Deek Diedricksen Cover

Deek is Back! After kindly agreeing to be a guest on the second ever episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, Derek Deek Diedricksen is here to talk DIY Treehouse Building. We’re not talking about 50,000 tiny homes in the trees. No, we’re talking about DIY, backyard treehouse building anyone with some tools and some trees, and a dream. Deek has built many, many treehouses, and he’s got tips, tricks, and hacks to share to make the process quicker and cheaper. Deek always has a lot of projects ongoing, so he’ll fill us in on what’s happening in the world of Relax Shacks.

In This Episode:

  • What do you need to know before you even start planning your treehouse?
  • Why would you NOT want to live in a treehouse?
  • Treehouse support best practices
  • Don't be afraid to let your materials dictate the build
  • Salvage tips for whatever you're wanting to build next
  • How long does it take to build a treehouse?
  • Architectural salvage: using old things to make new things
  • The renegade approach and secret dream builds
  • Treehouse permitting and respecting others

Links and Resources:

Guest Bio:


Derek "Deek" Diedricksen

Derek “Deek” Diedricksen is a self-proclaimed lover of all things tiny home. The Massachusetts-based builder is the author of numerous tiny home books; an organizer of tiny home building and design workshops around the country; and has been featured on more than one HGTV series and the DIY Network. His latest book, Microshelters, features 59 of the country’s most creative small structures—cabins, treehouses, stilted shelters, backyard huts, and tiny homes on wheels.



Do You Have A Question?

If you have questions that you’d like me to answer live on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, I’ve opened a new way for you to submit them. You can now record a question to be answered on the show. To submit your question, head over to and hit the “Start recording” button to submit your recording today!


More Photos:

A-frame cabin built by Chris Strathy
From the Diedricksen Brothers treehouse workshop
Getting a small trailer ready for a trailer build demonstration in Vermont
One of the builds from a workshop in North Carolina
The Robot Treehouse

From a workshop in Joshua Tree, California


Derek Diedricksen 0:00

I don't have an indoor shop. So I'm just working outside.

Ethan Waldman 0:02


Derek Diedricksen 0:03

By a bonfire. You know, keeping warm with whiskey, sometimes.

Ethan Waldman 0:09

Whiskey and power tools: a great combination.

Derek Diedricksen 0:12

The Deek Diedricksen story.

Ethan Waldman 0:13


Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 141 with Derek "Deek" Diedricksen. After kindly agreeing to be a guest on the second ever episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, Deek is back. Derrick "Deek" Diedricksen is here to talk DIY tree house building. We're not talking about $50,000 tiny homes in the trees. No, we're talking about DIY backyard tree house building anyone with some tools, some trees, and a dream can embark on. Deek has built many, many tree houses and he's got tips, tricks, and hacks to share to make the process quicker and cheaper. Deek always has a lot of interesting projects going on, so he'll fill us in on what's happening in the world of Relax Shacks. I hope you stick around.

But before we get started, do you have questions that you'd like me to answer live on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast? Well, I've opened a new way for you to submit them. You can now record a question to be answered on the show. To submit your question head over to and hit the appropriate button. Again, that's where you can record a question for me to answer on the show. I love hearing from listeners and I can't wait to answer your tiny house questions. Whether it's building living or anything related to the tiny house lifestyle, everything is fair game. Head over to and hit record to submit your question today.

Alright, I'm here with Derek "Deek" Diedricksen. Deek is a self-proclaimed lover of all things tiny home. The Massachusetts based builder is the author of numerous tiny home books, organizer of tiny home building and design workshops around the country, and has been featured on more than one HGTV series and the DIY Network. His latest book, Microshelters, features 59 of the country's most creative small structures, cabins, tree houses, stilted shelters, backyard huts, and tiny homes on wheels. Deek, welcome to the show!

Derek Diedricksen 2:43

Hey, thanks! Great to see you, man- or great to hear you/see you.

Ethan Waldman 2:46

Yeah, yeah, we get to see each other. Nobody else does.

Derek Diedricksen 2:49

Yeah, that's right. That's right.

Ethan Waldman 2:50

Was that bio correct? is Microshelters your latest book?

Derek Diedricksen 2:53

No, I got a newer one actually. Micro Living is even newer, which is which is kind of a sequel to Microshelters. It did so well, they wanted another book from me and I honestly think Micro Living, the new one, is like way better than the first one. It's also been doing well.

Ethan Waldman 3:07

I think I'm looking at my bookshelf I have Micro Living on the shelf. I think I have a blurb in that one.

Derek Diedricksen 3:13

I think you do actually I'd say if you don't have that one I'll mail you one right away because it'd be criminal for you not to have one because, you know, considering our history and workshops and all that.

Ethan Waldman 3:22

It's next to my my Lloyd Kahn collection.

Derek Diedricksen 3:25

He's awesome. Yeah. Love that guy.

Ethan Waldman 3:26

Yeah, I just had him back on to talk about the the homesteading book which is just awesome.

Derek Diedricksen 3:32

Oh, yeah, you should have him on like 10 times. He's so impressive. Just that guy's done it all.

Ethan Waldman 3:37

He doesn't like the tiny house movement though. He's like,

Derek Diedricksen 3:40

The do it yourself movement. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 3:42

Well, no, he just like he doesn't think that like a tiny home is practical for people to live in. So he's like kind of like

Derek Diedricksen 3:49

it depends on the setting and the argument I mean, that is a valid argument in some cases but I've been to his house a couple of times and gone out for dinner with him and stuff and he's just a fascinating guy. His house is just beautiful because everything is indicative of like his style and tastes the way it's built. It's all salvage it's just so cool to get a giant like compound of cool forts.

Ethan Waldman 4:09

Yeah, well there's there's a page in the in the homestead book that's just a picture of all the pelts of like roadkill that he's harvested that's my favorite page.

