jpg

Glenmoore Right.JPG

My treehouse fell down!

Well, a few weeks ago it finally happened. My treehouse fell down! Well, not entirely; about 3/4 of the floor fell out.

I took a few pictures with my iPhone; I’ll probably be going back in a week or so to do more cleanup and scavenging.

Here’s a view from the ground, looking up at the treehouse. The sink is literally hanging by a thread (the pipes!):


A view from inside the treehouse:


Another view from underneath:


The floor fell down and rotated on top of the things in the treehouse:


So, what happened?

Well, a few weeks ago we got a lot of rain and wind; that was probably the pushing factor that made it fall out. But, the main reason it failed is due to a bad design. I knew the treehouse wouldn’t last forever, and I knew that I did some things wrong when I built it. In the end, it lasted for 9-10 years; I started building it when I was 20, and moved in when I was 21. In a few short months (April 13th) I’ll be 31. The design was flawed in several ways:

1. HUGE 24′ spans with doubled up 2×6’s (not quite as strong as a 4″x6″), with ZERO 45 degree supports underneath the house. I initially had put a few 45 degree supports, but my lackluster attachment made them not do much, and they eventually just fell down. Now, douglas fir isn’t made to span that huge of a distance, and was prone to have a huge amount of support weight on the edges.

2. Non-floating foundation. Ideally, I should have made metal brackets that would allow one end of the attachment to the tree to “float”. Since I didn’t do that, the movement of the trees was slowly pulling the house apart. It was particularly worse when it was really windy out, and it made the whole house creak really bad. NOTE to self now that I can weld: make brackets!

3. Built-in foundation. Instead of having some joists that the real floor would be built upon, I just built it directly into the joists. That works for smaller houses, but for larger treehouses it wasn’t a good idea. The floor acted like a torsion box, and probably flexed the worse at the ends.

4. Related to #2 — “tree on wood contact”. The edges of the 2x6s had two 6-8″ lag bolts bolted into the tree. The wood-on-bark contact never would really dry out, allowing it to rot slightly.

In addition to all those problems, the other kicker was that we recently stored a bunch of stuff in the treehouse, since we rent out the “big house” on the property and needed a place to store things. Unfortunately, most of that stuff got damaged when it took a 40′ fall and had the floor fall on top of the stuff to boot.

Oh well…lessons learned!

Building a new treehouse

I decided to build a mini-treehouse for Louise and I to get married on. We worked on clearing some of the brush off our land where we want the ceremony to be, and Louise mentioned that I should build a platform for us to stand on so we were level. I figured if I was going to go to the trouble of building a temporary platform, that I might as well build it up in some redwood trees as a mini-treehouse. It will start out as a tree platform, but eventually I may add walls and a ceiling to make a treehouse. Or, it might become a unicycle obstacle.

Here’s my current design in SketchUp:


It wraps around the trees, and I may or may not include the left triangle piece that looks separate from the rest of the drawing. I added that in later, thinking it might be nice to sort of make it larger. It might start out smaller, and get larger as time goes on. It will be about 10′ up in the trees, using two main redwoods as supports, and possibly connect to a third larger redwood behind the two.

I’ll happily email people the sketchup file. Just email me, or post in the comments.


Note that I didn’t draw in all the supports for the left side.

Pete Nelson’s latest treehouse

From his blog:

Just amazing, as usual!

The Canopy Cathedral « The Treehouse Guy

An amazing new Treehouse by Peter Nelson.

[From The Canopy Cathedral « The Treehouse Guy]

Peter Nelson’s Treehouse Blog

I just ran across a great blog, Peter Nelson’s The Treehouse Guy. He wrote several great treehouse books, some of which were the inspiration to make my own treehouse.

French Treehouse

Some guys who made a cool treehouse in france emailed me a link to their site:

The treehouse is great! They have a spiral staircase and a lift custom made out of steel:

Makes me wish I had more time to work on my treehouse!

House for rent (that has my treehouse on it) in Corralitos, ca

Most of my family lives in Hawaii, but they still have a house over here in Corralitos, Santa Cruz County, California. My dad decided we should rent it out, so it will be available (starting in April or May).

What is special about this house? Well, my treehouse is on the property, although it is going to not be included in the rental so we have a place to visit and stay at.

My dad posted the following on craigslist:


“Built in 1981 redwood home with dining room and den. two car garage with room for one car, carport, large deck with hot tub. Partial furnish if need. Gated community over bridge on all year creek. Orange trees, lemon trees, macadamia nut tree, plum tree. Great place for Garden. Great views Monterey Bay!! I will keep treehouse – Stan 808 667-2277 stan @ ask about pets – ask for more pics”

So, if you are looking for a place to rent out, it is a beautiful house. Contact me or my dad for more information.

Artisan Tree & Treehouse

I’ve always loved treehouses, and eventually I hope to build a few more on my property. Until then, I’ll have to live vicariously through other treehouse builders. Steve Chmielnicki, of Rosemont, PA, is an excellent treehouse builder who is open for business. Take a look at some of his work:


Feel free to contact Steve via his website: and go get a custom treehouse of your own built!

(c) 2008-2017 Corbin Dunn

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