Installing a swing in your backyard might sound like a simple task, but there’s a lot that could go wrong. Take a look at our quick guide to installing a swing to make sure that yours is safe and reliable for many years to come.
Choose and Inspect Your Tree
Not every kind of tree is going to be able to support a person's weight effectively. Opt for strong and well-established hardwood trees with good horizontal branching. This isn’t just to ensure that your swing stays up, it’s to protect your tree as well and to ensure you don’t stunt its growth. Particularly avoid fruit trees or softwood trees, since they’re naturally not as strong.
Once you’ve found a healthy tree to use, you’ll need to inspect it carefully. Make sure that your tree is healthy and isn’t suffering from any diseases or pests that could weaken or kill it. Then test the branch to check that it’s solid and doesn’t bounce when weight is applied 3-5 feet away from the trunk where the swing will be attached. Lastly, make sure that you have a nice clear area around where the swing will be, so that there’s a safe space to swing in.
Pick the Best Materials
A lot of people like the rustic feel of natural fiber ropes, but they aren’t a great option since they can decay relatively quickly. The same is true for UV-sensitive plastics, like polypropylene. Nylon is very durable and makes a fairly good choice, and metal chains are naturally the most solid option to go with. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend using a metal chain, though, because the links can pinch small fingers when the swing is in use.
Also make sure that the sitting surface is water resistant, and that bolts, screws, and nuts are made of durable stainless steel so you don’t have to worry about corrosion.
Securing the Swing
When hanging web or fabric swings, you’ll need to be very careful about wrapping anything around the branch. If you want to go this route, make sure to use knotwork that will minimize constriction and friction, which could damage or kill the branch. Using some form of slipknot will help to allow the branch to continue to grow. Regardless, you should still regularly inspect it to ensure that no serious damage is occurring.
A more reliable way to go is to drill vertical holes through the center of the branch, and screw ½ inch or larger eye bolts into them. You’ll need to properly secure these with washers and nuts on the top of the branch, because the threading alone will not support weight securely. Do not try to screw sharp eye screws directly into your tree. Not only is it not as effective as a bolt, it could also easily crack or otherwise weaken the wood.
To hang your swing, simply thread some strong carabiners through the eyebolts, and then secure the ropes to them. This reduces friction on the rope and eliminates any potential problems with the rope’s thickness.
Make sure to regularly examine your tree, ropes, and bolts for damage and wear! Even well constructed swings need to be maintained and occasionally repaired.