This webpage is dedicated to a personal friend of mine, who happens to be a world renowned architect, and has challenges when installing and supporting his Christmas trees! It is also written with sincere appreciation and love, for the many friends that shared in the ARCOMA tradition of Christmas tree research, installation and removal.
You all know who you are, and THANK YOU!
Although this webpage is presented with sincere suggestions and construction procedures, it is also written with the essence of Christmas, and the beauty of the season, which are hopefully acknowledged in the comments and the conclusions. This webpage joyously reflects on the fun that my family had, each season, as we attempted to erect the largest Christmas tree possible.
The installation of large, and for some individuals, small, Christmas trees, can be a daunting and technically challenging responsibility. There are several suggestions on this webpage which will ensure that your Christmas tree is properly supported, as well as capable of withstanding the onslaught of cats, dogs, the un-supervised toddler, or even an occasional architect, who failed to consult with his structural engineer, prior to the installation.
Hate to keep bringing up this architect thing, but as a contractor, it is simply part of my makeup!
Why would I think, that I could possibly have the knowledge to identify some common, and maybe not so common suggestions regarding Christmas tree installation? The primary reason for my profound insight into this structurally challenging process is that our family was known to always attempt to erect the largest Christmas tree in the neighborhood. Each season was not a success, unless the size, weight and girth of the tree were not larger than last season. Talk about pressure! In fact, our tradition was to assemble the football team for a several hour excursion, to a local tree farm, to search for the proper and largest Christmas tree, for installation in the house. I believe our tradition of finding, cutting and transporting the tree, became almost a badge of honor for my family and the boys around the neighborhood. Our family room had a ceiling height of 28 feet, which allowed the installation of the biggest tree we could possibly get into the house. In addition, based on some design foresight, as well as excessive enthusiasm, I had designed doors that were capable of opening to a width of 6 feet, allowing the squeezing in, of some very large Christmas trees. Of course the trim work did suffer, but no one ever complained, even the boss! To further explain the size of our trees, the removal of the tree was performed by chain sawing it down in the family room, and discarding it, by throwing it, branch by branch, out the window. This technique did save the further destruction of the door trim, due to the fact that the tree is much more flexible and soft when entering the house. By the time everyone has forgotten to continue the watering, halfway through the Christmas season, the dried out branches are much more destructive to any trim finishes that have survived the entry of the tree. Of course the continuing attempts, to set the record each year, caused the removal of trim finishes on the door jambs to accumulate as the years went on. I felt that this scrapped trim, was almost considered a badge of honor, which reflected the efforts of the season to squeeze the widest and heaviest tree into the family room.
My structural certification / I can accurately state, that we NEVER had an occurrence of structural concern, which would have caused any of our trees to tip from the vertical, or reach a point of tipping or instability. At least that is the way I remember it, and I’m writing the webpage.
Based upon this history of structural success, or my illusion of same, as well as Christmas tree dominance, I will make the following statements and suggestions.
THE ARCOMA METHOD OF CHRISTMAS TREE INSTALLATION
- If possible, the use of an established tree stand is recommended, although you will never find one big enough! Of course, if you are into larger trees, that have trunks over 12 inches in diameter, the use of a standard or even gigantic tree stand, will not open large enough to allow the trunk to be inserted into the tree stand. Tree stands are NOT where we are! There is no attempt to be either standard or even large when it comes to tree stands, nor this webpage, so you will not find one on the shelf that will be capable of supporting the trees that we are referencing. We are referencing BIG TREES!
- 5 gallon pails, available from the local hardware store, are the next best alternative to the use of an established tree stand. The use of a 5 gallon pail will allow the largest trunks to fit into the pail, as well as allow the remaining space in the pail to be filled with water. Remember the larger the tree, the more water it will require.
- A key to a stable support for any size tree is the platform that the tree is supported on. I had constructed a six by six foot platform of 2 X 4’s and plywood, to provide this stable support. This platform was basically a box constructed of 2 X 4’s around the perimeter, as well as two pieces installed side to side, under the plywood top, which consisted of ¾ inch plywood. This type of platform allowed the actual tree to be elevated off the floor, as well as the ability to screw into the plywood topping, without worrying about, screwing into the finished floor of the room.
- The 5 gallon pail was positioned in the center of this platform, and surrounded by a perimeter of 2 X 4’s that properly held the pail in the center of the platform. Remember; do not try to screw the pail to the platform or the 2 X 4’s. The pail must remain watertight to prevent the leaking of water onto the finish floor. This is why it is important that the pail being used is checked for any cracks or issues that would cause any water leakage out of the pail. In addition, the tree requires a constant supply of water, drying out this tree, after all of the effort, is not recommended.
- Dependent upon the size and height of the tree, strips of pine, approximately 1 X 3 inches in girth should be cut to the proper length, to allow the positioning of these supports against the trunk of the tree, down to the top of the platform. The intent of these support strips, is to provide an angle support from the tree’s trunk to the platform. By constructing the platform large enough, in our case, 6 feet by 6 feet, there was plenty of space left, after the pail was positioned at the center, to screw these supports into the platform. The angle of the support, from the tree to the platform, should be as close to 45 degrees as possible. The steeper the angle, the less support the angled 1 X 3’s will have. These supports act as knee braces, firmly supporting the tree to the platform.
