How to Make a DIY Tree Swing

Tree swing in urban park
Mike Tauber / Getty Images
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 4 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Yield: 1 tree swing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $100 to $150

A simple rope swing suspended from a tree is the cherry on top of a good yard. Maybe it's because this classic lawn accessory is one of the few toys that, when done right, can actually improve the look of the yard while greatly boosting its fun factor. When built properly, these swings can last for years and provide safe playtime season after season. However, there are a few tips and tricks that you'll want to pay special attention to in order to ensure the quality and safety of your tree swing.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Extension ladder
  • Pliers
  • Measuring tape
  • Miter saw
  • Speed square
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Router
  • Chamfer bit
  • Orbital sander
  • Polyurethane brush
  • Small box level
  • Utility knife
  • Lighter

Materials

  • 2 2-foot 1/4-inch stainless-steel chains
  • 50-100-foot 5/8-inch twisted polypropylene rope
  • 2 1/4-inch chain shackles
  • 2 1/4-inch grab hooks
  • 2-foot 2x8 hardwood lumber board
  • 5/8-inch fender washers
  • Clear polyurethane sealant
  • Wood stain (optional)
  • 120-grit sanding pads
  • 220-grit sanding pads

Instructions

  1. Choose the Proper Tree

    Before building your swing, you should first scope your yard for the right tree. It's wise to avoid more fragile varieties such as evergreens, willows, fruit trees, and any other softwood varieties. Instead, focus your search on mature hardwoods like maples, oaks, hickories, and sycamores.

  2. Choose a Sturdy Branch

    The best candidate for a tree swing is a nearly horizontal branch that measures at least 8 inches in diameter and sits no more than 15 feet from the ground. From the ground, it can be hard to tell how sturdy a tree branch is. So, once you have a branch in mind, grab an extension ladder for further inspection. Lean the ladder against the branch and ensure it's safe before climbing. Measure the branch and inspect the overall health of the branch as well as the tree itself before moving forward.

  3. Position Chains on Branch

    While the rope is the quintessential part of a tree swing, positioning chains on the branch itself is a great way to ensure the safety of the swing, as well as make future adjustments a breeze.

    First, make sure you have enough chain to leave a little excess for tree growth. Outfit your chain with a grab hook on one end and an anchor shackle on the other, ensuring both are securely fastened to the chain. Slip the chain around the branch, and tightly secure it by hooking it to the grab hook. Repeat with the second chain, spacing the two approximately 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart.

    Tip

    Strike a balance when choosing the positioning of your chains. A swing that's too close to the trunk poses a safety risk whilst swinging, while one too far from the trunk could compromise the strength of the branch. On large, sturdy branches, aim for a spacing of at least 3 feet from the trunk.

  4. Attach Rope to Chain Shackles

    Slide the end of the rope through the chain shackle, then cut at a length that leaves each end touching the ground. Gather the two ends of the rope, wrap them around themselves, and pull through to form an overhand knot that sits approximately 4 feet from the ground. This will result in two loose ends hanging just above the ground. Repeat on the second rope.

    Warning

    We've chosen 5/8-inch polypropylene rope for its longevity and strength. Altering the size and type of rope used could compromise the safety and quality of your swing and should be done so with caution. Additionally, natural fiber ropes should be inspected often to circumvent safety risks caused by deterioration.

  5. Cut Board to Size for Swing Base

    If your board isn't precut, use a miter saw to cut it to a length of 24 inches.

  6. Measure, Mark, and Drill Holes

    Use a speed square to mark a spot in each corner by measuring and marking a line two inches from each side. Drill a 5/8-inch hole where each line overlaps.

  7. Sand and Detail Edges

    Fit an orbital sander with 120-grit sandpaper and remove all splinters from the board, especially focusing on the edges. Once the board is nice and smooth, fit a router with a chamfer bit, and set until the bit is positioned to create a 1/4-inch wide chamfer. Run the router around every edge, as well as inside of each hole. Sand the board once more with 220-grit sandpaper, ensuring there are no sharp edges or splinters.

    What Is a Chamfered Edge?

    A chamfered edge is one with a 45-degree face. It offers a soft transition from the board's top to its side, while maintaining a sleek, modern appearance.

  8. Stain and Seal Board

    Following the manufacturer's instructions, stain your board with your desired stain color or leave natural if desired. Once the stain has had ample time to dry, follow up with a clear polyurethane sealant, installing and allowing to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  9. Thread Rope Through Swing Base Holes

    Focusing on one corner at a time, thread each rope through the holes in the wood base, positioning a fender washer on the underside. Tie the rope in an overhand knot and leave the excess hanging. Repeat until all four ropes are threaded and tied, aiming for the base to sit approximately 2 to 3 feet from the ground. This may seem high, but once the ropes stretch and the knots are set, the swing will settle into a lower position.

  10. Adjust Base

    When adjusting the base, the position of the branch and ground are irrelevant. Instead, solely focus on the levelness of the swing base itself. Place a small level on the base and untie and adjust each rope until the seat sits level.

  11. Set the Knots

    Once you are satisfied with the swing's position, have an adult carefully sit in the swing to set the knots. Once the knots have tightened, inspect each knot, both at the base and the branch. If all is well, cut off the excess rope, leaving around 2 to 3 inches of excess for good measure, then melt the ends with the lighter to prevent fraying.

Ensuring the Longevity of Your Tree Swing

All components of a tree swing (including the tree) should be inspected at least once a season to ensure no wear or abnormalities have compromised the swing's safety. Additionally, regularly sealing your base will keep it from wearing due to exposure to the elements.