Derek Diedricksen 4:17

He's got this like shed of like skulls he collects and things like that. He gave me a cool abalone shell when I visited, too, that I made into a wall sconce for candles. The reflective properties of it are pretty cool. And it's a nice story behind it too.

Ethan Waldman 4:30

Nice. Well, you are kind of- you're many things - kind of known as the DIY, salvage master, author, artist, musician, kind of a renaissance man, but I want to talk specifically - or start with - treehouses. Mainly because they fascinate me and this is my show, so I get to just bring people on and talk about them.

Derek Diedricksen 4:56

I'm the boss dammit!

Ethan Waldman 4:57

Yeah, but you really have kind of made a niche for yourself building tree houses and you kind of - I don't want to say you do it on the cheap like they're not structurally unsound, but you definitely seem to have your own techniques.

Derek Diedricksen 5:12

Yeah, I mean it's there definitely budget-minded because I'm so immersed in the world of like reuse, salvage, repurposing all that, because it adds a lot of character and kind of saves budget-wise for myself and the client. And I'm very much so rooted in the world of treehouses, but being someone who's so busy with so many things, and my ADD, and I just drink too much coffee and work on whatever. I am not so organized in my approach. So it's really word of mouth. And I almost I feel like undercharged for tree houses. I'm kind of cool with it some respects. But I found some people were asking for tree house and Massachusetts recently, and, and they were kind of balking over the price I was giving them which I felt was almost selling myself short to start with. I said, here's a link for the other guy that works in this state. And his cheapest treehouse, which doesn't have walls and is a gazebo that goes in the tree is $25k. I said like, like, that's crazy. I said, I'll make you something that's one of a kind, inventive, cool that will you know, hopefully blow your socks off for a fraction of that. And, and style it to in a lot of cases, you know, paint it, style it for people. My daughter, actually who's 11 is so good at decor. We did a tree house recently, she styled the whole thing. The woman loved it so much, she bought all the decor off us and left it as it was.

Ethan Waldman 5:13

That's so cool.

Derek Diedricksen 5:14

She's like, "Oh my god, this is amazing. Could I pay you for all this stuff?" Sure.

Ethan Waldman 5:22

That's amazing.

Derek Diedricksen 6:37

So I'm building my team Ethan building my team slowly.

Ethan Waldman 6:40

Yeah, I know. You got the whole family. Well, you got Dustin on the on the build team. You got your kids getting in on it

Derek Diedricksen 6:46

Yeah, they're they're pretty handy. I mean, my son is built alongside us at some workshops. And he's often instructing 40-50 year old people how to swing a hammer. He's pretty good at it. But right now he's, he's more interested in video games currently than building, unfortunately. But hopefully that phase will pass.

Ethan Waldman 7:02

Yeah. Well, nobody wants to build outside in November in Massachusetts.

Derek Diedricksen 7:07

I'm still doing it. It kind of sucks. I don't have an indoor shop. So I'm just working outside.

Ethan Waldman 7:13


Derek Diedricksen 7:14

By a bonfire. You know, keeping warm with whiskey.

Ethan Waldman 7:17


Derek Diedricksen 7:17


Ethan Waldman 7:19

Whiskey and power tools: a great combination.

Derek Diedricksen 7:23

The Deek Diedricksen story.

Yeah. So. So when it comes to building a tree house, like can you take us through kind of your process of like, okay, so like, this person called you up and was like, we want a tree house like so what did you know? What's next?

Yeah, the initial questions usually are, can I have some if they're far away, because we traveled to do and we did a couple in Seattle recently. We have one on the plate in Beverly Hills proper, we might be doing soon. And that's a story. Maybe I'll tell you later with some high build people, that it could be pretty huge. But I mean, basically, you find out A) what trees do you have? Show me a picture? What species what size? What's the diameter? I try not to attach to anything, depending on the kind that's under 10 inches, you know, 12 inches of possible in diameter. You know, what's the locale the sighting? What's nearby that might be a risk, you know, other widow makers, things that might fall on the tree and hurt somebody? What are the neighbors like? Are they within visible distance? You know, are they cool? What's the permitting process, if even needed, for a build like that? It's usually a gray area. And those are the primary things that I ask them. And what do you want stylistically? Because I'm a one man crew with some of these tree houses. The Pete Nelson ones, you know, that's a whole different ballgame. They're they're beautiful, but they're basically some of them Nantucket style houses built into a tree. Yeah, so I've always been a fan of the I don't want to call it keeping it real because I'm not slighting him in any way because he's a master at what he does. Hence the show name. But I'm more into the whimsical, approachable, affordable, funky stuff. You know, I'll build someone a tree house for, in some cases, you know, $4,000 or $5,000 like a high end one for $10k or $12k. I've done some for far less than that too it all depends. I've even done some on barter, because I'm kind of a softy when it comes to pricing. One woman couldn't meet me at a price point, but she had a farm and I said, "I tell you what, your price what you can afford is good if I can pick unlimited apples from those trees and get eggs from your chickens during the build". And we struck a deal on that. My kids were happy because they were just like playing with the chickens the whole time I was building, harvesting eggs. So I'm pretty easy to work with. I like to think.

Ethan Waldman 9:36

So are these tree houses, are they usually intended as like, kind of forts and just like something cool or like people thinking like, Hey, I'm gonna put this on hipcamp and Airbnb it like, what are they building them for?

Derek Diedricksen 9:52

Yeah, you're seeing both. I'll find that a lot of it's a little bit different now because tree houses because the TV shows and all that are a little more widely accepted. And then there's all Facebook groups is, you know, something that's that adults can be into a lot of books on them as well. But I find that it's it's mixed, you'll find there's some adults who are kind of giving you the wish list for the treehouse and you and you realize quickly into it that the treehouse really is for them, but they're trying to pawn it off like it's for their kids. When it's for the kids, I try to recommend to people like listen, make it versatile so that when the kids get older, they can use it as a study spot, like build a desk into it, or it's a guest house when people come over to visit and things like that, you know, maybe they can use it down the road for storage or for an office themselves. themselves as adults. I got a treehouse in my front yard and in fact, it has heat and power and all that. And I've had quite actually two weeks ago we're wrapping up some filming on the box truck film, which I got to plug it

Ethan Waldman 10:50

I'm a backer.