This is probably where a structural engineer needs to be employed! (only kidding)
- It is important that this platform assembly, complete with the 5 gallon pail, be positioned and assembled in the room, prior to any attempt to lift the tree into the pail. This is an important step, due to the fact that a tree of substantial size has tremendous weight, and the insertion of the tree into the pail is a critical point of the installation. Another recommendation, at this point, is to measure the height of the tree with the platform and the pail assembly. The tree must fit under the ceiling height of the room! Not to be overly simple, but if the tree is too tall, you will not be able to straighten the tree,once you have it installed in the pail. Don’t forget that just because you were capable of fitting the tree into the pail at an angle, once you straighten the tree, it is taller. I realize that this is only common sense, but the point needs to be stated, for those of you that have difficulties with spatial prediction and realization. If you are going to lose the tree, this is when it will occur. In addition, the cutting of the angled braces should be done, including the installation of the screws at both ends. I would recommend that a minimum of 6 braces be prepared for this erection process. If the tree is exceptionally large, then additional supports could be required.
If you are an architect, then no matter how many supports you make, it may not be enough!
- Another good suggestion, prior to the insertion of the tree into the pail, is to install plastic sheathing, such as large contractor garbage bags under the platform. Depending on the type of flooring you are installing the tree on, the use of a large blanket or towel is also recommended. The idea of these products being installed under the platform is to provide a slipping surface, allowing the repositioning of the entire assembly, once the tree has been erected and trimmed. If the flooring is simply a wood floor, the use of a blanket under the plastic, will provide a slippery surface to pull and position the platform, if the flooring is already carpet, then the simple inclusion of the plastic sheathing under the platform, will allow the movement of the platform around the room. Remember the weight on the platform is substantial, so the movement of the assembly, must be facilitated with a product that will slip on whatever type of flooring is under the platform.
- Once the sheathing, blanket or towel is positioned under the platform, the pail positioned and supported on the top of the platform, and at least 6 supports prepared for stabilization of the tree, the insertion of the tree is performed. It is important that all the preliminaries are completed prior to the attempt to erect the tree! Trust me, this is stated based upon experience. A half tilted tree, into an incomplete assembly, that is not fully prepared to accept the weight and the angle of the tree, is a very sobering experience. To assist in the insertion of the tree into the pail, the platform assembly itself should be supported off of a wall, to prevent the platform from sliding, as the tree is inserted into the pail. Do not forget that the width of the tree is substantially greater than the width of the platform, so any support against the wall should be accomplished with spacers (lengths of 2 X 4’s) to keep the platform adequately away from the wall, allowing ample room for the tree, once it is erected in the platform assembly.
- Prior to the actual placement of the tree into the pail, ensure that the bottom of the tree has a fresh cut. This fresh cut will allow the wicking of water into the tree; in addition, there should be some type of spacer provided at the bottom of the tree trunk, to allow the bottom of the trunk to sit above the bottom of the pail. The reason for this is to enable the water to easily enter the bottom of the trunk. By lifting the bottom of the trunk off the pail, will allow an easier wicking of the water into the tree. It is suggested that additional saw kerfs be cut into the sides of the trunk, to further allow the water to enter the tree. Some thoughts on raising the bottom of the tree are to install nails into the bottom of the tree, allowing them to extend out from the bottom approximately one inch, or to set the bottom of the trunk on a block of wood, that is smaller than the diameter of the trunk. Creativity is recommended when finding spacers for this application, pieces of broken ceramic tile, pieces of brick, etc. can be used.
- Now the time of reckoning has arrived. Carefully, and hopefully with the aid of several high school football players, lift the tree, and place the tree into the 5 gallon pail. Of course the critical structural work should be performed by the most structurally proficient individual in the room! (meaning you ). As your assistants position the tree as vertical as possible, position the supports around the tree, and screw the supports directly into both the trunk of the tree, as well as the platform. You will immediately appreciate the structural soundness of this installation, once you start to screw these supports into the trunk and the platform. It is amazing how strong and stable the tree will stand, if the supports are properly positioned. It is recommended that the supports be installed at relatively even spacing around the tree’s perimeter.
- The final adjustment, as well as positioning of the tree, should be performed at the end of this tree erection and stabilization. The easiest method for adjusting the vertical position of the tree is to position the tree in relation to the room’s floor plan, where it will permanently be placed. Once the tree’s position is established, use wood wedges under the platform to adjust any vertical or plumb issues with the tree. The use of wood wedges, which are easily made, or can be purchased from the local hardware store, will easily adjust the angle of the entire assembly. Use enough wedges to properly support the entire platform, and to prevent any rocking of the tree as well as the assembly.
- If there is any reason to be concerned that the tree will reach an unstable condition, especially as the Christmas season progresses, due to cats, dogs and children either attempting to climb the tree or cause stability issues, the tree can always be tied off from the upper third of the trunk, to a wall attachment. This additional stabilization procedure was required once in our history of Christmas tree installation, and that was due to some very aggressive cats.
These are my suggestions for tree installation, and they are based on actually installing some extremely large trees into our family room. Another interesting suggestion is to bring three long lengths of pipe with you, when you are looking for your tree and cutting it down. These lengths of pipe can be used by your volunteer football players, one at each end of the three pipes, to support the tree, and carry it out of the tree lot or the woods. The total power of six high school football players, will allow the transportation of an extremely large Christmas tree to your vehicle. Of course the size of your vehicle is totally your own responsibility. Just remember that if the tree is too large, it will not fit into the standard Christmas tree wrapping equipment available at most tree lots, therefore, you now have another problem to resolve! No one ever said it was easy / but it is fun!
I would like to sincerely thank all of my FAMILY that contributed to some beautiful memories of Christmas tree selection, transportation, installation, as well as removal! We all have incredible memories of snowy days as well as hot days, and the overall love that this wonderful Christmas tradition provided all of us!
And it goes without saying, Thank you to all my son’s friends who assisted in this family event, and are now a wonderful part of all of our Christmas memories!
Good luck, and Merry Christmas!