Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How to Install a Swing Between Trees

When Dova first asked to get a platform swing for the yard, I immediately thought of this cartoon that always floated around the office.

See more on Know Your Meme

As a mechanical engineer with no marketing input but a tough customer, I was up to the challenge. Here were the requirements:
  • Big enough to hold at least two people
  • Can swing and spin
  • Mounted between two trees in the yard
  • Does not damage the trees (no drilled holes)
  • Has to be fun fun fun!!
Here's the swing that we ordered with the hardware (actual or similar) that we used (affiliate links - thank you!):

Web Riderz Children's Web Swing, Black

FORTEM Heavy Duty Ratchet Tie Down Straps 1.5 Inch | 4pc Set | 2250lb Load Strength & 4500lb Break Strength |Rubber Coated Handles| Metal Buckles & J-Hooks | 2 x 15ft Securing Straps & 2X Soft Loop

The distance between our trees was 10 feet, and the circumference of each tree was approximate 5 feet each, so we choose a set of two 12 feet tie-down straps, which covers the 20-foot total length (distance between trees plus the two tree circumferences). Each tie-down strap will wrap around a tree and connect to the other tie-down strap in the center, so select a total tie-down length according to your tree distance and circumferences. Make sure the working load limit of the straps is over 2000 lbs.

Marine Mooring 1/4" Eye to Eye Swivel 304 Stainless Steel Silver Tone
This swivel is relatively inexpensive compared to a ball bearing swivel.  With a little Teflon lubrication, it worked plenty well for this swing. Just omit this if you don't want to swing.

Yasorn 2-Pack M8/0.32" Stainless Steel D Shape Locking Carabiner Quick Link Chain Connector Keychain Buckle
Use one pack of these M8 or comparable 5/16" quick links (2 links total).

The hardest part is to figure out how high to install the tie-downs on the trees. As with most engineering projects, it's an iterative process. We must have tried at least 3 or 4 different heights! The bottom of the swing ended up just shy of 3 feet from the ground, fine for our kids to hop on by themselves. The tie down straps were mounted approximately 8.5 to 9 feet off the ground.

First, wrap the long strap of the tie-down around the tree.  Install one of the quick links in the webbing loop used for the hook and then pull the long free end through the link. Edited 07/11/19: Pull the free end through the sewn loop at the other end of the webbing. Just let the hook dangle there. This change was made to prevent chafing from the quick link (see comments), as webbing is designed to loop with itself.

Install the ratchet part of the tie-down to the end of the long strap so that it ends approximately halfway between the trees. Do the same with the other tree and then attach the two ends using one of the quick links through the sewn loops. From the quick link in the center, attach the eye swivel and then the other quick link below it. Finally, attach the rings of the swing to the lower quick link.

From the customer reviews of the swing, I made a few safety changes to the swing. The slip knots attaching the hanging ropes to the swing frame were changed to figure eight knots.

At the top, tie-wraps were added beneath the rings to prevent the swing from tilting side to side.

Here's the finished product (tie-downs from the original post which lasted 4 years before the ratchets seized up):

New tie-downs from the Amazon link provided - much cooler in orange!

Let's see if it meets specifications:
  • Big enough to hold at least two people - check!

  • Can swing and spin - check!

  • Mounted between two trees in the yard - check!
  • Does not damage the trees (no drilled holes) - check!
  • Has to be fun fun fun!!

Oh yeah, we rocked it!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this alternative to drilling holes and installing a cross beam. I will be installing ours this weekend.

Unknown said...

This is exactly what I’m trying to do for my kiddos. Wondering how this system held up for you? Anything new you would suggest?

Angela said...

We've put the swing up for several years now and it works perfectly every time. I wrap a piece of yarn around the tree so we know where to re-install it every spring. Other than that, this design really works!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recent response, everything was really dated that I found. I brought this same swing with the same intent. Do you mind me asking how far you did go up the tree?