Derek Diedricksen 10:52

Thank you. I know you're awesome. We love you. There is a there's a guy, Jason Kimball, who has been doing the filming. And he had to come into films of the wrap up stuff with myself and Alex eaves from Stay Vocal. And instead of like staying at a hotel and spending all this money, he just stayed in the treehouse. We gave him power and all that. You know, you know, Marty Scruelunas, the architect from Connecticut.

Ethan Waldman 11:14

Oh, yeah.

Derek Diedricksen 11:15

He stayed in the tree house. I get a lot of friends who catch wind that I have a tree house, which is free versus $150 hotel room. And while it's not luxurious, you know they'll stay there. So, yeah.

Ethan Waldman 11:26

Yeah, I'd take the tree house anytime.

Derek Diedricksen 11:28

Yeah, and it's a it's a unique experience. You know, actually, truth be told my own treehouse in my yard, I haven't spent the night and yet I'll have to fix that soon.

Ethan Waldman 11:34

All right. All right. Do it before it's too cold.

Derek Diedricksen 11:37

Yeah, but we got heat in there, though.

Ethan Waldman 11:39

Nice. So it's just like you ran an extension cord up there and you have like a radiator or something?

Derek Diedricksen 11:43

Yeah, that one an external grade extension cord. It's not like I didn't bury anything because you know, again, gray areas, this tree house is not hidden, though. It's at an intersection and it's 20 feet from the road and at night on a timer it lights up, so there's no missing it. And the front's clear. So it's like this giant glowing Rubik's Cube. I'm not trying to hide it. And it's been there for five years now. I've had no problems.

Ethan Waldman 12:03

Marty really put on a show for the passers by.

Unknown Speaker 12:07

Yeah, yeah: tassels, pole dancing. Let's not go there.

Ethan Waldman 12:12

Yeah, so do you know do you know if anyone is living full time in a tree house that you've built?

Derek Diedricksen 12:20

Ones I've built? Not that I'm aware of. Dustin and I designed a bunch of treehouses myself. He and myself myself and him probably both are incorrect out in Seattle, and near Seattle. We built three different times for Airbnb rental. So they're being slept in constantly. And they have like kitchenette amenities and you know, places where you could dine and sit eat and asleep loft and all that but they're not lived in full time by the same people over and over. There's people doing that here and there. But you don't find that as much for some reason, as you do with tiny houses. Treehouses aren't as widely acceptable for that maybe or the the appeal isn't there or there's too many factors.

Ethan Waldman 13:01

I can see there's some like practicalities. If you don't like climbing a ladder to your loft, try climbing

Derek Diedricksen 13:09

a ladder to to your house.

Ethan Waldman 13:11

Try climbing a ladder just to get into your house, right.

Derek Diedricksen 13:12

Because when you start getting really high with some of them, it gets a little bit perilous not only to build them, but to get up to them. Right. And if you're in the winter, climbing these icy steps to bring in that new sofa you just bought that might not even fit through the door. There's a lot of problems and challenges like that.

Ethan Waldman 13:27

Right. Right. So it's funny how tangents are I love the tangents like we're let's keep doing it. But now I'm gonna we're bringing us back so you've talked to the people they've told you like, the types of trees and the spacing in their yard. And then do you do you tend to kind of sketch something out? Are you like a design build? Are you more of a build design?

Derek Diedricksen 13:50

I'm easy to work with but it's a pain in the ass in that there's a lot of treehouse gigs that come my way that I just politely (and they won't know) deny, like, "Oh, I'm too busy", because it's not something I'm interested in. Yeah. So for instance, there was someone New Hampshire recently, they had a lot of money they're gonna throw at but I wanted stuff that was kind of not only unrealistic, but this treehouse that was basically - I'm not a fan of the platform with railings and open air, kind of, again, gazebo style treehouses. They just don't interest me they're not, you know, I like things to almost be shelter as art funky and cool, right. And I just wasn't interested and would have taken so much time that I knew that my interest in it my attention span would have weighed before I finished so I'm a little bit picky with what jobs I do take. And most people I think who contact me it's usually through my relaxshacksDOTcom YouTube channel, shameless plug. I think they know what they're getting into before they call me. So a lot of them will say, "Listen, here's the size I want it. I know your style. Give me a couple sketches. I'm kind of leaving it up to you. I trust you." Those are the dream gigs for me and most of the ones I do. And it's a lot of word of mouth. I just did a tree house in the town next to me because another woman, couple towns over I was friends with so and so on Facebook saw a picture of a tree as I did for them and it just snowballs. And this this year has been good to me even though it's been weird with COVID and everything, but down and the beauty of that is I can build tree houses without anyone getting near me and bothering me right I do them solo so there's no risk of me like going in and out of someone's house or finding lumber has been the challenge though with the price gouging.

Ethan Waldman 15:23


Derek Diedricksen 15:24

Yeah, I mean, not gouging but because of supply and demand. During all this lumber in some parts of the country has gone up as much as 200% in price around us, it's been 50% to 70% more expensive. So a 2x4 around us when I did this recent gig, it was like sticker shock was $6.20 for one 2x4 from Home Depot.

Ethan Waldman 15:46

Oh my gosh.

Derek Diedricksen 15:47

Pressure treated wood which I need for the base in a lot of cases you couldn't find it at all and I was telling the woman I was building for I said, "Listen, here's the photos I took to show you I'm not just making this up." I'm I was driving to multiple box stores to find the pressure treated lumber I needed because it was selling out so fast. And because everyone was at home working on decks and all that.

