2009-07-30 / Features

Pa. Tree House Builder Keeps Branching Out

By Gretchen Metz

 

GLENMOORE, Pa. (AP) - Dan Wright's career choice has the 30-year-old carpenter out on a limb.

He is the owner and founder of Tree Top Builders based in Westtown, about 15 miles west of Philadelphia. He puts his jawdropping fabulous tree houses up in the air, spanning branches across the country, with a concentration on the East Coast.

"I got an idea, started learning, read books, researched (on) the Internet, went to a tree house conference in Oregon,'' Wright said about the beginning of his company seven years ago.

Wright's company builds 25 to 30 tree houses a year ranging in price from $3,000 to one $65,000 tree house in McLean, Va.

"I've seen some that are suitable to live in, in the hundred thousands to a million dollars,'' Wright said.

Photos of Wright's company's tree houses are on his Web site, Facebook and YouTube.

In a recent interview done in one of Wright's tree houses in Glenmoore, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia and 60 miles southeast of Harrisburg, Wright explained he starts with a look at the tree. Can it support a tree house? If not, Wright won't build one there.

If he takes the job, he gives the tree his attention first. Dead branches, if there are any, get trimmed. He checks the soil around the tree, checks for bugs or other pest and treats any problems.

The deck is built first, then the house, said Wright who left a career as a carpenter doing custom work for a life in the branches.

Wright's company makes tree houses for kid's hideouts and for adults who want treetop dwellings, including a tree house poker room and a tree house platform for a yoga teacher who holds classes up in the air.

The tree house in Wallace was in the branches of an impressive Norway maple. It was designed for children and adults alike with such extras as two rock-climbing walls, two zip lines, a wood-burning stove for wintertime comfort, a fire pole, a slide, a hammock and a trapdoor with rope ladder. Another rope ladder went from the tree house up to a smaller crow's nest, or lookout, some 21 feet up from the ground.

A satellite deck in a nearby Norway maple is connected to the main tree house by a rope bridge with a walkway of wooden planks. Both the tree house and satellite deck have their own sets of steps.

Gary Koontz, Tree Top's lead builder, designed the tree house.

Wright, who attended the original meeting with Koontz and the homeowner, said the homeowner wanted "one of everything.''

The Wallace project should have taken three weeks - but because it was built in the winter and Koontz had to contend with snow and freezing rain, it took two months. The tree house has a value of $23,000, Wright said.

For Wright, his favorite part of the job are the finishing touches ... cutting the scrollwork, putting up the rope swing or the zip line.

The part the married man and father of two likes least is travel, being away from home.

A common question is, "Will the tree outgrow its tree house?''

The answer is no.

Trees grow larger by expanding their diameter and growing new branch tips, not by growing up like a flower. Every year new layers of wood increase the diameter of trunks and branches, Wright explained.

As a tree house is fixed to the heartwood of the tree, it will remain at a fixed height from the ground.

In addition to building tree houses, Wright plans to teach tree house building at workshops at his house on weekends.

He has plenty of trees for students to use for hands-on experience, he said.

Wright will teach layout, design, cost, how to build the platform and what to buy at The Home Depot, he said.

More information can be found at www.treetopbuilders.net/ Tree Top Builders  Custom Tree Houses.

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