Angela said...

The tie downs are attached to the trees approximately 8.5 feet off the ground. I'll remeasure when we put it up again. We usually use a 7-foot step ladder to install it each year, which give a comfortable working height to install the tie downs and reattach the swing in the middle.

Jennifer said...

Thanks to this post we have successfully put up our swing ! We brought it from our previous house and I came this close to getting rid of it. Yesterday I was staring at our trees and realized I could maybe put a piece of wood between two trees. I googled it and your post came up. We bought everything you bought and it came out perfect!! Thank you so much for putting this tutorial together :)

Unknown said...

Thank you for the instructions. I'm doing the same for my kids. If I have only 8 feet between the trees do you think there is a risk kids will just bump into the trees when they swing around? did you have any issues with that? Thanks

Angela said...

With this swing, 8 feet between trees should be enough room to swing. You basically have about 2.5 feet on each side and would have to purposely swing sideways to be able to hit. With 10 feet between trees, we never come close to the trees.

Unknown said...

awesome. Thank you for a quick reply. Is there a reason to take it down during the winter? does it get rusted? also, I wonder if you straps pull down the more you swing or is it steady fixed on the tree? Thank you again for sharing

Angela said...

The straps don't move on the tree at all, but they do sag a bit in the center with weight and basically swing back and forth with the swing. We take the swing in during the winters just to keep it out of the elements (snow, ice, etc). We've had the swing now for 4 seasons without issues!

Cecily said...

You mention needing a strap with a rating over 100lbs. Is that load capacity or breaking strength?

Anonymous said...

I installed a swing for my daughter in September following the instructions and supply list. I modified it slightly because we didn't want it to spin. She loved it until one of the straps broke last week. Luckily she is ok and just bruised. The break point appears to be where the quick link held the tie down strap against the tree trunk. The friction made a clean tear through the fabric strap. The tie down straps we used were the same Erickson ones that are linked on your site. I share as a caution. It worked great for 8 months, but I will be looking for a different way to rehang it -- probably drilling through the trees.

Fuad Efendi [2] said...

Thank you Angela for sharing! I had this very raw idea, then googled "install swing on two trees" and found this post. I bought all parts, and now I am looking for portable ladder... because I plan to use it for few campings. Any suggestions? thanks,

Fuad Efendi [2] said...

Thank you Angela for sharing! Can you please tell exact height of construction? I plan to use it for camping, so that I need to buy portable ladder, I think 22"-high small aluminium trestle is enough: I am 5'10" and total height with my hands will be 8.5' reachable I think it is enough... thanks,

Angela said...

Hi, I'm sorry experienced a failure with the Erickson tie-down straps. I used similar Erickson straps that I purchased from Home Depot, not the ones listed in the post. We used the same set of straps for 4 years (taking down every winter), until this year because the ratchets locked up and I couldn't take them down without cutting them. I will update the post with 2" wide webbing and 2500 lb working load limit.

Angela said...

In terms of a portable ladder, it's not enough to be able to reach the 8.5' height, you need to be able to reach around the tree at that height, basically you need to be eye level at 8.5'. I would get a ladder that you could lean against the tree to be able to wrap your arms around the tree around 8.5'.

Fuad Efendi [2] said...

I'd also add that previously listed ratchet has 833 pounds working load limit. However "working" does not mean "swinging"; it is like 20Lb fishing line which will break by 5Lb jumping fish (if you don't loosen the line). During pendulum, 100kg man can create 400kg load (which is about 833 pounds).

Fuad Efendi [2] said...

I can wrap around tree while on the ground, then use 3-step ladder to move up; something like that. Yes there are some nice looking collapsible aluminium ladders, 12.5', but not sure about quality; and just ladder is not enough: what to do in the middle? No tree there for one-leg ladder; need step-ladder (two legs). Fortunately I found super nice at Amazon USA, Delxo 2 in 1 Lightweight Aluminum 3 Step Ladder, super small and tiny to take camping in SUV

Fuad Efendi [2] said...