Ethan Waldman 16:06

Yeah, deck building season.

Derek Diedricksen 16:07

Another tangent there for you. What do you do now? What do you do?

Ethan Waldman 16:12

Yeah, well, what do you do? So you um, you know, I've actually I've had the tree house masters I didn't have Pete on but I had one of the guys from the crew on and we you know we talked about Yeah, some of the stuff but you know, they sell a line of like specialized stainless steel hardware for creating your your joists in the trees.

Derek Diedricksen 16:33

Garnier limbs. Yeah. Michael Garnier. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 16:37

I'm guessing that that you do not use that hardware.

Derek Diedricksen 16:40

No. I've used them before, because some people ask for them and they're great. Don't Don't get me wrong. They work great. Although I did say at one treehouse, I won't name, at one tree house B&B somewhere in the Midwest, that used them and put so much weight in them, when I was filming and exploring the treehouse you could see they were deflecting and bending. And and coincidentally, I'm trying not to name the location because the treehouse is beautiful. But I was leaving that area in the airport, Pete Nelson the same time without filming at treehouse, and I ran into him at the airport bar. Like I'm not making this up. And I've talked to him many times before. My first book has a quote from him and a review. So I was talking to him. And when I mentioned the treehouse, he pointed out the same thing. He was like, "Did you see the Garnier limbs under it?" I said, "Oh, yeah." And they're just like, bending because the treehouse, was just so massively over build that it started to bend at the supports. Anyway, those are great. But some of the tree houses I do when they start coming in at 150 bucks to 200 bucks a pop, which was the price they used to charge for them. It starts getting cost prohibitive. And I have to explain to the client like listen, just the hardware alone before you have your base might cost you 1000 bucks. If the whole budget the tree house is 5000 bucks. That's a problem. So there's a couple other methods I use, like the old school methods. Myself and builders like David Stiles, that's a guy you should have on. David and David and Jeanie Stiles, they're awesome. And they've written like 20 something DIY books, treehouse books. But there are methods like mine, or the old school ones, you know, a lot of like cleats that hold up supports slotted, you know, slotted openings for the, these lag screws that go into trees to allow for movement and chained cradled methods. There's a ton of ways you know many ways to skin a cat, as they say.

Ethan Waldman 18:25

What's your like, go to that you use most of the time.

Derek Diedricksen 18:28

It depends on the trees, honestly, you know, and a lot of them you start over building, there's a purist who will say it's not a tree house if there's a post touching the ground. But if I'm going to build something for Airbnb, for my own sake, these heavy big tree houses, sometimes it's unavoidable. And you'll see that with a lot of cleat nails and tree houses too, because they're huge.

Ethan Waldman 18:46


The simple like, I kind of I usually will use one method and have it backed up with a second method, I will build in in timber lock in a series of almost like cradling cleats, like a claw that holds a girder so it moves, and then additionally a lag screw through it with a slotted method. So that pre drilled hole, if you will, yep, is almost five times as you know, five, six times as long as the diameter of the screw. When the trees move it allows for that...

to shift.

Derek Diedricksen 19:15

Yeah, almost like you're at sea. So you'll go in all these tree houses. It's kind of disorienting and weird. And when it's windy, you feel like you're floating in a boat, but the tree is the tree houses are just gliding in different directions.

Ethan Waldman 19:25

You're like, it's like gimbaled you're like, the tree is moving and you're staying still.

Derek Diedricksen 19:28

Yeah, that's a great analogy. Yeah. For all the like the film nerds out there.

Ethan Waldman 19:33

Exactly. All the YouTube nerds out there.

Derek Diedricksen 19:35

That's great. Yeah, you're right. Other times if the tree is big enough that I'm attaching low down in it. I don't worry as much like if if you have a tree that's four feet in diameter at the base, that's not going to move too much in the wind when you're only attaching to it six feet in the air. In that case, I wouldn't worry. Like the one I did recently. In Massachusetts we attached. They only had one good tree nearby so the rest was on posts, but the one good tree was enormous. So I attach maybe eight feet up, I didn't really slot it as much as I normally would, because that's not going anywhere.

Ethan Waldman 20:05

Got it? So you're basically relying on those cleats to hold most of the weight of the cleats are anchored into the tree and then the, the joist or the the girder itself is kind of floating there but still tacked into the tree.

Derek Diedricksen 20:19

Yeah, it's almost a version, what they call a French cleat and building that you see in a lot of like, clip on tables, yep. But a bulked up version of it. And the backup is the lag screw or in some cases, it would be maybe a post or you can almost cradle chain things to another lag screw up above so the treehouse almost hangs. Yeah, in place. So one of those fails, you're still held up by other things. Nice.

Ethan Waldman 20:42

So yeah. So at at one of your, at one of your tiny house summer camps plug for that. And I worked on a tree house. That was a triangular shape platform. And it was like super funky.

Derek Diedricksen 20:58

Was that the one way back into the swamp that Vera was working on, too?

Ethan Waldman 21:02

Yeah. And so, you know, in that case, we were working with a triangular floor. And I think we just trying to remember what we did for the floor in terms of the decking, but for these, you know, kind of client builds are you putting down like joists and then a sub floor or you just like, flooring it?

Derek Diedricksen 21:23

No, itdepends, again, what they want and what the purpose of the treehouse is a lot of cases, I will put up a support system then built a build a separate loading base, that's all 69 Center, you know, built at a pressure treated wood. And sometimes the sub flooring itself if it's higher grade ply becomes the floor. Or in other cases, I'll put that down and put flooring on top of it. But usually lightweight, portable stuff like Pergo, the slicked back laminate stuff, which is very durable, and it looks nice. And it goes in fast. It's cheap. But usually it's kept pretty simple. I've done ones where with the floors have been insulated, and all that kind of stuff, too. But it just depends on the budget. That one you're talking about, though. It's funny, you bring it up because I built another version of it recently. And that thing was so simple and prefabricadable. If that's really a word. That some of those pieces for that one, we're working on it built in my backyard, and we brought them up to Vermont to assemble them. I've gotten so many people interested when I've seen the few photos I've posted on a tree house that actually literally today working on planned sets for it nice because so many have asked it actually has a rectilinear base. But the not triangular, but the sides of it. Were kind of like this weird trapezoid.

