building a handmade hideaway : the roof {how to build a treehouse}

Happy post 4th of July! We hope you celebrated in style with lots of loud fireworks and good BBQ!

Jamin here again with the 4th, and final installment of building your very own Handmade Hideaway. Don’t worry… this isn’t the end my friends. Ashley will be back with some painting techniques, styling, and a few faq’s answered in a round up post…so if you have any specific questions, be sure to shoot them our way! (If you missed the beginning, you can find part 1part 2, and part 3 here.)

So let’s dive right in….

Supply list (as always links are provided in case you are unsure what an item is, that and I really like to shop on Amazon. Ha!)

• Drill

• Saw

• ¼ long magnetic nut driver

• 7 – 2 x 4 x 6

• 6 – 1 x 4 x 6

• Carpenters square

• 2 inch screws (small box) (should have some left over)

• 4 ½ inch screws (small box) (should have some left over)

• 1 ½ inch wood grip galvanized (large bag

• 4 – sheets of tin (29 gauge x 3 feet) @ 6 foot in length

• Wide step down ridge trim @ 10 feet

• 3 – rake trim 1 inch eagle rib @ 10 feet

• Tin snips

Cutting the ridge

This might be the simplest of everything we’re about to talk about. To cut the ridge board, simply measure from the outside of the back wall plate, all the way to the front of your sidewall. This will give you the length of your ridge. Next take one of your 2 x 4’s and cut it to this length. You now have the ridge cut, lay it aside and we will use it in a minute.

Understanding Rafters

Building a jack, valley, or hip rafter can be a little bit of a challenge. But since we decided to go simple and make our roof a gable roof, all we will be concerned about is what is called a “common rafter”. Anyone can build one of these even if it is your first attempt at a roof.

Before we begin, there are a couple simple building terms you need to understand.

•Rise – How many inches the roof rises for every foot of the run.

•Run –  The length from the edge of the center board of your roof to the edge of the top of the wall. One easy way to figure this, would be to measure from rat seal to rat seal, subtract the width of your ridge board and divide by two.

For our hideaway, we went simple and used a 6/12 pitch. In other words our roof rises 6 inches for every 12 inches of run. Which would put the center of our roof right at 7 ½ feet. (remember our walls are at 5 feet, so we have a 2 ½ rise .)

A 6/12 pitch will give us a 26.5 degree slope on our roof. If you want something with more or less of a slope you can customize it to your desired pitch. Just adjust cuts and board sizes.


Cutting rafters

There are two different ways to cut rafters, “the full bearing” and the “2/3 method”. I prefer the “full bearing”, but either is acceptable. For the sake of space, we will only discuss the full bearing method here.

To cut the full bearing method, we have to start with our plum line (26.5 degree) cut.

Place a 2 x 4 x 6 on the miter saw, set your saw to 26.5 degrees (you can round up to 27 and be ok) and cut one end of the board. This end will be the end that attaches to your ridge.

Next, we will need to cut the board where it will lay on the top plate of the wall. This cut is known as a birds mouth cut, simply because that is what it looks like. To make this cut measure from the end of the rafter you just cut down to 48 inches and 51 ½ inches and place a mark at both places.

Now we need to make the notch, known as the bird’s mouth in the rafter. For the full bearing method we first need to make the plum line on our 51 ½ mark. Draw a 26.5 (or 27 degree, whichever you used) angle where this mark is. (You can cheat by placing it back on the miter saw and using the blade as a guide.)

Next we will take the width of our rafter 3 ½ inches and use this to make our second mark. Take your carpenters square, find 3 ½ inches on it, line up the top or outside edge of the square on the plum line you have already drawn, and bring the square all the way up to the 3 ½ inch mark. Draw a line from the plum line, already drawn down to the edge of the board. (You will use the outside of the square) This will give you the lines to make your birds mouth cut. You can now cut the birds mouth or portion of the rafter that will rest on the plate.

Repeat this process 5 more times to complete all 6 rafters.

Placing rafters

The easiest way to do this is to start building on the ground. Placing one of the 2 x 4 plum line cuts (not the birds mouth end) on the end of the ridge board. Make sure the boards are flush on the end and then screw them in. Repeat this on the opposite side.

Repeat this process on the opposite end of the ridge board. Once you do, you should have two of your rafters on each side at opposite ends of the ridge board.

Now place what you just built up on the walls. The bird’s mouth cut should fit snugly over the wall plates, coming to a full rest(If there is still a little space don’t worry it will all be tightened up with the collar ties). Make any adjustments you need to and make sure the back rafter is flush with the outside of the back wall. Then screw the rafters into the walls.

Once all four rafters are screwed in, find the middle of your roof and attach the two remaining rafters. You can use these two rafters to tighten up the roof.

