Backyard Treehouse: Factors to Consider (Do I Need a Permit?)

Backyard treehouse

A treehouse always ensures a great experience. Whether you build it in a simple or extravagant manner, for a kid’s play area or a quick escape for adults, a treehouse will help you be one with nature right on your property.

Generally speaking, you don’t need a permit if you’re planning to build a treehouse that is a couple of feet above the ground and doesn’t exceed 80 square feet. However, you should always check your local government’s minimum requirements for a treehouse as some states do require a permit if you exceed the square feet, elevation, and amenities on the treehouse.

Before planning on constructing your dream playhouse, there are several factors that you need to consider, such as insurances, building codes, permits, tree species, and your neighbors. In this article, we’ll discuss the factors we’ve mentioned, the added value of a treehouse on your property, and several state regulations on treehouses.


Factors to Consider Before You Build a Treehouse in Your Backyard

When planning to build a backyard treehouse, you must consider the seven factors listed below to ensure that you don’t break any law nor annoy your neighbor. By considering those, you’ll be able to construct your playhouse with little to no hassle from other people.

  1. Neighbors

Not everyone is fond of treehouses, especially if you’re on the other side of the fence and your neighbor’s treehouse is blocking your view. Thus, before building a playhouse in your backyard, talk to your neighbors to see if it’s alright with them. By doing so, you can avoid future fights or to get reported to the local officials. After all, you wouldn’t want to be forced to take down your hard-worked treehouse when that happens.

  1. Homeowners’ Insurance

Some insurance providers cover treehouses as part of your property. Although, you must first check with your insurance partner as sometimes, they require specific guidelines or precautions before drafting the coverage. For instance, some companies require adult supervision when children are playing in the treehouse or deny children access to the stairs or ladder when there are no adults around.

  1. Homeowners’ Association

Depending on your neighborhood, you might need to check with other HOA members regarding your plans for building a treehouse. Make sure to prepare detailed drawings and the complete setup of the entire space. You can present this to the HOA members and see if everything adheres to the rules within your neighborhood.

  1. Building Codes and Other Legal Issues

Once you get the green light from your neighbors, insurance providers, and homeowners’ association, you should visit your local building department. The officers should be able to tell you if you can indeed build a treehouse in your backyard.

Make sure to present the overall structure of your treehouse, its proximity to your property line, its distance above the ground, and whether or not it provides any utilities, like water and electricity. In some cases, your building department may require engineering plans, visit inspections during construction, or building permits.

Be sure to follow what your building department says or asks from you to ensure that your treehouse won’t get demolished, fined, or face lawsuits in the future.

  1. Hiring a Professional

Hiring a professional to help you plan out your treehouse is crucial to ensure that the ground base and branches of the tree can support the weight of your project. You must discuss the planned size for your treehouse and the amenities with them so that they can estimate whether the platform can fit into the tree or not. The professional will also explain to you what tools and materials you’ll need to use for your project to be successful.

  1. Tree Species

The next factor you need to consider is the tree species where you’ll settle your treehouse. Check with the USDA plant website whether the tree in your backyard is listed as an endangered or threatened species on a national, state, or county level. If it’s not on the list, then you’re one step closer to building your project.

Another thing to consider when looking at the tree species is how prone it is to dropping heavy branches. For example, alders and cottonwoods are known for dropping their branches, so make sure to avoid those species. If you’re not sure, go to your local horticulture extension agent and ask for advice.

  1. Potential Tree Damage

Strong winds and hurricanes can topple any tree with poor root systems. This is especially true when you’re adding the weight of a treehouse, cutting into trunks, removing branches for your platform to fit, or drilling holes to install fasteners. Thus, before doing any activity, make sure to contact a certified arborist to examine the tree. In most cases, they will be able to determine if the tree can handle the stress of the work and the added weight.


Does a Treehouse Add Value to Your Home?

You might be wondering whether or not a treehouse can add value to your home. There’s no concrete answer to this question as you need to consider the following two scenarios:

  • The condition of the treehouse

A treehouse can add resale value to your home if it’s in perfect condition and adds beauty to your property. However, if not properly maintained and considered a rundown structure, it can decrease the value of your entire property.