Ethan Waldman 22:35

Yes. Yeah, that's right.

Derek Diedricksen 22:37

Yeah, it almost looks like it's like an A Tetris like spaceship is one side was completely clear. And as simple as it is, I was just up in Vermont a couple weeks ago, every time I go into that thing, because it's painted almost bright orange inside as simple and stupid and easy as treehouse is. It is kind of cool. Yeah, definitely just fun. And when it lights up at night looks awesome, too.

Ethan Waldman 22:57

Yeah. So do you do treehouse workshops? Like, Can people come and learn this? Or is it kind of like they have to come to tiny house summer camp? And maybe jump on a tree house?

Derek Diedricksen 23:09

I have I've mixed them into the tiny house summer camp ones because some of the framing techniques for a tree house parallel that have tiny house building. And that's the idea. And I tell people, you come to a two or three day tiny house workshop, you can't build an entire tiny house in two or three days. So we show you the steps are some of the skills. I've done treehouse only workshop, two of them in Seattle did one Vermont. Mini class at one point in Australia and a couple others. I plan on doing some again because honestly, as of recent, My interest is not more than tiny houses in the tree houses. But I've been into tree houses longer than I've been into tiny houses. And they both go back to me being like, eight years old. So one could say I built my first tree house, you know, a long time ago, you know, 35 years ago? Yeah. So they've kept me busy. And they're very accessible. You know, instead of like, building a tiny house for 40 grand, I can build a tree house for somebody or for myself - a small glamping one - for 500 bucks in some cases. So that's why I like them. Finish one on to the next job on to the next job. I never get bored with it.

Ethan Waldman 24:17

Exactly. And and they seem like all of your buildings really are functional pieces of art. And they all have their own personality.

Derek Diedricksen 24:26

Yeah, I mean, I always in a self deprecating way. I always joke in interviews. It's functional art. We call it fart or a shelter as art we call it shart. I try not to take what I do too seriously. There's some people try to break down my approach to things like, dude, it's just a coffee, heavy metal and beer and having fun. You know, and I just incessantly sketch out ideas and here and there I'll find what I really like and try it in the physical world. And there's a lot of improv in it,too.

Ethan Waldman 24:52

Yeah, and you seem like you also incorporate a lot of salvage and found objects in your builds and they almost become like a motif of that build or like a center point that other themes kind of go around it?

Derek Diedricksen 25:08

Yeah, yeah, I mean, that's one thing. I teach people in any of the workshops. Don't be afraid to let the materials dictate the build. If you have a pile of lumber that's all six feet long that you found somewhere for free, try to put it to use design around that. You know, you have a giant Gothic window you found from a church they were tearing down, make that the focal point, the center point of your build, work backwards, work around that, incorporate that, you know, and let it kind of drive the direction of the build. Don't be afraid to do that. As salvage man, there's some cool stuff that's not being replicated or made any more. The price is right, you're adding that unique character, you're keeping things out of landfills, out of the waste stream. You're beating the system: you're saving money and infusing awesome individuality and character into your build. So why not do it?

Ethan Waldman 25:52

Yeah, totally. And like, maybe what are some things that are great to reuse in tree houses because I'm guessing like you probably aren't like finding salvage joists for the for the supports.

Derek Diedricksen 26:08

It depends. Here's an easy one, I'll tell you because I'm actually putting together this kind of video tutorial series slowly. And I film every time I'm actually working on something because I'll be like in a different shirt every five seconds of the video because and I explained that make fun of myself. I'm just piecing together as I'm actually working and stuff. It's becoming this hour long series. One neat tip, I think and this is really simple one to one is IKEA pumps out beds and bunk beds that are nearly disposable, but have these wood slat bottoms that are connected by these fabric bands. And people like I go trash picking at least once a week, I'll find the bundle still wrapped up with its fabric band of all these beautiful pine pieces that are three, four feet long. I grabbed those every time. You pull the staples out and you have this pile of wood that takes almost no time to salvage. You can use those for tabletops for benches. My daughter and I built a series of benches that we were selling recently with them, the stuffs free, you get into the more complicated territory of trying to find plywood, it's a little bit tougher to do. But you know, keep an open mind. I won't say anything can be reused. But if you were to check out which you're aware of it, but that a box truck film box truck, that documentary film we're working on, which is a UHaul truck box truck. That's a tiny house that's made out of almost 90% dumpster dive salvage material. There's a lot of cool reuses in that there's drawer poles that are handles that are made out of Lincoln Logs, skateboard trucks, drum set parts, there's just so many things you can do creatively with salvage to save money at the pump in some coolness some cool juice as I call it into your build

Ethan Waldman 27:48

The cool factor. I'm dying to see that that box truck film, because I've seen the box truck but I still want to see how the sausage was made.

Derek Diedricksen 27:57

Yeah, how the sausage was made. We did some so much but so long ago when I keep seeing that the cuts on it. I'm like, Oh yeah, I forgot when this that or the other thing happened or in the middle of the film. I got deathly ill at one point. While hurting my back, I had pneumonia, the flu, strep throat and an infection of my foot from an injury and hurt my back and still was building at one point they got even sicker. And I kind of forgot about those phases of the build, which is all of the film. It's taken us a while to build and finish up.

Ethan Waldman 28:29

Yeah, well, I mean, I'm excited to see it and it looks like it from what I've seen. It looks like it's gonna be great. Yeah.

