Saturday, June 7, 2003

Kennedy Heights man still parties in his tree house

The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] George Cook can reach his tree house from his second-floor deck.
(Enquirer file photo)
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George Cook still parties in his elaborate tree house, 33 feet off the ground in a 150-year-old pin oak.

"Sure, we still use it," says Cook. "We've had several groups up there already this season."

In 1997 the Enquirer featured the tree house - a 14-by-14-foot deck accessed by a steep "ship's ladder" from a second-floor deck on the back of Cook's Kennedy Heights home.

Some of the tree house's amenities: cable TV, a stereo with CDs, a barbecue grill, plastic chairs, a clock, a cooler and a garbage can.

And, the pizza net, attached through a pulley to a rope that lifts food to waiting crowds.

The load capacity of the deck is 60 pounds per square foot, says the safety engineer at General Electric Aircraft Engines.

One tree house caution: Don't start building without checking with your municipality's building department. Cincinnati, for instance, regulates tree house construction. You may need a building permit, or a public hearing review of your project.

Tree house tips

Tree house expert David Stiles has a few suggestions for anyone thinking of building a tree house:

When you're sizing up potential trees, think about the support they must provide. "Pretend you're holding a baseball in your hand - holding it up on your fingertips - and pretend your fingers are branches," Stiles says. "If you have a choice, that's the structure you want to look for."

Use new, heavy 2-by-6- or 2-by-8-inch lumber for the support beams, and put them together with half-inch diameter galvanized bolts or lag screws.

For the rest of the tree house, you can scavenge boards from building projects, neighbors and the scrap bins of lumberyards. Scrap lumber is perfect for building the deck, rails and the house itself.

Remember that half the fun of a tree house is that the tree itself is a living thing: Be discriminating in your use of screws, nails, ropes and wire.

A tree house should be easy to get into. "The more accessible it is, the more a child is going to use it," Stiles says. A simple wooden ladder up to the platform will be fun and easy for a child to negotiate.

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