The Treehouse - Spreaders and ladder
Now it was pretty much done, but the plywood floor felt uncomfortably squishy when you walked on it. So I measured and cut spreaders - pieces of lumber that go between the joists - to strengthen and stiffen the floor. The first picture below shows what they looked like from underneath when they were done.
My plan is still to build a house on the platform. But that wasn't going to happen in time for the kids to enjoy the tree fort this summer (2006). So I contented myself with a fence around the platform so I could let the kids go up there without worrying about them too much. But I still hang around underneath, or climb up with them (a thrill every time) whenever they want to go up there. The fence is built of 12 posts supporting a bottom, center and top rail. The bottom and center rails spread a barrier of chicken wire. The lowest is too low to use as a step, The middle is too high to get a foot up on and the space between the middle and top rails is too tight to comfortably climb through. The Chicken wire is too fine to get a foot into. Believe me, this is a concern. Despite the height, kids would try to climb to the outside of the fence if they could.
Along the same lines, I haven't figured out a way to put furniture up there that couldn't be used as a dangerous step ladder. Maybe beanbag chairs...hmmmm.
There's also a temporary tarpulin roof that's held up pretty well for about 5 months now.
Then, we needed a permanent way to get up there. My neighbor Steve had been a really great sport about lending me his 12 foot ladder for 4 months. But it was time to give that back to him. So as the third picture shows, I made a ladder out of a scrap 2 x 8 and a bunch of short lengths of scrap 2 x 4. Attaching each step to the 2 x 8 with 3.5-inch galvanized screws. I built legs for the ladder to stand solidly on the ground and lashed it to the tree adjacent to the trap door. The rope lash holds the ladder to the tree, but doesn't have to support its weight because the legs do that. I've thought about turning the whole assembly around so that when you climb, you're pulling the steps against the beam, instead of away from the beam. This is definitely the better way to do it. Although I haven't been motivated to take the rope off and change it yet.
By the way, the rope that holds the ladder to the tree is the same rope I used to lift and lash all the beams and the platform. I bought one 200-foot clothsline and as a kind of brain teaser challenge, I never cut it. All the pictures you see throughout this site of ropes lashing beams to trees or hoisting beams into the air...it's all the same rope. All one piece. It's still in one 200-foot piece, wrapped around the tree, holding up the ladder. Kind of a monument to that rope, my faithful companion during the months of building the treehouse.
Note. in the third picture, the different rope attached to the bucket in the foreground. Running up over a high branch, this serves as the treehouse dumbwaiter. Every treehouse needs one and raising and lowering anything in it - leaves, sticks, drinks, snacks, toys -- anything... is the favorite activity of every kid that goes up the ladder.