Derek Diedricksen 28:36

I hope you'll dig it. And thank you again for supporting it too. Of course.

Ethan Waldman 28:39

I'm glad you survived. And plus, I had to get my hands on one of those sweet sweet Stay Vocal t shirts.

Derek Diedricksen 28:45

That's right, Alex actually has a brand new one out I designed. There's the another intro for the plug. Nice. Seed the change. It's a new series. Cool. Have a proactive cool graffiti ish t shirt with this creature I drew on these reuse shirts. He's a screen printing on so for that.

Ethan Waldman 29:03

Nice, nice and I'll link I'll link to all this stuff in the in the show notes for the episode. So people Awesome. Thank you go and check that out. Um, what you kind of teased a tree house in Beverly Hills before.

Derek Diedricksen 29:17

Okay, yeah,

Ethan Waldman 29:18

maybe. Tell us tell us about that one?

Derek Diedricksen 29:20

I don't want to talk about this. I will but I don't want to give too many details. I this this is me being disorganized because I do too many things. I missed an email or one of my accounts, which thank god this woman who was an agent in Los Angeles re emailed me A month later and I saw that one. He's like just checking in haven't heard from you I represent. It's a couple YouTubers that are enormous. One of his Carter Sharer, if you've ever heard the name and there's a couple of them, I won't get into it too much, but I hadn't heard of them. And then asked my son. Have you heard of Carter Sharer? I just talked to his people. He's like, Yes, I will. Obviously he subscribes to them. The guy's got 8 million subscribers. The guy and I started watching the videos and like, wow, this guy's kind of a big deal and awesome. And Lizzie Capri, I think is how you pronounce her last name. Anyway, she has a giant channel too. She's a force to be reckoned with. They want a treehouse built. We've been in talks, drawings back and forth. Photos of what I have done in the backyard if it's like 10,000 something square foot mansion in Beverly Hills. Wow. And they want to fly Dustin and myself out possibly to build this and we've been in talks for a while at first, I'm like, this is never gonna happen. I'm like, Oh my god, they're really into this. And I don't even know how they found me. I think it was just through YouTube. But they want one built for their YouTube episodes. Which would be kinda, you know, I'll be in this case, they're much younger than me. I'll be the old man that builds the treehouse for them with these hip youngsters. Yeah. So it'll be kind of weird to be immersive that atmosphere should this happen. But all sudden, COVID comes along. And we've kind of put it not put it on hold. But I keep pushing it back, because I don't want to miss this kind of gig. But at the same time, I'm not ready to travel just yet. Yeah, given some of the familial circumstances I'm dealing with here. So we'll see what happens either way, if that doesn't happen onto the next 42 treehouses elsewhere, something cool always seems to come along because I just keep doing it.

Ethan Waldman 31:15

Nice. Nice. Yeah. Well, it's I'm, hopefully, we'll send some tree house people your way from this podcast, although, maybe I should apologize because it sounds like you've got

Derek Diedricksen 31:25

no, no, it's good, man. It's good. Yeah, I just, you know, I only can fit in a couple of year. But like I said, I honestly, I'm very easy to work with. In some cases, maybe? Maybe too easy.

Ethan Waldman 31:36

How long do they generally take? You know, I'm sure there's a range.

Derek Diedricksen 31:38

It depends where they are, if I have to travel to do them, and I have like the ability to work in them, you know, one two hours a day, we can bang out a couple of days. It depends on you know what my schedule is like the one I did recently, I told the woman ahead of time, like, Listen, this one will be slow. I'm gonna hunt and peck, I'll come out for two hours. One, day three another day. I said, if you are cool with that, from the get go, I can build you this tree house if you're not in a rush. And we I built her something on a constricted, constrained budget. That turned out, I feel unbelievably awesome. And already has led to some other word of mouth and people contacting me. I saw the tree house that you built for so and so you know, what's the story I want one built and so that's why I'm starting to think of doing plan sets and almost it for them because I only can be so many places. That being one place at a time.

Ethan Waldman 32:31

Yeah, totally. Well, that's I think the plan sets are great idea. And especially like, you know, you mentioned david and Jeanie styles and their books, but I feel like, you know, any educational materials that that could be, you know, something that you could teach just like your methods for, for attaching to the tree. Yeah.

Derek Diedricksen 32:51

I have been working in a tree house book, too. And I actually had a book deal for it. But along comes COVID. And the publishing house in New York, a different one I was going with, basically canceled all projects that were in motion, because they had to layoff so many people on staff. So it's just, it's not meant to be yet, but I'm working on it. And I'm fine with not doing a book at the present moment. Because it's so as you know, you've done a couple it's so much work.

Ethan Waldman 33:15

It is it is it's almost it's almost not worth it. I will say

Derek Diedricksen 33:20

Yeah. And it every every time I finish one because I've released 4 now like I'll never do that again. And then somehow, the stupid side of me forgets how much work went into them. And all another offer comes along and I'm all eager to do it again. And then yeah, way through a person myself again. Yeah, but but the ultimate product when you release a book, I mean, it's pretty indescribable when they ship out that first box of them or you see them in stores. So I think I'll keep doing them. A glutton for punishment kind of thing.

Ethan Waldman 33:45

Yeah. Well, um, you know, you mentioned COVID. And I know that that you in the past have done quite a few workshops and how have you know, what are you working on now? How is it changed?

