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How to Safely Install Your Outdoor Tree Swing

23 Mar, 2017

How to Safely Install Your Outdoor Tree Swing

Start swinging safely

One of the most seminal creations was the swing. Something so iconic, so simple, so much fun is hard to dismiss or be unaware of. As one of the most iconic forms of summer fun, the allure of a swing is obvious. While the materials it is made of have changed from a simple plank and length of rope, the idea is the same. Using your body to move and enjoy the back and forth motion of gliding through the air. An outdoor tree swing is simple, and truly fun. However, it still requires care. To fully enjoy a swing, regardless of materials, you need to ensure it is constructed safely. Something made to withstand the weight of a person or persons using it. Swing seats can hold a single occupant, or be made to hold a whole group. How a swing is constructed may differ, but the same underlying idea remains. When installing or assembling your wooden tree swing, be aware of what you are attaching it to, and make sure it will last. A broken swing- particularly when being used, can be dangerous and create injuries from bruises to broken bones or worse depending on the severity of the landing.

Start with the best location

The classic idea of a swing is attached to a tree in some way. When you have one available, the first aspect to consider is the tree itself. Not all trees are as resilient, so be sure you are using a branch from one prepared to withstand your needs. Oak trees are well-known for their strength and durability, and are considered ideal. The opposite of those steadfast specimens are trees like evergreens or fruit trees. Their wood is known to split easily, and can create a hazard. If you have an appropriate tree, next consider which branch. To withstand the weight and pull of a swing, you should look for a branch no less than 8 inches in diameter, and no more than 20 feet of the ground. This will allow you room to swing without too much strain while giving the significant strength to hold up a person. Once you find a likely candidate, inspect the branch in question. I needs to be healthy and free of any signs of distress. This can include infestation, disease, splitting, or narrow connections to the trunk. Be very certain the limb is not a dead branch. Each of these can weaken or compromise the branch- and becomes a waiting game. It could break immediately, or when you depend on it most! Have an adult thoroughly test out your new tree swing before letting children swing on it.


Once you have the swing and a good branch, time to set up the actual tree swing. Start by choosing a point that is 3 to 5 feet away from the trunk to prevent any possible impact. How you choose to attach can vary. Either you can use a bolt through the branch, or a rope around it. If you choose the bolt, carefully drill a vertical hole through the center of the tree branch. Insert a ½ inch diameter or larger bolt into the hole. Be certain it is corrosion resistant! With washers and nuts, attach it through that hole, with the eye down. Over upcoming years, the tree will grow around the bolt, eventually enveloping the nuts- making the connection even stronger. Doing this will cause initial damage, but reduces any further damage to the tree. Many people use a carabiner from climbing gear to attach the rope for the swing, but whatever you choose should move freely through the eye. If you choose a rope, be aware that the friction will strip the bark off that area, causing damage to the tree bark. This can be reduced by using a tight knot such as a running bowline (or slip knot) to allow the rope to move, but not rub the tree. Over time, the tree can grow and the slip of the knot will accommodate that growth. Also consider using a rope sleeve or piece of rubber to protect the tree as well.

Moving parts

Once you have a tree branch and know what you want for attaching, you need to consider the type or rope. Polyester is likely the best choice, given the heavy resistance to the elements, high strength, and minimal stretch. Nylon rope is the strongest possible rope, but is known to stretch, and can be slippery when you need a good grip. Polypropylene is a lightweight material, and provides the cheapest possible option. However, UV rays in sunlight break it down rapidly, making it a poor choice as it would degrade and must be replaced fast. All ropes should be inspected and replaced every couple years or as needed, but this choice will be quite often. Also available is natural fiber rope such as manila, cotton, sisal, and hemp. These choices are not as strong as synthetic, and will rot. This leads to breaks without warning- again causing dangers. The final option is to use a metal chain. Undoubtedly durable, chains will hold up excellently against wear as long as you are prepared for rust. That said, do not use these for the wrap around a tree branch- stick to the eye-bolt method. Chains are also known to pinch children's little fingers, making them annoyingly painful at times.

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