A tree house can be a great parent-child project, but it's not all fun and games. Though building a small tree house in your backyard for a child normally does not require a permit, the procedures differ from area to area, as well as upon the size and scope of the tree house plans. Building a tree house without doing your homework could end up in potential legalities down the road.
Tree House Basics
Kids love tree houses; these structures give kids a special place for playing with their friends. Tree houses aren't just for kids, though; some adults have made a living making inhabitable tree houses. There are also hotels with units built up in the trees. Tree houses can be simple -- like a platform built around a tree trunk -- or more complex and ornate -- like a miniature house. Over the years, safety concerns have led to more and more restrictions on the building of tree houses.
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The Planning Stages
Make sure to draw your plans out in advance, and research building codes in your area. Check with a professional builder who can help ensure that your design is safe and structurally sound. Keep your plan small; a "temporary structure" -- like a shed -- does not need to be inspected. There may be height restrictions specific to your area that you'll need to investigate. It's also important to buy sturdy, long-lasting materials.
In most places, if your tree house's plans are complex enough -- and the structure looks inhabitable -- you will have to apply for a permit and speak with an inspector about your structure. In order to forgo the permit process, you will need to forgo installing plumbing and lighting; you do not want the structure to look as though it's meant for permanent habitation. If you are going to apply for a permit, you have to get a structural engineer to vouch for the soundness of your plans and finished structure.
There are many rules to keep in mind when building a tree house. For one, you must make sure that the tree house is solely on your property; it is advisable to keep your tree house at least 10 feet from the border you share with your neighbors. Also, build your tree house in your backyard; otherwise, some people may see it as an eyesore and complain about it to your city government.