  • The potential buyers

A treehouse does not directly impact the value of your home, but it can affect the decision-making of your potential buyers. Some people may think that a treehouse is an appealing addition to a property, while others may think it’s another part of the house they need to constantly maintain and spend money on.


Can You Build a Treehouse Without a Permit?

As mentioned earlier, if you’re planning to build a simple treehouse with no amenities, there’s little to no chance that you’ll be required to get a permit. However, you need to check with your local building department to ensure that you won’t be breaking any state law.

Additionally, the overall size of the treehouse, its height above the ground, and special amenities can impact whether or not you’ll be required to acquire some permissions.


Permit Requirements Per State

We won’t be able to cover the global laws and regulations when building a treehouse. However, we have chosen some U.S. states and Canadian provinces to provide you with some examples that show how different areas have different laws when it comes to building a treehouse. Below are seven states and provinces that may or may not require you to get a permit before building a treehouse in your backyard.


Do You Need a Permit to Build a Treehouse in Maine?

Like gazebos and sheds, treehouses are considered accessory structures on a property, which may require you to get a permit before building one if you live in Maine. Consult with your local council for the requirements to get a permit.


Do You Need a Permit to Build a Treehouse in Ontario, Canada?

If you’re in Ontario, you won’t need to get a permit if you’re planning to build a simple treehouse for kids that’s not too high and doesn’t go against zoning laws. However, if you wish to construct an elaborate one, it’s best to consult with your township.

There has been an incident in 2016 when a family was asked to tear down their $30,000-worth treehouse because of its elaborated boat-themed structure. In 2014, they were allowed to construct a simple treehouse with guidelines to lower the planned height and apply minor zoning variance.

Because the owner failed to maintain the “simplicity” of the treehouse and failed to comply with the guidelines, they were given 20 days to tear down the treehouse. Otherwise, they would have faced a court-ordered removal.


Do You Need a Permit to Build a Treehouse in Connecticut?

Connecticut does not require residents to get a permit to build a treehouse as long as it’s not over 7 feet high and no larger than 200 square feet. If you’re planning to have a bigger treehouse than this, consult with your local building department to make sure you don’t break any regulations.


Do You Need a Permit to Build a Treehouse in Florida?

If you’re located in a rural area of Florida, you may not be required to get a building permit for a treehouse. In urban areas, however, there may be some standards according to which you’ll be required to get a permit.

Note that different parts of Florida apply a different set of laws and regulations when building a treehouse, so make sure to contact your local building department. Also, prepare a detailed sketch of your plan, your proposed floor area, the height of your treehouse, and other necessary information to ensure that there’s no miscommunication.


Do You Need a Permit to Build a Treehouse in New York?

Before building a treehouse in New York, make sure your property is not found in a landmark area. If it is, the treehouse should not be seen from the street. In New York, a treehouse is subject to the same guidelines as a shed.

A permit is not necessary if your backyard treehouse is less than 10 feet high and less than 120 square feet. You should also take note of your property lines as they should not exceed three feet.


Do You Need a Permit to Build a Treehouse in Pennsylvania?

As long as your backyard treehouse doesn’t require ground support, like posts and pillars, you won’t need a permit to build it in Pennsylvania. However, if your treehouse requires additional ground support, apart from the tree itself, you’ll need to consult with your local township to ask for the requirements and permits.


Do You Need a Permit to Build a Treehouse in Washington State?

If you live in Washington, you can build a backyard treehouse with no permits as long as its floor area doesn’t exceed 20 square feet and the structure is mainly built for play purposes. If you plan to build a bigger playhouse, contact your local building department.



Building a treehouse can be a fun experience for everyone, but before doing so, make sure to check out your local building department guidelines. In some instances, officials asked homeowners to demolish their treehouses because of failure to comply with regulations and misunderstandings. Therefore, it’s important to communicate professionally with the right people.

Also, even if you’re not asked to get a permit, you must consider the seven factors mentioned above so as not to get into any dispute with your neighbors or homeowners’ association members. This will ensure that your treehouse won’t annoy your neighbors’ eyes in the future.

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