Hi Angela,

Quote: "I will update the post with 2" wide webbing and 2500 lb working load limit"

With this design, "Archimedes Lever", stretching trap for 0.1" equals to pushing down the swing for 1" which is very easy (100Lb power applied? 200Lb?) . So it is really Archimedes Lever, at least 10x, and in order to have working load level 200Lb, you need to use 2000Lb straps, at the very least! It is not for few adults, only for small kids. And of course 2" width better, including tree safety & strap wear.

Final working load limit is less that 250Lb, although you are using 2500Lb straps... be safe!


Unknown said...

Thank you very much for sharing your experience which made our experience of putting our swing up so much easier! Our measurements coincided exactly so we just followed yours. Had some issues with the ratchets but figured it out and are enjoying now!

Unknown said...

Hi we will b constructing a swing frame because there are no trees. We figure 6”x6” posts at 12feet long will: Be in the ground 3 feet with cement. That will make a 9 foot height from ground to top. If we start the saucer at 2 feet from the ground, that will leave the distance from rope to the top at 7 feet long. How far should the post be from the center of our spin saucer? We don’t want the children to crash into the posts. Would it have to be 16’ apart? Please give me your best advice as quickly as possible as we have someone who can install this in three days in time for our 19 of 22. grandchildren to visit for a family gathering. Has to be safe. Thank you. Lisa

Angela said...

Hi Lisa, since you are constructing the posts, I would just construct a beam across the top of the posts and mount the swing with standard swing hardware from the beam. The tie-down method is really for existing trees that you don't want to drill into.

If you still want to use the tie-down method, it sounds like you will be mounting from the top of the 9-foot posts. This is actually about the height where my tie-downs are located now. The distance between our trees is about 10', maybe 11' where we the tie-downs are mounted. The kids never even come close to the trees. You have to remember that with tie-downs, the pivot point of the swing is lower than the top of the posts so you actual swing distance is determined by the distance from the top of the pivot point to the bottom of the swing. If you don't add additional length there, that is about 6'. It is doubtful that you can swing completely horizontal in the direction of the tree, so you wouldn't even need a full 12' between the posts. To be completely safe, I would suggest a 12' distance between posts.

Unknown said...

I see the error in your design... The break point appears to be where the quick link held the tie down strap against the tree trunk. The friction made a clean tear through the fabric strap.
The strap around the tree should be an independent piece of webbing tied in a loop with a water knot and connected (also to webbing, not straps which have an edge which can initiate a tear) with a metal fastener.

Unknown said...

I had the same concern all along and check conditions regularly on tears. Could u please pay a photo with new design you mentioned?

Angela said...

The quick links at the tree trunks were removed from the post on 7/11/19 and updated with new pictures. We have been just looping the webbing thru itself this year and it's been working fine. We've had 4 teenage girls on it at once (despite warnings not to do so) with no issues. It's possible to use a water knot at the tree trunk, but I'm not sure if that will provide enough tension to hold the straps up, you'd be relying on the friction of the bark against the strap. This design is self-tightening.

coneandday said...

This is great, and I'd like to attempt it for my kids. My most ideally located trees are 17 feet apart. I know your trees are a little closer together than that. Do you think your design will still work with trees that are a little farther apart?

Bob said...

Angela, Thanks for your instructions! Perfect presentation for anyone to follow. Took about 30 minutes to install between two pine trees. Looks and works great. Only change was that I used a Pacearth Swing Swivel (35KN). https://www.amazon.com/PACEARTH-Breaking-Rotational-Accessory-Childrens/dp/B07MNPFG9L)

Angela said...

Hi coneandday, trees 17 feet apart should be fine. Just size the length of the tie downs appropriately and start higher up on the tree. The center will dip further down when the trees are further apart. Enjoy!

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