Derek Diedricksen 33:58

I have not been doing workshops. In fact, I've postponed a couple of them and the people have signed up for them have been cool enough to ride with the postponement and I had one in Joshua Tree supposed to happen in May get postponed to is supposed to be next month being postponed again, and everyone's staying on board which is kind of surprising and awesome. I thank them for that nice and tiny how summer camp for the first year ever did not happen this year. Because I made the decision to not have it thinking it just it's a hands on workshop, you know, wouldn't be the same if everyone's spaced out and not sharing tools and not able to build together. There would have been ways to do it, but I didn't think it'd be safe. So at the cost of me having to refund tons of people money I decided this is kind of stupid to do. There's other people out there doing workshops, I don't necessarily agree with them. I think it's too soon and you know, there's just so many things that could possibly go wrong. To each their own but I just don't feel safe doing them yet. Especially you know, I don't want to bring anything back to my family or some immunocompromised relatives that I have.

Ethan Waldman 34:58


Derek Diedricksen 35:01

I've been, like I said, interested in too many things, one of my side jobs that I do a lot of architectural salvage, and you know, street picking, if you want to call it that the unglamorous title, you'd be surprised the stuff you'd find in just cruising around once in a while, knowing the trash routes, picking up stuff, cleaning up rebuilding it, fixing it, or making it into something else and selling it. It's that that business has been very, very, very good to me there in COVID because a lot of people initially weren't wanting to shop at stores. So I could just leave the items out for them honor system style, and they were paying for them and I have been very busy with that. And Alex Eaves - to mention him again- from Stay Vocal, him and I have teen teamed up in a house clean out recently in Massachusetts, selling reselling antique stuff like that, you know, finding free building materials making crazy whatever decor I just made a a cat bed out of an old drum set and it sold like instantly, like just weird crap like that I'm having fun with while filming videos of it and selling the stuff.

Ethan Waldman 36:03

Yeah, so it's like multipurpose.

Derek Diedricksen 36:05

Yeah, I tell people I'll stop creating stuff when I die. And only then.

Ethan Waldman 36:12

Yeah, I mean that's that's like the human condition - have to keep creating,

Derek Diedricksen 36:15

I guess I guess both a blessing and a curse. No, I love it man. It's just too many things in too little time. Time is the enemy I always say there's so many things I want to do.

Ethan Waldman 36:24

Yeah, well, I mean like how much of your like house your space is devoted to storing like these salvage building materials that you're finding like Windows and lumber and that kind of stuff?

Derek Diedricksen 36:39

You get two different answers if you asked me or my wife I I'm not a hoarder, but the way I collect things and wishes they eventually get used and remove Yeah, but it's too easy to find good stuff. So depending on what season it is, you know, like I said, the salvaged stuff right now it tends to get a little bit out of hand if things start backing up the materials I don't store indoors though I have a separate wall separate art studio because I do a lot of painting graffiti work that's built off the side of my house now where I store some of it and outside I have like a shed and a half with a lumber rack and some storage space where I just cram whatever I can in there. And once it starts you know, piling up it's time to build something if there's no client for it, I will just build freeform build something fun and knock on wood every single time I've done that it's found a buyer without having the client First I'll just freeform build some cool shelter, you know, mobile shack or whatever and they all have sold. And then they're made out of junk, like I said to which is kind of crazy.

Ethan Waldman 37:37

A lot of cool like tables and chairs and things that I see come across the Facebook feed.

Derek Diedricksen 37:45

Yeah, it's fun man. You know, I've been dabbling with more like doing. I wanted to get into metalworking more, but doing it electrical stuff. I've been rewiring things and building you know, making lamps that have crazy stuffs, steampunk ish things and there's always new things to learn. Which is why you know, life is kind of a damn exciting I feel

Ethan Waldman 38:02

Yeah, yeah. Any I know you you have in the past, you know done a lot of tiny house tours like in your travels, and I'm guessing you haven't toured any lately. But any any kind of recent favorite tinies that you've either stayed in or maybe you've dusted off the video footage and we're like, oh, yeah, that was that was cool.

Derek Diedricksen 38:23

The funny thing is, you know, Steven Harrell from tiny house listings he gets in my case, I have probably 100 something videos I filmed that I haven't had time to edit and release. Because I get busy with other things. Oh, yeah, like tiny houses. I toured in Tasmania when I was out there like amazing stuff. I just haven't had time to like, load the stuff, edit. I did one recently. That's the ladybird tiny house that's down in Texas. It was built by the small dwelling company, which is Sam and Lindsey Underwood. From Weatherford, Texas. I think there are great people awesome builders, I think it's their site. They bought this house that just, I feel I'm kind of jaded in the scene these days, because I've stayed in so many houses towards so many of them. There's so many festivals, this house, literally just how once I took my breath away, it was just impressive. And I didn't even know they built it. I saw it. And it's for sale right now in fact, and we have a video tour on my relaxshacksDOTcom YouTube channel, and that house impressed the hell out of me. It's just very well laid out beautiful, pretty luxurious, which is usually not me. You know, I'm doing this interview with my hair's not combed. I'm wearing a heavy metal shirt, and I'm not even wearing pants. So no, not really. But uh, I usually go for the lo fi stuff. This one just on the luxury, luxury scale blew my mind. So that has impressed me.

Ethan Waldman 39:40

Well, nice. And so you've got a tour of that up. I'll definitely link to it.

Unknown Speaker 39:45

Yes, yes. The most recent one on my channel.

Ethan Waldman 39:47

Cool. Any other any other sweet projects that you can let us in on?

Derek Diedricksen 39:53

I mean, once this documentary film is done I have plans to work on another one loosely that you know This one took so long I thought it's gonna work in this year. But based kind of on, I grew up with the renegades approach, and I still do it kind of secretly and illegally building shelters in the woods. Don't ask, don't tell. Don't ask, don't ask permission. And I kind of love the thrill of that kind of stuff. And I always want to do these installations, just in the middle of like, private and public land, that, you know, people could stumble upon these funky little architectural creations, I, I'd love to do a series on that, but want to do a documentary on building one in some hidden locale. And talking about the challenges involved from assembling it in a way that's portable, to erecting the thing without making much noise. And sure, there's gonna be people hear this and think, like, well, that's illegal. That's terrible, and just irresponsible of you. No, it's just awesome. It's kind of just something fun I'd like to do because I would get to be also have a kid again, doing it. And I don't know how the film would would play out. But I have a couple of key friend builders in mind where just be a cool excuse to go out, build something crazy, camp out and see if we can get away with building an interesting structure hidden in the woods somewhere. And maybe somewhere post online would be the GPS, you know, latitude longitude coordinates of it, if people ever want to find it. And then I get sued when someone falls out of that tree house.

