What You Should Know About Backyard Tree Swings


What You Should Know About Backyard Tree Swings

Tree swings are excellent sources of fun for both children and adults outdoors. For many of us, our best childhood memories were when we were swinging beautifully from a tree. Yet in all the fun, a tree swing should be safe and durable, shouldn’t it?

Tree swings are basically made of ropes attached to the branches of a tree with a seat. This seat can either be a tire or wooden plank seat. The swing should hang a minimum of 3 feet from the trunk. Ideally, the seat of the tree swings should be at least 17 inches long and 8 inches wide.   

Choosing or making the right tree swing involves selecting the proper thickness of the rope, which doesn’t stretch too much. Also, your choice of a tree needs to be strong enough for the swing. Not only does the swing need optimal spacing, but the swing also needs to have the right height away from the ground. All these we will be learning to get the perfect tree swing.

What Kind of Rope Should I Use for a Swing?

There are many styles or configurations for building your tree swing. The rope – and how the weight of the person will be distributed – contributes to your choice of a tree swing. You also have to consider the support system as well. Commonly, there are single or double rope tree swings, chair swing, or a tire swing.

The critical features to watch out for in your choice of a rope include its thickness (or diameter), its resilience (to stretching and atmospheric elements), strength, and ability to sustain a knot.

The thickness of the tree rope determines its grip as it is dangerous to lose hold of your grip while flying through the air.

Nylon ropes

Nylon ropes are the strongest types of ropes for tree swings. The disadvantage of nylon ropes is their susceptibility to stretching. Also, their slippery feel makes it difficult for little ones to grasp it properly.

Polyester Rope

Polyester ropes are the most recommended for tree swings. Braided polyester ropes rank highest among all the synthetic ropes you can use for your tree swing. This results from their premium strength, minimal susceptibility to stretching, good tolerance to weather elements, and great grip.

Natural Fiber Rope

Just as the name suggests, natural fiber ropes are produced from plant materials. This cuts across the likes of hemp, manila, sisal, and cotton. Natural fiber rope is commonly seen in rustic tree swings.

The sad thing about natural fiber rope is the need for regular replacement. This should be optimally done every 12-24 months. Agreed, these ropes don’t boast the same strength levels as synthetic ropes.

Therefore, it is common to see natural fiber rope break suddenly (without signs) or rot too quickly.

Polypropylene Rope

If you are looking to spend far less on a tree swing rope, you may as well consider Polypropylene ropes. They don’t cost much. They are great at holding knots, lightweight with measurable strength.

However, their affordability is sadly offset by their vulnerability to rot. They have far less resilience against UV rays from the sun.

How Wide Should a Swing Seat Be?

The width of the seat of your tree swing significantly determines its convenience and safety. Ideally, the length of your seat should be at least 17 inches. The tree swing seat should optimally have a width of 8 inches and a depth of 1 inch.

What are Swing Seats Made of?

The makeup of your tree swing seat is typically determined by the person it would be carrying and the overall construction in terms of ropes.

If you have older children, flexible canvas seats are better off. This type of seat can be readily made from wood or plastic. You can also use rubberized tire tread (ventilated) for such a canvas seat.

How High Do You Hang a Swing?

The height of your tree swings is a major element of its safety. Tree swings shouldn’t be too high off the ground to reduce the impact of an uneventful fall. The tree branch to which you are attaching your tree swing should have a maximum height of 20 feet off the ground.

How Far Apart are Swings on a Swing Set?

Spacing among swings is essential to reduce the possibility of collisions and consequent injuries when several kids swing simultaneously on a swing set. The minimal distance between tree sets should be 12”.

We recommend you go for a spacing of 16” between swings on a swing set when you have bucket swings, belt swings, and gliders. Such 12” spacing is more ideal for disc swings and tire swings.

How Much Space Do You Need Behind a Swing?

Tree swings need ample space for a good swing. Basically, the tree swing should be hung a minimum of 3 feet from the tree’s trunk. This reduces the chances of the tree swing colliding with the tree. If you have a belt swing or bucket swing, then the distance between the ropes or chains should be 18”.

How Far From a Wall Should You Hang a Porch Swing?

Comfort and swinging distance are critical considerations when hanging your porch swing. This is why we recommend that you should situate the hangers a minimum distance (behind the porch swingOpens in a new tab.) of 2.5 feet from the wall. If you can position 3 feet, that is even better!

How Thick Should a Rope be for a Tire Swing?

The thickness of your rope should be at least ¾ inches. This should give the rope sufficient strength as well as an excellent grip – even for your little ones.

These ropes should be reliable. You can choose from polyester ropes, braided nylon or manila. We don’t really approve of natural fiber ropes.

How Do You Hang a Tree Swing without a Branch?

Optimally, your tree swing needs to hang from a tree branch. This branch is most times parallel to the ground. However, a tree with branches is not a necessity. The tree from which you are hanging your swing must not have a natural branch, in fact. You can improvise a design that compensates for the absence of a natural tree branch.

