On Building Treehouses
Treehouses bring out the kid in everyone. Whether for a child in your life or as a relaxing getaway, a treehouse is a fun project to build that can test your creativity and be incredibly rewarding. That’s why Popular Woodworking Books is working with professional treehouse builder Django Kroner, owner of The Canopy Crew, to create a book on how to build treehouses the right way (projected publication date of June 2016). From backyard getaways to elaborate treetop vacation retreats, the book will give you ideas, inspiration and the important foundational know-how you need to build a treehouse that is safe for you and for the tree. To give readers some more insight into the project, we sat down with the author to chat about his background and what his book will offer.
How did you first get started building treehouses?
When I was 19, I moved to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to pursue rock climbing and apprentice with a timber frame cabin builder. I became inspired to build a treehouse after a particularly wet month. I remember watching the tops of the trees being dried by the breeze while I squished about in my boots. The canopy just looked so beautiful and appealing. I have always loved climbing trees and the dream of living in a treehouse goes back as far as I can remember. I used my rigging knowledge from rock climbing and the carpentry skills I had acquired from my work to build what would be my arboreal home for the next three years. It was a modest structure that was suspended between two trees, over a creek, 45 feet in the air. Waking up in the canopy really changed my outlook on how I wanted to live and filled me with contentment. No matter what the day held, by the time I reached the last rung on my rope ladder I was laughing to myself about how lucky I was.
How did you come to start Canopy Crew?
When I started to have friends over, I would hike the trail backwards so I could see the looks on their faces when they first noticed my house. The way the treehouse inspired people made me feel really good and I realized that there was something about treehouses that brought out the best in people. Treehouses make people feel alive. They make people feel like they don’t have to fit into a mold, and remind people to let go and not take everything so seriously. I decided that I wanted to share treehouses with as many people as possible. The best way I saw to do this was to start a company. I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to work amongst arborists and learn as much as I could about tree health and how to take care of trees. I knew that this was a necessary part of being a well-rounded treehouse builder. I started my company, The Canopy Crew, building residential treehouses in Cincinnati, and providing a tree care service. Now we do that plus offer treehouse rentals in the Red River Gorge. We build custom treehouses in neighboring states as well. It feels really good to be back building in the Gorge – a place with such an intense natural beauty.
What’s your overall mission?
My overall mission is to get you into the trees. The canopy is the destination and the treehouse is the vehicle. I love climbing, and I love building, but it’s watching a kid’s imagination ignite when she climbs into her new tree ouse that makes me feel like I’m doing something right with my life. I feel so at home being a professional treehouse builder; it’s truly a perfect fit for me, and I feel blessed that I live in a time when I can make a career out of it.
What’s the most common thing people overlook when they start a treehouse project?
The most common mistake people make when building a treehouse is forgetting that a tree is a living being. If you build like you’re working off of a giant wooden post sunk into the ground, you will likely hurt or kill the tree. I see this a lot when people build treehouse that strangle trees, or build a house that will eventually choke the tree to death. Trees are resilient and extremely strong; you can build an amazing tree house that grows with the tree, but it takes some understanding of tree anatomy. Trees move a lot and grow fast and you have to take that into account when designing.
What will your book do for aspiring tree house builders that other books out there don’t do?
This goal of this book is to help you bypass the mistakes that others have made when building your own treehouse. I plan to provide you with answers to questions, examples of successful and unsuccessful builds, and technical details of how to get the job done. It will cover all areas of treehouse building such as tree selection and care, tree climbing, design and rigging, mistakes to avoid, and various types of tree house construction. Personally, I cannot read a text book and absorb the information effectively. Everyone learns in their own way and it is my goal to lay out the technical aspects of treehouse building using several different ways of explanation and teaching. I want to write the book that I wished I had when I got started.
Other tree house books touch lightly on these topics but don’t go into enough detail to provide you with confidence when you are out there standing in your yard. They often times forget the fact that what works in one climate will not work in another. I hope to give people the tools to learn to be good treehouse builders, as opposed to teaching them how to build one kind of treehouse.
Can you tell us a little about what you’re building right now?
Right now I am building a new treehouse in the Red River Gorge. It’s my first project with creative freedom, my own land, and a real budget. This treehouse will be the first of a series that will become a treehouse rental paradise. I am beyond exited about this build because I get to try a few new techniques that might open up doors for future designs. The bottom line is it’s just going to be a really cool place to hang out and enjoy treehouse living. This particular build will be documented step by step and detailed in the upcoming book!
Would you like to see your treehouse included in this exciting project? If you have an awesome treehouse design, we’d love to see some photos. Your treehouse just might end up being showcased in the book! See below for details.
How to participate: Simply send beauty shots of your treehouse project to us via email. That’s it. Super easy. Make sure to include your complete contact info so we can get in touch with you if your project is selected.
Deadline: October 1, 2015
Where to submit: email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s in it for you: If your treehouse is selected you’ll get bragging rights for having your project published in a Popular Woodworking book, a free copy when the book is published, and a one-year digital magazine subscription.
A Few Details: If your treehouse is selected, you must be able to provide high resolution images of your treehouse and any sketches or plans you’d be willing to have published, along with a brief paragraph explaining your vision or your process.