How Do You Move a Tree House?

[Note: This is part 3 of a week long of Tree House stories…]

When the dust of emotions settled and reality set in, Hubs and I both knew that we had no choice. The tree house had to be moved. It was the only chance of the Town removing the charges and the only way we could pursue a permit. But the question evaded us:

How EXACTLY do you move a tree house?

It’s not like moving a piece of furniture, manageable with the help of a few flexed muscles and a dolly. The tree house has a tree going through it. And although it doesn’t sit on a tree, our wooden castle is no dog house. We started with the obvious: cutting the tree down that ran through it :( and digging up the four posts that held it into the ground. During the last few weeks of digging, everyone and his mother, sister, brother and uncle has pitched in their theories on how best to move a tree house. It’s been interesting and entertaining to hear all the ideas. One friend even stopped by the house with a buddy who drives a crane, hoping he could help us out. Unfortunately, any heavy equipment would only tear up our driveway, and the angle of the hill of our front yard makes it nearly impossible for a straight shot.

The idea to just dig it out, have a bunch of strong guys show up, lift it and walk a few feet forward, was thrown out the window almost immediately. Because our friends are strong, but none of them are green with a nickname Hulk. Or Superman. Or Wolverine.

Then my Dad, the Engineer, in combination with two neighbors who have an amazing ability to visualize this kind of stuff, came up with a collaborated plan that involved digging, shifting, pushing, and pulling. Straps, pipes, jack stands, and a wooden frame were gathered and put into place in an attempt to create a gradually sliding move. Troughs were dug in front of each post to avoid lifting the weighted structure. And then after much preparation and plenty of securing of the tree house to nearby trees to avoid an unexpected collapse, Hubs gave his team the green light. It was time to push. 


The frame under the base of the tree house had aluminum pipes above it, and the hope was that with the right amount of pressure, the wooden bottom would edge forward while the pipes turned. I can picture it in my head. It makes complete sense. But I also got a C in AP Physics. 

And now the tree house was a free floating structure, even though the weight was holding it in place. Hubs went back to the drawing board and using the jack strong enough to lift one corner of our RV, he raised the back slightly up from one hole. The entire playhouse shifted to one side. Everyone jumped back. No one likes a leaning tower unless it’s made of blocks or Legos and stands two feet tall. The jack was lowered and more supports were put in place. Back to square one.

Then the same neighbor who used the mammoth pipe wrench to rescue us from our water break crisis came up with the pivotal alteration in the winning plan. 

“Sunny, put a 6X6 cross bar across the front of the tree house posts, tie a strap to the middle and then attach it to the bottom of the Corvette.” Jack explained the first step.

Finally, the Corvette was going to do something besides sitting in our driveway and looking pretty. 

Hubs carried over the log with one of his buddies and put the yellow Home Depot strap in place. And he already knew what to do next. These straps that we bought almost six years ago when we needed a way to tie down our kayaks to the RV roof have been since used for so many other purposes. But this set up was by the far the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen them used for. Once the rope was taut, Hubs laid down next to the car and began cranking the strap. And sure enough, it worked! 

The tree house moved. A little. Four inches exactly. But all the free jack stands underneath leaned forward, about to fall over. So the next few hours became a continuous cycle of straighting the jack stands, lifting the back with the car jack, loosening roots and rocks that halted progress, and then cranking the strap. I was amazed to find all four corners had moved almost two feet when sunlight ran out. 

And the best news of all, when I retrieved a survey of our official property lines the next morning, we learned that the setbacks are correct now! No need to move it further. And another encouraging detail came from our friend and architect who is drawing up the plans for our permit application. He suggested we secure the tree house to the ground similar to how families stabilize swingsets, with metal frames and big bolts around the base of each corner. This helps the structure to qualify as a temporary building and the stipulations are a lot less strict if the tree house falls in this category. 

So this is where we stand. For now. The permit process lies ahead of us, and we’ll walk though it, one step at a time. 

For now, Hubs wrapped caution tape all around it to discourage any activity, but for the first time in weeks, I see a rainbow. I feel like there’s hope for our beloved tree house. And for the record, there have been plenty of days that Hubs and I have asked each other, “What are we doing?” and “Is this worth fighting for?”

A good friend affirmed us with his words after two days of back-breaking work when he said, “Look what you’re teaching your kids. That you should never give up easily. And you fight for what’s important to you.”

Sigh. Even if it all goes south and the town ultimately refuses us a permit. If we’re asked to floor the tree house and turn it into a shed. If we have to let go of this dream and go back to walking to the trainhouse playground, we will have accomplished something more significant than building a tree house.  

We’ll pack up our tools and store away our memories. And for our princesses who will shed some tears if that day comes, we’ll hold them tight and cry with them. Then we’ll rise to our feet and remind them of the gifts that we gained in the midst of loss: Courage, Resolve, and best of all—Friends we consider family. Because some things are worth fighting for. Yes they are.

**And you? Have you ever had to let go of a plan, a project or a dream after too many roadblocks came up? What was your take-away?

**If you LIKED this POST, you MIGHT also LIKE:
“Friends I Dig”
“My Hotty Under the Hood”
“Living…An Extreme Sport”

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