Pete Nelson is available for personal site visits. The goals of a site visit are to select the proper tree(s), draft a concept drawing (a floor plan and at least one elevation), and create a reliable budget. This requires a minimum of two days on site. If the proposed structure is roughly 350 square feet or larger, or is unusually complex, the client should plan on at least a three day site visit.
Here is what to expect in a typical two-day site visit:
Travel Day from Seattle
Site Visit Day 1:
Meet with client on site. Spend an hour or so discussing the client's intended use for the treehouse, design ideas, hopes, and wishes.
Walk the site looking for good treehouse locations. (see Tree Selection below)
12:00 - 2:00 PM
Pete sits with the selected tree(s) to arrive at a conceptual plan.
2:00 - 6:00 PM
Optional meeting with the client to review the concept at around 2:00PM, or plan to meet with the client before dinner to review a more developed concept. Both options are available. Pete receives feedback and direction from the client to further develop the concept plan.
Pete heads back to the drawing room (after dinner) and works until his heart is content.
Site Visit Day 2:
Optional Breakfast Meeting with Client. Otherwise Pete continues with drawings.
Optional Lunch Meeting with Client. Otherwise Pete continues to draw, then shifts to budgeting.
3:00 - 5:00 PM
Treehouse Project Budget. Pete creates an accurate budget estimate on Excel that lists 75 "line items" in all of the important categories including materials, labor, mark-up, tax, and expenses.
5:00 - 6:00 PM
Pete delivers copies of the drawings and budget estimate to the client before departing.
Cost: A two-day site visit costs $3,500 plus expenses. Each additional day is charged at $1,500.
Expenses include transportation, airfare, lodging, a one-way travel day charge of $250, and a $55 per day per diem. Pete requires no "special treatment" and is happy to stay at the client's residence. Otherwise a motel and a rental car are perfectly acceptable. Please plan to send a 50% deposit when we send our site visit contract and estimated total cost of the site visit.
After the client has approved the concept drawing, Pete will need to spend some time on the final phase of the design process, which is called Drafting. This means using the concept drawing to create a buildable plan that carpenters can follow. This phase is billed at $150 per hour and takes an absolute minimum of six hours. For complicated projects, the Drafting phase can take up to 25 hours.
The design process starts by selecting a healthy tree that will continue to thrive with a treehouse attached to its trunk. There are a number of factors we consider when choosing the right tree:
- species of tree
- diameter of tree
- proximity to utilities
- proximity to main house
- wind, sun, and view considerations
- approximate height of treehouse desired by client
- any proposed add-ons or approaches (stairs, bridge, boardwalk, ramp, zip-line)
While it can be overwhelming to pick the ideal tree for your treehouse, especially amidst many trees, our vast experience working alongside professional arborists enables us to confidently select the ideal tree or trees for your treehouse.
The health of your host tree is of utmost importance. We strongly recommend having a local certified arborist visit your site either before or after our initial visit to identify any problem trees or areas of concern. A certified arborist can evaluate the health of your tree(s) as well as identify any work that might need to be done to prepare the site for your project. Local arborists can be found at www.isa-arbor.com. Clients who live in the Puget Sound area can check our Resources page for arborists that Nelson Treehouse and Supply has experience working with.
Once you have selected healthy and appropriate trees for your treehouse, you will need to create a Tree Layout Plan. This basically means taking several measurements and turning them into a scaled drawing of where the trees are in relation to one another. For a thorough description on how to do this and a sample Tree Layout Plan, please see the last question on our FAQ page.
The next step in the design process is the Conceptual Drawing phase. During this phase, Pete puts to paper the structure that he envisions for the tree(s). In this drawing, Pete incorporates his knowledge of trees, his observations of the site and the views it has to offer, as well as any requests or input the clients have given him. This phase of design normally takes 4 to 6 hours.
After the Conceptual Drawing is complete, Pete will meet with the clients to go over the drawing. Pete explains why he included certain features and the clients offer feedback about what they would like enhanced or altered, if anything. Then begins the Drafting phase of the design process. Pete will work on Drafting for several hours, and then usually meet with the clients again. Pete really loves the process of creating a design the clients will embrace and enjoy for years to come. He works collaboratively with the clients on revisions to the design until they are completely satisfied. Depending on the number of revisions and the overall complexity of the project, the Drafting phase can take anywhere from 10 to 25 desk hours.
The next phase in the design process is Budgeting. As described on our Building page, the cost of treehouses varies due to a multitude of factors. The original budget is only an estimate, but discussions about expenses are open and ongoing during the project, so even if the total cost is different than the original estimate, the clients will not be surprised by their final bill.
The budget is made up of four main components: Materials, Labor, Markup, and Expenses. We markup the Materials and Labor components by 25% to cover our overhead and generate profit. Expenses (crew lodging, airfare, per diems, etc) are not subject to markup. Expenses on treehouses can represent 20% or more of the overall budget.
There are approximately 75 line items on the typical treehouse budget, covering each part of the treehouse building process. A materials cost and labor figure are assigned to each line item. In this way, we build the budget piece by piece, just like we build the treehouses. We then share this document openly with the client. Note: services provided in the state of Washington are subject to sales tax.