Look up in the trees this spring and you’re likely to spot more than birds, squirrels and the occasional lost balloon. All over the Bethesda area, people are branching out into their backyards by building tree houses. And these lofty abodes aren’t just a few leftover planks nailed together and lodged in the notch of an old maple, either. They’re handcrafted playhouses for kids—and occasionally adults—that can cost as much as a small car or more.
Homeowners looking to put up a treetop dwelling have three options: Do it themselves; hire a general contractor or yard design specialist, such as Fine Earth Landscape in Poolesville; or call in a tree house expert, such as Nelson Treehouse and Supply in Fall City, Wash., or Tree Top Builders of West Chester, Pa., both of which have worked on projects in the Bethesda area.
No matter who does the heavy lifting, builders say tree houses are a growing trend. “We’re getting more and more requests for them,” says Joel Hafner, 45, owner of Fine Earth Landscape. “I think it’s because people had—or wish they had—a tree house when they were kids, and now they want their children to experience one.”
So how does someone get into the business of building arboreal abodes?
“I had to create this job for myself,” says Pete Nelson, founder of Nelson Treehouse and Supply. “I thought that if I could set myself up as the tree house guy, it would be a neat way to do all the things I love—design, architecture, using my hands and traveling.”
Photo courtesy of Erick Gibson.