Welcome to the Sims Family Treehouse!

Our treehouse is phase 4 of our backyard playground. This time we're buildng UP! The new platform is going to be about 15' high in our mature Silver Maple (thanks Randee for researching the tree!) at the back edge of our property. It will connect to our Jungle Fort out the back side of the upper tower, thru the door we left when we built it in phase 3 last summer.

Summer 2012 - Indiana Jones Bridge

The temporary bridge is torn down after two years of servicing the lookout tower. In its place we begin the rope bridge! This photo is of the first attempt at knotting... we got about 2/3 done and realized our ropes weren't going to make it to the other side, so we had to untie every single knot and start over with larger squares and tighter knots.

A total of 14 lengths of 1" manila rope run from the fort to the treehouse and weave together to form our bridge. I hand tied every one of the 60 sheet bends, 66 hitches and 12 arbor knots. It used approximately 250' of 1" rope and 150' of 1/4" rope.

Our "Indiana Jones" bridge!

The final view, from below.
What will be next? The kids want to build up the tree... always ambitious aren't they...

Summer 2011 - Tree Top Lookout

Here's our starting point for this year. It's currently July of 2011, and not much has changed on our playground this year -- up till now. We still have the Jungle Fort, the Castle Tower, and the Fairytale Cottage on the far end (out of view).

This part was added last year. It's the Bridge to the Sky. It doesn't go anywhere but back to our tree. It's a pretty reasonable place to stand while working on the treefort, albeit it's a bit wobbly and only has one railing.

Here is my rendition of a Garnier Limb. These giant bolts are constructed of 3/4" galvanized rod, onto which is threaded a 3" diameter by 1-1/2" thick steel shoulder. Just getting the shoulders onto the rod was a project in itself (the galvanizing adds a bit of thickness over the standard 3/4-10 thread). Once the threads of the shoulder were fully engaged, it required two of us with giant pipe wrenches pressing in opposite directions while holding the shoulder in a vice for stability. The complete assemblies will hold an incredible amount of weight with minimal bending force on the rods making them very strong... A 3/4 steel rod can hold a tensile load of 55,000 psi. Converting to a shear load, we multiply by a factor of .6, then by .3 for the cross sectional area of the bolt - yielding approximately 10,000 lbs that can be supported by each bolt.

All our parts were cut to length, molded, water sealed, and test-assembled in our garage.

Here's our jig which would ensure we could drill two holes, at the same height, and precisely in line with each other on opposite sides of the tree. Our jig also confirmed our circumference measurements and radius calculations to ensure we would have just the right spacing between the beams and the tree once we install our Garnier Limbs.

One of our goals was to minimize any damage to our mature Silver Maple - so the treefort will be mounted on a total of four holes. Two main holes here to take the Garnier Limbs, and two small holes lower on the tree for some angle bracing.

Our Garnier Limb fully installed - driven 6" into the tree on both sides. Here it is touched up with a little extra rust proofing paint on top of the galvanizing since we took off a bit of the coating when we cranked on them with the pipe wrenches.

Here's the view from the Bridge to the Sky while the treefort is under construction.

Most places could be reached with our new 24' extension ladder - but here, we just couldn't fit it in past this tree.

These subfloor modules could be assembled on the ground, then dropped in and attached with four screws. Being mostly a one-man build, much attention was focused on minimizing trips up and down to trim out wood.

Another view of the subfloor, this time from below.

One more view of our Garnier Limb showing the 0 tolerance between it and the tree and treefort. The tree has a good 1-1/2" to grow on all sides before it will ever encounter a barrier. Go tree!

The view from below, looking approximately 15' up to the base of the treehouse.

Fall 2010 - Jungle Fort and Wilderness Bridge

2010 was a busy year, as we continue working right into the fall on the Jungle Fort and Wilderness Bridge.

The fort plans were taken pretty much from the Jungle Fort concept by Detailed Play Systems. We built it for the first time in California in our Cherry Valley home... See some pics of it here! We kept a lot of the same concepts but were obviously on a much larger scale this time around.

The swing beam is made from one continuous 16-foot 4x6 pressure treated beam.

Katie and Ryan test out the swings.

Andrew, Ryan, and Katie!

