UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 24, 2022 | 2 MIN READ
To many homeowners, a treehouse may seem like another property structure, like a backyard shed or detached garage. Garages and sheds don’t typically have any bearing on an insurance policy, so why would a treehouse?
The difference is that insurance companies consider treehouses to be an attractive nuisance — structures that can lure children into dangerous situations.
Other attractive nuisances include pools and trampolines. No doubt your kids will love a backyard treehouse, but remember that this addition will most likely affect your insurance policy.
Before taking a hammer and nails to that big oak tree out back, read on to learn more about treehouses and home insurance.
Why are insurers concerned about treehouses?
When homeowners build something on their property, they often think they will be the only ones using it or affected by it. This is not the case with treehouses.
Danger to other children
Treehouses are places where kids like to hang out—your kids, their friends, neighbors, and possibly any other kid who wants to have fun. If one of those children falls out of the treehouse and breaks a bone (a very common injury), their parents will come to you for an explanation.
You may be responsible for your child’s medical bills. You may need to file a liability claim with your home insurance to cover the cost.
Vicinity to adjoining property
A bad storm or shoddy construction could damage a neighbor’s home in parts of the treehouse. You will likely be held responsible if such an event occurs. In addition, you may violate privacy regulations if you can see into a neighbor’s home via the treehouse.
Vicinity to public utility structures
A treehouse built too high may run into electricity or telephone lines. This can obstruct public utility employees’ work and put anyone in the treehouse at additional risk for injury.
How to Build a Safe Treehouse
If you’re certain that you want a treehouse, the best thing you can do is build it as safely as possible. Here are the steps to follow:
Contact your city’s engineering department
Construction projects (even small ones) sometimes require the approval of your jurisdiction. An inspector will help you stay within local regulations and help you avoid utility poles and powerlines.
Keep it low to the ground
Falls from lower heights are usually less severe than those higher in the air. Try to keep the treehouse under 10 feet — this also allows you to make repairs safely from the ground.
Choose a strong, healthy tree
The tree you choose must be healthy and withstand the extra weight and pressure. You should consult an arborist (your state’s cooperative extension program can help you find one) who can determine if the tree is disease-free and not susceptible to common pathogens.
Work with a professional
Unless you’re an experienced master carpenter, work with a professional builder who has experience constructing treehouses. This doesn’t mean you will have no say in building the treehouse. A professional builder can help you design and bring your ideas to life while ensuring that the final result is structurally sound.
How to Use a Treehouse Safely
If you don’t want to file home insurance claims related to your treehouse, you should reduce your risk as much as possible. The following tips can help you develop a safe environment around your treehouse:
Consider setting up barriers or using an alarm system to keep children away from the treehouse when they aren’t supervised. It’s also a good idea to talk to your kids about when it’s not appropriate to play in the treehouse (e.g., at night).
Build stationary ladders to allow access in and out of the treehouse. Ropes are not reliable and may wear out fairly quickly.
Develop a pulley system
Kids will want to carry items in and out of the treehouse, but doing so while climbing a ladder is dangerous. A pulley system in place will make getting items in and out much easier and safer.
Perform periodic inspections
A tree is a living organism that will continue to grow. These changes may affect beams and bolts in the treehouse. You will need to look for changes and make repairs, if necessary, regularly.
What Can I Expect From My Home Insurance With a Treehouse
Before starting construction on a treehouse, contact your homeowners insurance provider. You don’t want your coverage canceled because you failed to inform them. The mere existence of a treehouse won’t make or break your ability to get coverage.
The steps you take to build and maintain a sound structure are also important. Consider talking to multiple insurance companies to learn more about their individual takes on treehouse coverage.