The first step towards achieving this is the sturdiness of the tree. Only robust trees would do as you need a tree with sufficient strength to hold the weight of the swing when it is loaded.

This is why we recommend reasonably old trees – say ten years old, at least with well-developed roots in the soil. We don’t advise you to use young trees. Such trees may not be sufficiently developed to hang a swing without branches.

Now we have to construct the artificial branch for the hanging. Your choice of material is important. This material needs high resilience. Take note that we will compulsorily have to drill the material we choose. Metal boards and sturdy wood boards are great options.

These are easy to maneuver. For the length of material, it should be 1.9 meters or more. This should be enough (in terms of thickness as well) to hold the weight. Having procured the artificial branch we would be adding to the tree, the next step is the drilling process.

This point of the tree to which you attach the artificial branch should be low enough. The ideal location is the point of separation of the branches from the trunk. For enhanced stability, you can nail the board to the trunk of the tree.

You can now hang your swing to the artificial branch we have just created. If you are making the swing yourself, you would need to drill holes to secure the swing to the branch.

These holes need to be spaced from each other. Aim for a spacing of 21 inches between the drilled holes. Note that the sturdiness of the rope is crucial. If you are not making the swing yourself, you can readily buy an already-made swing kit. In this kit, you will find necessary accessories like hooks, ropes (or chains), and the needed swing board.

How Do You Protect a Tree from a Rope Swing?

Indeed, a tree swing can cut into the bark of the tree and damage the tree in the long run. If the tree is too tightly girded by the rope of the swing, it will inhibit its growth. However, damage to the tree can be reduced.

The first step is padding the rope of the swing

If the rope of the tree is perpetually contacting the tree directly, it will cause damages to the tree from the consequent friction. This can be avoided or reduced by placing a rubber garden hose between the tree and the rope.

This goes a long way in suppressing the pressure the rope exerts on the bark of the tree. Particularly, a rubber garden hose is good for enhancing weak trunks for proper support. This can prove helpful in boosting the stability of younger trees.

You can also attach your rope to straps

Rubber garden hose can damage younger barks. This is why you may want to go with flat straps fitted with grommets.

For one tree, you can ideally deploy three straps (or two) for the staking. These ropes should be threaded through the grommets.

Traps have improved systems of distributing pressure against the tree. They cover a wider surface along the tree’s trunk. Tree-staking straps are incredible for supporting very young trees for your swing. They are also useful when your tree is tilting.

Is My Tree Strong Enough for a Swing?

Your tree needs optimal strength to hold the weight of the loaded swing, as said. Aside from the maintenance need to sustain the strength of the tree, the tree needs to be inherently sturdy. This is why the species of tree matters.

Sycamore trees and oak trees are great options, especially if you are in the Pacific Northwest. Tree species like poplar or willow are frowned at as they are not reliable enough.

In addition to the species, the tree should be healthy and of the right size as well. It is paramount that the tree you choose for your swing is not ridden by parasites or disease. The tree should be sufficient nourishment in addition to robust roots.

As said, we prefer older trees are they are naturally stronger. A mature tree that is still young is the ideal choice. If your tree is too old, there is a higher possibility of the tree dying soon or drying off.

This way, they would lose that vital combination of strength and flexibility needed. Trees of 10-15 years are excellent for your swings.

We have noticed that many homeowners are deceived into choosing the branches with the best appearance in levelness. The suspension pattern (and angle) matters more than the levelness of the branch.

What Type of Rope Does not Stretch?

Your rope mustn’t stretch much. Let us examine the common types of ropes in view of their stretching properties.

Starting with cotton fiber ropes

Cotton fiber doesn’t have the same abrasion resistance as industrial grade fiber. They also have lesser UV stability. However, reinforced cotton fiber can do well for a quick fix. Such a reinforced cotton variant has an average stretch of 7% at the breakpoint.

Nylon fiber

Nylon ropes are notorious for that stretching. They can stretch up to 28% of its length at the breakpoint. They don’t have sufficient give. They are better suited to applications where elasticity is needed.

When going for nylon fiber, ensure that you get it from a reputable store. Many stores pass off polypropylene as nylon.

Polyester fiber

Polyester ropes are the best for your swings. They boast more durability and versatility. They also have minimal stretch. Typically polyester fiber stretches about 12-15% of its length at the breakpoint. This means that nylon stretches as much as twice of polyester fiber at the breakpoint.

Aside from this, polyester ropes have impressive UV stability, especially the industrial-grade polyester.

Polypropylene fiber

Polypropylene has more stretch than polyester ropes but lesser stretch than nylon ropes at the breakpoint. While it has similar stretching behavior to nylon, polypropylene has a creeping behavior when experiencing moderate tension.