Adding collar ties

From some of the scrap 2 x 4’s you have left from other phases, cut 2 pieces that are 3-4 feet long. Screw these pieces on to the front pair of rafters and the middle pair of rafters (on the back side).  These will help tighten up and brace the rafter.

(photos after the tin was placed, and wood was painted…but you get the basic idea)

Bracing the gable

You will run these braces from the top of the back wall, to the bottom of the back rafter. You want the width of the end of the brace to cover the width of the top plate on the back wall.

From some of the scrap 2 x 4’s you have left from other phases measure and cut 3 braces to help brace the gable or the back rafter.  Screw them into place.

Securing the rafters

Measure from the outside of the back wall, to the edge of the front rafter. It should be roughly 63 ½ inches, but always be sure to measure your own when getting ready to cut.

Take your 6 – 1 x 4 x 6 and cut them down to this size. You will place these on top of the rafters and screw them down with 2 inch screws.  Place one on the outside edge of the wall and the other one in the middle of the rafter between the inside edge of the wall and the ridge, with the final one going close to the ridge. Do the same thing on the other side.

Placing the tin

Start by the back wall. Line up the edge of the tin, with the edge of the outside wall.  The tin should also be lined up with the bottom of the rafters. You do not have to be concerned about it lining up on the top. We’ll cover that with the ridge trim.

Once you have it lined up, use your roofing wood tip galvanized screws to screw it in. (Screw in the valley in between the ridges.) Make sure that you do not over drive it and dent the tin. I prefer overkill, so I placed a screw in every ridge of the tin.

(hints: make sure that you do not screw down the last ridge, until you put the second piece of tin on. Also, try to keep a straight line, this gives it a cleaner look. If you need to pop a chalk line on it, but do not use red chalk, it is more of a permanent finish, blue is a better choice for something like this. If you wish when you’re finished, go back with a dremel and remove the sharp ends of the screws coming through the top of the roof. Unless you can find at your supplier a shorter screw, which I was unable to.)

Once you have screwed in the first piece of tin {minus the last ridge} place the second piece of tin on the roof. It should overlap the first piece by one ridge. Line it up with the front edge of the first rafter and the bottom edge of the rafter. Then repeat the process.

Trimming the front and back

Finally, you will need to place the trim on. Start with the front and back trim pieces. My supplier had the rake trim 1 inch eagle rib @ 10 feet. You might be able to get it at a more suitable size. Since ours was at 10 feet, I decided to save money and just piece the back right section together, since it was the least visible.

Starting on the front, you will need to cut two of the pieces of the trim at a 26.5 degree angle, with the top edge being the longer side. (Start the cut at what would be the top, and cut back.)

Hint: when using the trim snips make sure you take small snips, if you take to big of a snip you may risk cutting a jagged edge.

Place both pieces of trim on the outside rafter, and make sure they meet flush at the ridge. If not, make some adjustments in your cuts. Once you are happy with how they fit mark the opposite end of the trim where the rafter ends and use the tin snips to cut it.

Once cut, place the pieces of trim back up on the rafter and screw them in with the roofing wood tip galvanized screws.

Repeat this process on the back, and remember, I had to piece together one side on the back.

Trimming the ridge

Place your wide step down ridge trim @ 10 feet on the top of the tin that is already screwed in. Make sure the back edge of the trim is lined up with the back edge of the wall. Then mark the front edge where the tin roof ends.

Use the tin snips to cut the trim to size. (Again if your supplier has the right size, your can save on a little waste.) Once cut to size, screw the tin into place and you are finished with the construction side of your hideaway.

Happy building, everyone! We can’t wait to see your projects!

Obligatory Disclaimer: The Handmade home is not responsible for any ideas or plans you borrow from us and build or make on your own. We do not proclaim to be engineers, building science majors or architects. The only thing we certify is how to make sweet tea and enjoy life. Build at your own risk.  

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Responses to building a handmade hideaway : the roof {how to build a treehouse}

  1. Mirinda says:

    What I realy want to know is what is covering the ground in the finished photo- it looks soft but not splintery like wood chips.

  2. kim says:

    if i may ask – how much did the whole project cost in total? this is truly a devine project and gift for your whole family. well done!

  3. This is the most clever thing I have seen in a long time! At first I was thinking that it would be perfect for the reuse of an old deck. We are thinking about tearing ours out and replacing it with a screened porch. How wonderful to move it and convert it to a hideaway! Also, I am reminded of the tents at Girl Scout camp when I was a child. Thank you for sharing this amazing project!

  4. Angie says:

    I can’t find where I asked about paint color and you replied! So I am posting here. Thank you! I seriously thought from some of the earlier pics that it was two colors. Hmmm…I am off to get Calypso Blue today…I may look for another blue to go with it.

