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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Build a Safer Tree House

Constructing a tree house can be tricky. They are generally built off the ground and supported by a living tree. A tree house can be a very heavy structure, and the only safe way to build one is to have its weight soundly supported.

One of the safer methods of construction is the use of a T.A.B., which is short for “Tree-house Attachment Bolt.” This is the same hardware used by Nelson Treehouse and Supply, which is the crew featured on the Treehouse Masters television show.

The use of TABs has become a standard construction method for professionals, but it’s also DIY-friendly, and Nelson Treehouse reports that hundreds of homeowners around the world have used the same hardware to create their own backyard treehouse.

Since many DIY homeowners aren’t aware this hardware exists, I thought I’d share this info on the HIR blog for anyone building their own tree house this summer.

How Does a T.A.B. Work?

A typical TAB consists of a threaded metal bolt and a larger diameter collar. According to Wikipedia, “the collar provides an extra bending strength by bearing upon the compression strength of the tree grain. Since treehouses are subject to frequent load reversal produced by winds, TABs must be made of spring steel. One of the main features of TABs is their strength, requiring fewer tree penetrations for robust fastening of a treehouse and hence less damage to a live tree. The bolts are able to support from between 9,000 and 12,000 pounds, a much greater load than conventional lag bolts.”

Note: You will need a heavy-duty drill, appropriately sized Pilot Bit, and a 1" Auger bit for installation of the TABs.

Once mounted into a tree to support the weight of the structure, the protruding TABs are commonly used in conjunction with heavy-duty metal brackets, allowing the tree-house to move independently with the tree. (Example shown below.)

As the Nelson Treehouse website explains: "Unlike a traditional earthbound house, the foundation for a treehouse is elevated in the air and rests in living organisms. Yet treehouses are not lightweight structures: a fully finished, furnished, and occupied treehouse can weigh tens of thousands of pounds. The foundation for the treehouse – its connection to the trees and the hardware that supports its prodigious weight – is of the upmost importance for the safety of the occupants, health of the tree(s), and longevity of the structure.

When properly installed, our treehouse hardware provides a safe, sustainable, and strong support system for your treehouse without causing irreparable damage to the trees. Investing in quality, specialized hardware is essential for creating an enduring foundation for your treehouse."

So, whether you’re a pro builder or a backyard handyman, know your hardware options when it comes to tree-house construction. Below is a video that shows how to install the TABs.

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