They are very cheap, making them a ready choice for those hoping to build tree swings with a minimal budget. Admittedly, polypropylene is not very durable.

Typically, polypropylene has an 18-22% stretch at the breakpoint. There are many varieties of polypropylene. There is a soft type called the MPF (otherwise multifilament polypropylene) and the hard polypropylene. The latter sorts of looks like a weed whacker trim line.

Overall, polypropylene gives you a one-season solution and can even float on water. Hence you see that aside from tree swings, polypropylene fibers find application in water skiing.

How Big Does a Tree Branch Need to be for a Swing?

The stability of your tree swing is largely connected to the size of the branch it is hanging from. This cancels out the possibility of using just any tree limb. The tree branch must have the right diameter or thickness.

We recommend that the branch of the tree you are hanging the swing from has a minimum diameter of 8 inches. This gives the branch not only the necessary thickness for the seat (and consequent loading) but also ample sturdiness to support all the hanging hardware you would be installing along the line.

The tree branch should also have the right height. It is advised that it should have a maximum height of 20’’ from the ground.

Aside from the thickness of the branch, the branch should be very healthy. This means it should not have significant defects like cracks and bulges.

It is also important that the swing is hung in the right location on the branch. If you are using a tire swing, then you should ensure clearance of no less than 30 inches between the tree’s trunk and the swing itself.

This is because if there is an excessive distance between the main trunk of the tree (along the branch) and the swing, the branch would get weak too soon and break off.

Do Tree Swings Hurt Trees?

Tree swings can indeed hurt the trees from which it is hung. Nonetheless, notable precautionary steps can be taken to avoid the damages to the tree.

Get the right tree

The first of such steps in reducing the potential damage on the tree is choosing the right tree type for your swing. The tree, as we have said, should be sturdy. This is why hard trees are excellent choices for your tree swing. You may want to go with hardwood species like maple trees or oak.

It is not advisable to use softwood or evergreen trees. These types of trees are more prone to splintering from the sustained pressure. Also, it is advisable not to choose fruit trees for your swings.

Deadwood is also a bad option as there is a reasonable chance that the bark would already be drying up. In other cases, insects and ants would soon make a mess of the tree, significantly slashing its strength.

Your best choice is a living branch. If possible, the branch of this matured tree should still have some green leaves on it. It should be reasonably free of fungus and bugs with a fresher bark.

Get the right hardware

Another thing to watch out for is the compartmentalization of the tree from the tree swing. This comes into play, when the branch is excessively punctured or drilled when the swing ropes are being connected to the branch via chains screws and bolts.

Penetrations from drilling have a way to callus over with subsequent tree growth.

To do minimal damage to the tree, the tree swing should be made with the right hardware. It is safer to attach the tree swing to the branch using eye bolts. Thoroughly drill through the branch for the installation of the eye bolt. This eye bolt would hold the threaded connector.

This way, the tree swing can be reliably attached to the tree branch, reducing the chances of the swing inhibiting the growth of the branch along the line. We recommend that you choose eye bolts that are appreciably resistant to corrosion. These eye bolts should ideally have a diameter of no less than ½”.

You can also reduce the stress of the swing on the branch by reasonably spacing the swing from the tree trunk. This reduces the chance of the branch snapping from piled-up stress, hurting the swinger.

We have earlier on recommended a minimum spacing of 3 feet from the tree trunk.

Are Tree Swings Safe?

Tree swings are safe so long the appropriate procedures are deployed in constructing them as well as the right practices observed when using them. Having a durable and safe tree swing is more than just hastily tying a swing to the branch of a tree.

For premium safety and durability, invest in the right materials for your tree swing. Such materials have a natural resistance to rot and decomposition. Yes, we implore you — for the safety of your kids — to avoid wood coated with pesticides. Such chemicals are dangerous for your kids to contact.

Periodically wash the corners with dish soap to prevent the possibility of wasps and bees nesting in it.

If you are using side-by-side swings, they should be apart by no less than 8 inches. For the swing, if you are not using wood, go for lightweight designs like soft plastic and flexible rubber. This gives the swinger better convenience (less friction from seating) and improved bottom grip.

Based on the perpetual movement of your swing, it is only natural that wear and tear would occur. Habitually check for such symptoms of wear and tear if possible once in 3-4 weeks. This way, you would spot losing bolts which you can tighten as well as oil the swing’s moving parts against sustained friction.

Take note that your kids or the swinger can fall off the swing. Sometimes, they can be hurled off the swing mid-air. This is why the area of your swing set should be equipped with safe landing facilities.

If possible, cover the area with fine sand, bedding of rubber mulch, or bedding of wooden fiber mulch. This is sure to reduce the impact of such uneventful falls.

Finally, we advise that you use ropes for your tree swings as opposed to chains. They are safer and reduce the chances of hurt or pinches to the fingers of the swingers, especially little ones.

The rope you use should be strong to hold the weight of the swinger without experiencing strain.

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