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Project Guide

How to Make a Tree Swing

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Find a Site for a Tree Swing
A tall tree with strong branches, suitable for a tree swing, in a green lawn.

Be safe and make sure there are no shrubs, rocks or other obstructions nearby that someone might hit while swinging or if they fell or jumped from the tree swing. 

Prepare the ground under and around the swing for safe landings. Use this guide, How to Prep Your Yard for a Swing Set, to learn about different kinds of shock absorbent surfacings for an outdoor play area. 

Next, find a sturdy, healthy branch at least eight to 10 inches in diameter that is no more than 10 to 15 feet above the ground in a strong hardwood tree. Choose a branch that is parallel to the ground as much as possible. Avoid using a fruit tree, evergreen or other tree that is prone to break easily. Make sure the branch is long enough to position the swing at least three to five feet from the tree trunk.

Prepare a Board
Someone using a saw to cut a board to make a tree swing.

Start with a 4-foot long, 2- x 8-inch board that is pressure treated and ground rated. Avoid using soft pine shelving, which might split. Choose a hardwood like western red cedar or oak.  

Cut the board to 24 inches long with a hand saw or miter saw or ask your local Home Depot lumber associate to cut it for you.

Round the Board Corners and Drill Holes
A saw being used to cut rounded ends on a board to make a tree swing.

Round the corners of the board by placing a paint can or small bucket at each corner and tracing around it with a pencil.  Use a hand saw or jigsaw to cut off the edges and create rounded corners. This step is optional, but it can make the swing safer and more comfortable to use.

Now use the pencil to mark a spot two inches from each end of  the board. Center the mark between the long edges. Use a drill with a 5/8-inch drill bit to drill into the marks and holes for the ropes. 

Sand the Board
Someone using a sanding block and sandpaper to smooth a board for a tree swing.

Use sandpaper or a sander to sand the corners and all the surfaces of the board until they are smooth. Wipe off the debris with a tack cloth

Paint or Stain
Someone staining a board to make a tree swing.

Paint or stain the board, if desired, on all surfaces and inside of the drill holes. For best results, apply a primer before you paint the board and let it dry thoroughly before moving to the next step. If you stain the board, let the stain dry thoroughly and then apply a coat of polyurethane before going to the next step. 

Hang the Chains
Chains fastened around a branch to make a tree swing.

You will need two 1/4-inch galvanized or stainless steel chains to hang the swing. To find the lengths of the chains, measure the circumference of the branch and add three inches. Your local Home Depot hardware associate can cut the chains for you. You may want to leave a few extra links in the chains in case the branch grows and you need to adjust them later.

You'll will also need two 5/16-inch galvanized or stainless steel anchor shackles with screw pins. The shackles will help lessen the stress on the rope and make it easier to move the swing to in the future, if desired.

Be safe, and lean a ladder rated for your weight against the tree. Make sure it's stable and secure and climb up to put the chains around the branch. Attach them 20 inches apart and at least three feet away from the tree trunk. 

Prepare the Rope
A coil of rope to be used to make a tree swing.

Start with 100 feet of 5/8-inch diameter, hollow-core braided polypropylene rope for the swing. Substitute sisal if you prefer, but use a rope that is pliant, yet not too slippery for children to hold onto firmly. Braided polypropylene rope will not rot, as natural ropes can. If you use sisal, check it regularly and replace it when needed.

You'll also need two 5/8-inch fender washers

Make a figure eight follow-through knot to attach each end of the rope to each anchor shackle. Adjust the rope so the center hits the ground. From the ground, pull the ropes to make sure the knots will hold and that the chains on the branch won’t move around. 

Locate the middle of the rope and cut through it with a utility knife. If desired, briefly hold each end of the braided polypropylene rope over a lighter flame to melt it so it won’t fray. 

Put a 5/8-inch fender washer underneath each hole in the board and thread the ends of the ropes through the holes and the washers. Tie secure knots in each end of the rope so the swing hangs about two feet off the ground. 

Adjust and Test
An adult swinging in a tree swing to test that it is secure.

Use a tape measure and level to ensure the board hangs the same distance from the ground at each end and that is it level. Cut off any excess rope as needed, leaving a couple of inches on each end in case you need to adjust it later. 

Let an adult  sit in the swing to test it. An adult’s weight will “set” the knots to make them hold and keep the swing safe and stable. Expect the swing to hang a couple of inches closer to the ground with an adult sitting in it. 

Supervise children or those who may need help with the swing. Kids like to do tricks on backyard swings but tell them to keep both hands on the rope at all times. 

Inspect the swing regularly and replace any parts that show signs of wear or damage. If the rope starts to rub grooves into the tree branch or cause any other kind of damage to the tree, move it somewhere else. 

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