How to Install a Tree Swing

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated March 25, 2022
Child on tree swing
Photo: DigitalVision / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Choose a mature hardwood tree and avoid evergreens.

  • The swing should hang on a 10–15-foot branch that’s at least 3 feet away from the trunk.

  • Opt for an eye bolt installation for a permanent and sturdy swing.

  • For easy installation, you can use hanging straps.

  • Check with a local arborist before you decide on a tree.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

A traditional tree swing is a simple way to make your yard fun and picturesque, but not every tree is right for a swing installation. There are a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure your swing is safe. Here’s what you need to know before you toss a rope up that old tree.

1. Choose the Right Tree for Your Swing

Not all trees are equal when it comes to choosing the right one for your swing. While it’s important that you pick a sturdy, healthy tree that can handle the weight of a swing, you’ll also want to keep in mind these factors that could affect which tree you choose:

The Dos of Choosing a Tree for Swings

  • Prepare for the future. The initial swing might be for a young child that only weighs 30 to 40 pounds, but as your child grows, the burden of the weight on your tree also grows. Over-engineer and pick a solid branch that can handle a much higher weight than anticipated.

  • Select a mature hardwood tree. Some of the best trees for swings include oak, sycamore, ash, and maple trees.

  • Choose a thick branch. Your tree branch should be eight inches or more in diameter. 

  • Pick the right branch height. Opt for a branch that is somewhere between 10 to 15 feet tall. Anything higher can be a safety hazard, and anything lower will have a more limited range of motion.

  • Measure the appropriate height off the ground. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the swing should be no less than two feet from the ground. 

The Don’ts of Choosing a Tree for Swings

  • Avoid weaker trees. Just because your tree is large doesn’t mean it’s right for a swing. Fragile trees like willows, evergreens, and fruit trees are delicate and more likely to break under the weight of a swing (not to mention, you don’t want an apple to land on your head!)

  • Don’t choose an unhealthy tree. If your tree has holes in it, sickly branches, or regularly loses branches in stormy weather, chances are that tree isn’t suitable for a tree swing, even if it is the right species. You might also want to schedule an arborist inspection if it shows signs of illness. 

  • Ditch low-hanging branches. Though they might be easier for tossing a rope over, you don’t want your swing to be too low to the ground.

  • Don’t install too close to the trunk. Make sure there are at least three feet between the swing and the tree trunk to avoid crashing into the trunk while you swing. 

2. Use Durable Materials that Withstand Weather

Ensuring that the materials used in the swing are durable enough to stand up to the elements is just as important as selecting the correct tree. The rope will be outside 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and exposed to rain and sun, so it needs to be tough.

A proper tree swing should last for a good number of years, but you should check your tree’s health on an annual basis or after major weather events. Trees are living organisms in dynamic environments, and things can change over time.

Removing any overhead dead limbs is a key safety consideration for any new or existing swing, and you should keep an eye on your tree’s branches in the years following the swing’s installation.

3. Installing the Tree Swing

To attach the rope to the tree, don’t toss the rope over the branch—as tempting as that may be. Doing so prevents the limb from growing, stunting its growth and killing it over time. Instead, there are two main methods for installing a tree swing: the hanging straps or the eye bolt method. 

Here’s how to install each swing option:

Hanging Straps Swing Installation

The easiest way to install a swing is by using hanging straps. This method doesn’t require any additional machinery or tools, other than the rope and a tree protector, such as a rope strap or sleeve. To install a hanging strap, you’ll need to tie the rope around the branch and secure it using a slip knot to prevent the rope from constricting the tree when it’s not in use. 

Make sure your rope is at least a 1/2 inch in diameter, and choose a durable rope material, like a braided polyester, to ensure it is long-lasting and secure. Don’t worry about having a level installation right off the bat, either. You can adjust it after you’ve secured the two pieces of rope to the tree when you install the seat of the swing.

Eye Bolt Swing Installation

If you choose an eye bolt installation, you can use either rope or metal chains to hang from the tree. This is a permanent installation and does slightly injure the tree. As such, eye bolts are extremely durable and resistant to deterioration over time. However, if you’re uncomfortable drilling into a branch on a ladder, this type of installation may be best left for a professional.

To install an eye bolt swing, you’ll need:

  • A drill

  • A drill bit

  • Two eye bolts 1/2-inch diameter or greater (stainless steel or galvanized steel)

  • Two washers and nuts

  • Rope or metal chains 

When choosing eye bolts, make sure the eye of the bolt is long enough to go all the way through the branch and large enough for your rope or metal chain to hook or loop through before you start. 

Using a ladder to climb up, drill directly into the tree, insert the bolt, and secure the bolt with the nut and washer to the other side of the tree. Then, thread the rope through the eye or hook the metal chain to the eye and connect the wooden or tire seat of the swing to the end of the rope or chain. Repeat on the other side, being sure to have the same measurement for both pieces of material.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro to Install a Tree Swing

Arborist climbing tree
Photo: iStock / Getty Images

You can save on the cost of hiring a pro by DIYing your tree swing installation. Hanging straps are straightforward and don’t require a professional hand to get the job done, and a tool-savvy DIYer can certainly have a go at installing an eye bolt swing. 

At the same time, choosing the right tree for your installation often requires an experienced eye to make the safest and best decision. 

Ask an Arborist to Install a Tree Swing

When in doubt, call in the professionals. Hiring a qualified arborist to inspect the tree prior to installation is always a good idea. Not to mention, many tree companies likely offer swing installation as a part of their services. So, if it’s also time for your routine tree inspection, you can knock out two tasks from your to-do list in one swift motion. 

It’s important to identify any issues with a tree's structure, health, or even placement on a property. A local tree removal service can fix some problems to allow for a swing (removal of a few overhead dead limbs prior to installation), while other tree problems are out of a tree service company’s control (energized overhead power lines running through the tree or potential swing’s path). 

Generally, your pro will work with you on the type of swing and also discuss considerations about its placement.

How Much Does a Professional Tree Swing Installation Cost?

It costs anywhere from $40 to $160 to buy the swing set materials and an additional $150 to $500 for the professional installation. Cost factors for the installation include the clearing of lower branches, ground leveling, and the complexity of the installation.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.