Here's the view from the top of the Castle Tower, looking across to the Jungle Fort

My two girls - Katie and Randee!

Preparing for the next stage, connecting this back exit to our big tree, we built this temporary bridge. It's scary out there!

Looking back from the bridge to the sky you get a good picture of how we tried to keep all the trees in tact that hung over the playground in one way or another.

All tired out after a hard day of work

Summer 2010 - Castle Tower

Having finally finished the Fairytale Cottage, we now start phase 2, the Castle Tower! The bricks on the side of the tower are just particle board... manually cut to size, corners rounded, edges routed, and then painted in 3 shades of gray to look like stone.

We took some time off construction to make this path thru our woods. The pavers were from Lowes, and HEAVY.

Entering via the door at the bottom you're presented with a spiral staircase that takes you up to the tower level. First spiral staircase I've built, every stair custom measured. Topped off with grip tread.

Quick escape from the tower can be made down the tube slide.

Or, you can divert to the stair bridge, drop down 4 steps, and directly enter the Fairytale Cottage loft level.

This opening at the top of the tower will eventually lead across the Wilderness Bridge to the Jungle Fort. You can see in this pic my nice door on the Fairytale Cottage split after the winter! My panels were too tight and expanded, busting the side rail of the door right off.

Everyone wants a chance to walk right up to the edge! The opening spends the next few months boarded off.

One last peek out the octagon window! That's it for this photo set.

Spring 2010 - Siding the Cottage

In the spring of 2010, we were really just finishing up what we started in 2009 -- The Fairytale Cottage.

This opening was planned for a door to take you out the upper level and across a stair-step bridge to a Castle Tower (not yet built)

The back side shows the cedar shingles and windows.

Here's the inside ground foor and ladder going up to the loft.

The upper floor and railing.

The windows are all scratch built - mortise and tenon joints, grooved to take the plastic glazing.

My favorite windows, two octagons that swing out at the peak of the gable.

Interior paint and trim took forever!

All those corner beads and angles - what was I thinking??

Check back soon!

Sign Our Guestbook

On Aug 2, 2011, Mike wrote...
In case you're wondering the background image is from Disney's Swiss Family Treehouse in the Magic Kingdom!

On Aug 5, 2011, Janalee MaCurdy wrote...
You are THE Dad of the year! I am awed with your brillant design talents and wonder if there is ANYTHING you can't do. Seeing the old fort brought back some great memories. And not an inch of Duct tape! Your future addition plans amaze me. If you ever want another kid (albiet at heart), I'd let you adopt me!

On Aug 11, 2011, Kathy Stone wrote...
WOW! Love it -- Such fun!! If I had kids I'd hire you to build one in my back yard...and it's going to add so much value to your current home!! As you know, my favorite pic is the one where the extension ladder does not reach! You need a new room there!

On Jul 22, 2012, Nikkibobs wrote...
awsome!!! The kiddies will treasure this for years to come.

On Aug 28, 2012, Christina Matamoros wrote...
See now I have to bring Lydia if for no other reason to visit the Sims Family Castle! You have an amusement park in the backyard!!! lol.

On Nov 4, 2012, Janalee MaCurdy wrote...
To Nevaeh, Bryan, Brayden and Kevin, LMNOPQRTSUVWXYZ Are you guys speaking Klingon Perhaps? Or maybe it's a captain coder ring.The only thing I can make out is in Braydens comment sip brut. Sounds good to me!

On Jan 11, 2013, Scott wrote...
Nice job with the treehouse! Very well done...and creative! Question for you....where did you get the 3" x 1 1/2" thick steel shoulder that you threaded onto the 3/4" galvanized rod? Did you machine that yourself..or purchase it already made? Thanks so much!!

On Feb 28, 2013, Mike wrote...
I machined those myself... two of them. Had them made at work. I looked around everywhere but ppl wanted $150 for a shouldered rod to buy them.

On Jul 31, 2015, Steve batory wrote...
Amazing!! May I ask how on earth did you make that Indian bridge? Is that like a Boy Scout knot trick? Awesome tree fort!

Leave a Comment:
Your Name: Email:

Enter the 6 characters:

Can't read it? Load a new Image