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What do you do when you want to build a tree house, but live in a relatively new subdivision, where there are no trees larger than your arm?

One day I found myself at the Boulder ReSource Center, a nonprofit dedicated to recycling and repurposing materials to keep them out of the landfill. As luck would have it, due the widening of Arapahoe Ave in front of the yard, a line of utility poles had to be moved. The utility company donated the poles to the ReSource Center, who where in the process of cutting them up into 6-8' sections to use as landscaping material. Fortunately, they had a couple of full length poles left, and an idea was born.

Utility pole on a trailer behind the pickup
I bought one on the spot, and came back the next day with my trailer and a saw. I had to cut it down to 24' to get it home. I then started to design the tree house, based on the available pole. My friend and former employer Chris Porcello, a licensed civil engineer, helped me calculate the wind loads. This design is engineered to 100mph, with a safety factor of about 2.2x, meaning it isn't going to break or fall down in the wind!
drilling a hole for the pole

The next step was to put it in the ground. The engineering called for it to be 6' deep in the ground. I was going to borrow a backhoe from my friends at the turf farm just to the north, but Chris explained this would disturb too much soil, and it wouldn't end up as solidly placed as it should. So I placed an ad in Craig's list for someone with a mounted augur, and for $260, got the pole installed, the single most expensive part of the project.

This was in November, which was good, because it allowed the soil to re-compact over the winter before starting the platform. Meanwhile, I began collecting materials.

trex decking

I began stopping at the ReSource Center every time I was in Boulder. I got all the Trex decking for .025/ft, and all the balusters for 10 cents apiece.

 

The power company replaced a bunch of poles in my neighborhood, and discarded some cross tees, hardware, and cut sections, which later became stair treads.
in the back of the pickup
Except for a few key structural members, everything is made from used or repurposed materials. The round fence posts came from a local ranch supply, cheaper, and more rustic than 4x4s from a lumber yard. So far, I'm into this for about $1300, where I'd be well over $5000 building this from Home Depot.
stockpiled materials
My son Mike came to visit with grandson Jack, to help get the platform built.
Mike, Hannah, Jack, and me

Taken from the 2nd floor of the house.

The next step was to get the lower platform built, in the shape of a Pirate ship,

putting iin posts for the lower deck
so that stairs could be built,
building the stairs
which was prerequisite to erecting the roof uprights,
starting the roof
Which gave me something to attach the railings to,
upper railings
which were necessary for building the permanent stair railings.
And that's about where it stood for the winter.
     

I'd accumulated all the tools and materials for the roof, but for expediency's sake, I opted to hire a roofing crew to put the plywood and shingles on. I got the shingles and felt at the ReSouorce Center, but I had to buy the decking new. It's decked with 3/4" plywood, so the nails wouldn't poke through, and those 4x8 sheets wegh about 90 pounds. The more I watched them, the happier I was that I wasn't doing it myself!

Putting plywood decking on the roof
With my eight-week old replacement knees making their public debut in shorts, I finished up the pirate ship railing, gang plank, and steps.
     
Finished!
So that's about it, except for planting some trees around, and finishing some landscaping. Next trip to the ReSource Center I'll be looking for flag stones.
     
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