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Q: Tips for building a playhouse near pine trees?

Thursday, June 16, 2016  

Q: We are looking to build a playhouse for our kids and live in Larkspur, Colorado. The area we are looking at has four pine trees that are 12-14 feet apart and form a square, with the empty space in the middle being the spot we plan to build on. We need to put some wood anchors in the ground to support the platform for the playhouse--basically one wood anchor near each tree.

My question is, how far away from the tree can we dig and plant the anchor without hurting the trees? We don't want the trees to die. The wood anchors would go 2-3 feet into the ground. The trees are all 24"+ in diameter, so they are decent-sized--probably 25-30 feet tall. Any advice on how to do this to minimize any damage?

A: The best advice is to do as little damage to the root system as possible. That requires protection of the ground surface during construction with sturdy plywood to prohibit soil compaction--very important! Second, the anchors for support should be in concrete footings of minimum diameter--6-8" at most. Since freezing is not a footing problem, 18" deep should be enough, especially if all four are securely tied together with support beams. If roots are encountered in footings, be sure they have a smooth cut and are not torn and left ragged. Small footings will not damage the root systems enough to cause tree decline, root area compaction will.

Responder: Don Godi, RCA #444, Lakewood, CO