  5. Valerie says:

    Hey there! We are currently in the process of making this in our back yard. We have slightly more confined space, so we are having to put the slide and the stairs both on the front of the deck and reduce the deck to 8X8. My question is about your railing… how did you make the X in the railing? And how did you secure it to the deck? I keep looking at your pictures for clues but I am not seeing anything that would tell us how to secure this to the decking and have it be the super sturdy it will need to be to have 4 kids (3 boys) playing in it for years to come. 😉 Could you give me some insight on that? Thank you!! And thank you for posting step by steps for this project! We are tweaking it for our own needs, but it is very similar to yours and I so appriciate your posts!

  6. Manny Vargas says:

    I am building the fort and was dreading doing the roof because it looks so difficult and it was, I went ahead and bought some metal brackets in different angles and it worked out better than I imagined. The hardest part was the dog hitch notches is what I heard my neighbor call them but its looking real good. What I ended up doing was getting one perfect and trace the rest. Just need the posts and little fence on the deck and the stairs then stains it all. I ordered a slide online so just waiting on that too, I work in the telecom industry so I was thinking of putting a pink payphone but I am near over budget we’ll see, I originally said no more than $1000 but I have a feeling I will pass that up with decorations that my wife is taking care of. My girls are really excited and so am I, wish I was a kid again

  7. Casey says:

    We are using your plans to make a playhouse now, too. We love it! Can I ask, where did you find the outdoor curtains and have they withstood the weather well?

  8. Joe Ferrero says:

    I just realized that I didn’t mention how much I like YOUR Handmade Hideaway tree house! It looks great and you can see the kids having lots of fun! Your attention to detail and the impeccable design are fantastic! I really enjoy how you inspire other’s to dream, design, and create! (and your website is not too shabby either!)

    Thanks again,

    Joe Ferrero of Tree Creations in Geneseo, NY

  9. Dawn says:

    LOVE the dream house!! i have a carpenter coming in a few weeks to make it for my daughters 5th birthday. She will be thrilled!! I found that the inside is Calypso Blue but what about the stain color and the paint on the outside. Any information would be appreciated! Thank you for your help!

  10. Nick says:

    I want to thank you for taking the time to post this great design. I have been working on a version for my 3 girls (6,8,9) for the past few weeks. They are out of town and they and my wife have no idea. I have raised it about 7 feet off the ground and put it between two trees as a treehouse.

    As others have commented I struggled with the roof trusses. I think your measurement of 51.5″ may not be correct. When I used this I ended up about 1.5″ short on each side to the ridge pole. I fixed it with a triple beam for the ridge and I think it will be fine. The truss should make a right triangle that is 47.25″ by 23.6″ Mr Pythagorean says that this should result in a length of 52.83″ (52 13/16″) from the edge of the rafter to the plumb line on the bottom side of the rafter not the 51.5″

    Other than that things have gone toether fairly well. I reinforced the railing by attaching most of them to the beams of the deck instead of screwing them through, moved the ladder and added a big slide. I also changed out to use cedar fencing for the roof as our homeowners association was not happy about the metal roof (I liked it). The Xs for the railings were a pain, but they look really great. Once complete I’ll send over some pictures.

    • jamin says:


      Glad it is going so well. We look forward to seeing the pictures.

      I think the difference is where you are measuring. I measure on the bottom side of the rafter where I will mark and cut, sounds like you are measuring on the top side and then marking on the bottom side of the rafter., thus the 1.5 inch difference. Hope that helps


  11. Erik Jaynes says:

    Hi All- Than you so much for posting this great design & build. I am halfway through and need to get some tin for the roof. I am finding it difficult to locate any at (not to mention the specific kind you seem to have in the pictures).

    Can you give me a little more information on the specifics of the tin (make, company) and where you bought it?

    That would be very helpful.

    Thank you,

    • jamin says:


      You should be able to contact a local roofing company supplier and they would be able to get their hands on it. I wouldn’t look at the local hardware store, prices on it will be high there.

      I hope this helps.

  12. Stephanie says:

    We have 2 boys who love this hideaway. We have to keep the roof midline @ 8 feet or under. Is this possible?
    What are the dimensions from the ground to the roof
    midline of this structure?

    • jamin says:


      Yes it is possible, that’s the beauty of building something yourself, you can tweak it to your desires. Our overall height is 11 feet. If you want to achieve 8 feet simply cut off 3 feet from the platform height or some from the wall height. You could take 2 feet from the platform and 1 from the wall, you could even take a foot from the roof line and do less of a pitch on the roof. Really any combination should work.

  13. Shane says:

    What about the instructions for the back wall portion that is above the 5′ mark to the pitch of the roof? The triangle section? I see it in the photos, but I didn’t see it in the instructions.

  14. Don & Jill says:

    We wanted to thank you so much for your “how to build a handmade hideaway” post. We fell in love with your pictures and were inspired to build our own “clubhouse”. Our girls love it and so do we. Our favorite addition is a zip line off the back for a speedy exit. So fun! Thanks again for the inspiration!