Tree swings may be old-fashioned, but with some care, some rope and a tire, or a wooden plank, what more could you want for spending some good quality times in peace, or having fun with your family? Swings in trees are good exercise, encourage outdoor activity, and are secretly good therapy. There are good reasons why swings have remained so popular for so long. In this article, we’ll be walking you through, step-by-step, how to hang a swing from a tall tree.
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What Type Of Tree?
The best type of tree for a swing is one with long, sturdy branches. Trees which have branches prone to falling off, such as old silver maples, are not the best choice. Neither are those with short branches, like conifers, or spindly branches, like a willow. A tree with cracks in its trunk is also not the best choice, as its overall stability is often compromised.
The ideal tree is a tall, semi-mature oak or sycamore. They have good foliage and a sufficient branch diameter for your swing. You need to find a tree branch with at least enough space around it to allow for swinging in whichever direction you want.
What Type Of Swing?
Having found your special tree, it is time to contemplate what type of swing you will hang on its branches. Most tree swing seats are made from a tire or a wooden plank. These are the most stable to sit on.
Plank bench seats tend to swing forwards and backward and hang with two parallel ropes. A tire swing can be hung flat, with several lines joining to a center rope, or upright, again ending up with a center rope. This means they are multi-directional, so you will need to allow for more ‘swinging’ space when hanging your swing.
What Type of Rope To Use
When considering what sort of rope to use, you need to think of comfort as well as durability. There are several options:
- Metal chains are certainly durable but are often uncomfortable to hold onto for longer periods. Little kids will also struggle to grasp a thicker chain.
- Nylon ropes are thinner but tend to stretch after a while, especially if rained on frequently. You don’t want all your hard work of hanging a swing to be wasted by going out one day to find your swing has turned into a seat on the ground.
- Hemp ropes and others made from other natural fibers have a ‘good for the environment’ feel, but will naturally decay faster than man-made materials. Most people want their rope to last a while, so this is one of the least popular choices.
- Polyester rope is the most common choice because of its durability. It is non-stretch and comes in different widths. A width of ½ inch minimum is comfortable to hold, but strong enough to hold the weight of a rope swing, plus swinging humans.
How To Fix Swing To The Tree
When considering how to fix your swing to your tree, it is essential to make sure your branch is strong enough to bear enough weight. When hanging your swing, you need to remember one crucial thing: the rope you use will gradually cut into the tree limb. As the groove in the tree branch deepens, the swing will become less safe.
To avoid this, two things are suggested. One is to use a rubber casing to protect the branch, then loop the rope around the casing. This will help keep your swing safe for many years, as well as preserving your branch.
The second is to use eye bolts to attach the swing, drilled into the tree branch, rather than tying the rope around it. This is generally considered a more secure method of hanging swings. An eyebolt kit can be easily purchased online. As the tree matures, it will grow over the eye bolt, making it even more secure. It is certainly one way to make sure your swing is going to be safe and a favorite spot for many years to come.
The height of your branch will come into play here, as you will need to access it, either to throw a rope around it, rubber case it, or drill your bolts in. One way to get to your branch is to climb onto it, but you don’t want you to hang from a tree, only the rope, so you need to take care if choosing this way.
A safer method would be to use a ladder, or better still, contact an arborist who can help you tie the rope in the ideal spot. Once you have one end of the rope fixed, hanging your rope swing will be a lot easier. At least find a friend to help you get the rope knotted onto the branch safely.
How High Should I Swing?
There are two important questions to answer here: how high do you want your swing from the ground, and how long do you want the rope. If your swing is for little ones, it is good to have it lower to the ground. As they grow, you can shorten the rope. As you do this, you will find the seat is higher from the ground and more of a challenge. It’s one way to keep your tree swing in use for many years.
Swing And Tree Health
Your tree swing will have many more years of use with regular checks of the rope stability and length. You need to check the branch health, too. No-one wants to find their tree swing is no good by falling on their back because of a broken branch.
Branches should be checked for boring type bugs – ie, those who eat their way through wood. Fungi is also an indicator that things are not the best in the tree world. Be wary of a tree showing failure to thrive – a tree that isn’t growing leaves or shoots when it should be often isn’t healthy. Excessive pruning could create hollow points and potential for cracking, causing your tree to be less safe for a swing. Again, an arborist will be able to give an expert opinion on the health of your tree. A check around once a year on your tree would also be wise.
Old-school is back, and technology-free time is what children need. If you have a suitable tree, a tree swing is a good thing to have hanging around. If you have the right tree, the right rope, and the right branch, you can use it to have hours of outside time. It is low-cost and doesn’t need much maintenance. It’s a win-win for parents… and who doesn’t want that? You may even enjoy a quiet moment on the swing yourself – or look back in time to a childhood memory of another rope swing on another branch. Regardless of the person on the swing, it will make your backyard a more used space.
But whichever rope swing or tree branch you end up with, I hope you get many years of use and laughs from your swing.