Ethan Waldman 41:20

You have to do it anonymously, I guess.

Derek Diedricksen 41:22

Yeah. But that's a problem. We do a film. It's not, you know, it's not or we just take the thing down when we're done. I don't know. Yeah, but it just appeals to me a lot. Because I can wrap in treehouse building, the renegade approach, and hiking and canoeing and all that stuff all into one. It's like, how can I amass all of my interests and hobbies together into one? and film? That's I was a film major at one point in time. That's my other interest. So, we'll see.

Ethan Waldman 41:45

Well, speaking of legality, and bringing it back around the tree houses as a last question, and you touched on this a little bit, but like, what are you what do you find for the permitting process? I mean, it's like they don't touch the ground. So it's kind of it is a gray area, but

Derek Diedricksen 42:03

Most towns don't touch it, to be honest. I mean, certainly, you can't build a tree house that someone's gonna live in 24/7 or like one of the Pete Nelson sized ones, it's just not gonna fly in most jurisdictions. So most of what I'm building is the equivalent of like, a fort, or an overgrown adult fort, and it's up in the trees. A lot of them, like I said, don't touch the ground. They're not permanent structures. There's no real verbiage you know, on them.

Ethan Waldman 42:31


Derek Diedricksen 42:32

At at then Town Hall. I hope it stays like that for a while. But yeah, I haven't knock on wood. I haven't had a problem with a single tree house I've ever built for anyone in regards to that kind of stuff.

Ethan Waldman 42:43

What are what is the size usually, like dimensions that you usually like the best or ballpark?

Derek Diedricksen 42:51

It depends on the trees and the budget. You know, some of them will have decks included. Some of them will just be a boxy treehouse with a little landing like the one of my front yards about eight by eight with a front wall that leans outward, almost like the prow of a ship. So when you're in there, it feels like it's maybe 10 feet long instead, you know, generally eight by 10, eight by eight by 10. Eight by 12. You start getting much bigger than that and building up like the one in Seattle we did I think it was maybe 12 feet tall inside because I had a loft in it, it starts to get pretty heavy and imposing. And then the base has to be really overbuilt, and that takes more time and money. And that was one I criminally undercharged on but it came out so well that it's been like a calling card for me photographically for other gigs, but nice. That's the general size. So I'd say eight by 10.

Ethan Waldman 43:39

All right. And that's that, that sounds like it's a manageable size, like big enough to be functional, but also not like so big that it takes forever. And

Derek Diedricksen 43:48

you don't want this giant edifice, like in a tree on the property line. But you know, leering over your neighbor's daughter's bedroom window there, it's not gonna it's not going to bode well. So you got another thing it was citing and placing these things, a lot of clients will tell me, here's the tree I wanted the tree house built at. And I'll tell them here, this is a bad idea for the following five reasons. And sometimes it's like you're too close to your neighbors, you're not respecting their space.

Ethan Waldman 44:11

Right? And they don't want to they don't want a viewing platform above their property.

Derek Diedricksen 44:17

Exactly, exactly. And you don't want that to you want your own privacy. So that sighting is really important. There's also like, you know, where prevailing winds come from because three houses have giant billboards that catch wind in flexible trees. So you have to factor that in, you know, what kind of windows do you want in it for passive solar gain? And what kind of trees you under, you know, in the, in the winter, for instance, when the leaves come down, you get that gain? Is that something you want or don't want, depending on where in the country you are, there's a lot there's a lot more goes into it than people realize.

Ethan Waldman 44:46

Yeah, I think I think you should be charging more. That's, that's my takeaway.

Derek Diedricksen 44:51

I've have had so many people when I tell them I charge like, "Dude, what are you doing? I should at least be double that!" It's just tough. There's different leagues of clients when you approach a certain price point, it scares them away immediately. Even though you're underselling it, and it's tough. And every once in a while, if I want to keep busy or film something, I'm like, yeah, I'll take a bullet that makes and I'm like the treehouse we just did for these people. I completely actually undercharged them and they were so happy with it. They overpaid what the agreement was, but they had three young daughters who were just adorable. And I was building this tree house for them. I'm like, Man, I'm a softy. Like, I know how it is for them to have this cool tree house like okay, I'll do it. I'm stupid, but I'll do it.

Ethan Waldman 45:31

All right, Deek Diedricksen: Renegade tree house builder with a heart of gold.

Unknown Speaker 45:37

His motto: I'm stupid, but I'll do it. Hold my beer.

Ethan Waldman 45:43

Thank you so much for being a return guests to the podcast. You were you were episode number two. And this will be

Derek Diedricksen 45:50

Yeah, I thought was early on. Yeah, this

Ethan Waldman 45:52

is somewhere in the one high 130s or maybe even 140. So

Derek Diedricksen 45:57

I gotta say, Man, you've been like hanging with this and popping out some great stuff. So we appreciate you doing these, too. You've had some really cool guests on so thank you for having me back, too.

Ethan Waldman 46:05

Thank you.

I appreciate that. All right.

Derek Diedricksen 46:07

Thank you, Ethan.

Ethan Waldman 46:09

Thank you so much to Derek "Deek" Diedricksen for being a guest on the show. You can find the show notes from today's episode including links to Deek's work, and lots of photos of some of my favorite treehouse builds that he's done at And again, that's that And don't forget to head over to the to record a question for me to answer on the show. Again, that's, and I'm looking forward to answering your questions. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman. And I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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