We’ve been living outdoors since the temps climbed to a tolerable place, and it’s been amazing, even better than last year now that our youngest, Hattie, has mobility and the freedom to explore, wandering curiously and freely. The short, visual summary of our springtime: clearing brush with codeman, sparklers, transplanting, painting watermelons, searching for chipmunks, bike upgrading, b-holes, not letting a little rain stop us from getting our chores done, and more.
I’ve been making lots of small improvements to the treehouse that we were building at this exact time last year. The bulk of the decor has left up to the kids, meaning that right now there are clay pots filled with dirt and transplanted weeds, an abandoned wasp nest, sticks, and mysteriously, a collection of dead moths. For safety and appeal, other changes have taken place too. Check them out:
1. Galvanized pipes and fittings are surprisingly expensive.
When it comes to sourcing galvanized piping that’s often used for natural gas lines, I’m sure you can find better pricing if you shop around, but I went for convenience and picked them up at the hardware store. There are two ladders leading in and out of the house, and though the kids can scale them like chimps without, the handrails are an inevitably nice addition for safety and make it much easier for me to climb up and down.
Composed of two 1/2″ pipes, two 1/2″ elbows, two 1/2″ x close pipe nipples, four 1/2″ flanges, 8 washers, and 8 1″ lag bolts, these things are so solid that I could do acrobatics on them. Here’s to hoping the kids don’t realize that.
I decided to leave the flanges and elbows au natural metallic finish, but laid several thick coat of golden yellow along the length of the pipe.
All of the pieces were hand-tightened, and save for the cordless drill, the drill bit I used to predrill the holes for the flange bolts, and the hex bit I used to attach them, it was a tool-free endeavor.
With a long rail attached into a stud on the wall of the structure, and a second secured into the handrail, these simple additions literally make it possible for grandma and grandpa to scale the ladder and chill with us up inside that little house.
My parents measured our heights on the back of our bathroom door; Pete’s parents have all of the grandchildren’s measurements on the kitchen doorway. I knew I wanted a place in our home to do the same, and spontaneously decided that the treehouse was the perfect space to document it because it’s tall enough to measure against for their entire life (the entry is 6′ in height). In this location, the marks are sheltered from weather under the awning, and likely to stand for many, many decades. Putting spare paint to work!
3. Gimme all the chalk.
Technically, I bought all of the chalk, and then moved this chalkboard from Julia’s bedroom at the old house into a new space in the treehouse. It’s a simple piece of MDF which is definitely not suitable for being outdoors in the weather, but underneath the roof, no moisture enters, so unless humidity gets to it over the years or some animal makes a nest between the studs behind it, I think it’ll be fine.
Good chalkboard erasers proved to be extremely hard to find in local stores (they’re dinky and smudgy and completely sucky for the most part I can only imagine because someone out there decided they needed to invent and mandate use of “allergy-friendly dust free” erasers) but I shopped around, and do recommend these heavy-duty dense felt erasers if you’re in the market. They’re badass and super efficient, just like the ones you’d remember having to de-dust against one of those reverberating chalk dust vacuums in elementary school; anyone else have a similar flashback?
4. “You’re going to fall through that hole.”
See above? That’s a big piece of plywood over the hole in the floor which is for the ladder that leads up through the floorboards. That hole has kept us on high-alert. It was always my intent to create a trap door of some kind to control the entryway, but logistically I had some ideas to work through in my head.
- Couldn’t be too heavy (but heavy enough to dissuade a toddler)
- Couldn’t slam fingers
- Couldn’t be toddler operable (but also didn’t want it to be locked)
- Wanted it to blend in nicely
The solution was quite simple, and executed in less than an hour. Four pieces of scrap 1×6 deck board (one trimmed to 3.5″ wide to fit the space that was slightly narrower than 4 boards at full width), screwed into two pieces of 2×3.
When I measured and built the trap door, I sized it so that an inch gap would be left along three of the edges, solely to help prevent fingers being slammed if the door is pulled (or dropped) shut when someone’s fingers are gripping the opening. It’s truly terrifying to consider the number of ways our kids and their friends could get hurt on any given day, at any location, doing anything, but guillotined fingers are high on the list of things I’m not equipped to deal with.
The fourth side of the trap door rests flush with the 6″ galvanized T hinges.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that a trap door floating on its hinges is the most solid surface to stand on (the side without the hinges is inarguably springy), so for reinforcement, the door falls against mending strips that are at angles on two corners from underneath. I also added latch that provides some additional steel reinforcement from above with the help of 8 screws, but really serves to help with toddler-proofing, and gives us the option of adding a lock for added security as Hattie gets stronger and more daring.
The new trap door received a coat of stain to match the rest of the treehouse. Stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the house, which is (probably permanently) coated with a fine yellow pollen powder after enduring its first springtime. Pollen’s brutal, man.
Backyard entertainment at its finest. This was early in the process, so just consider it a peek at something I’ve been working on for DIY Network. :)