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Rope Swings for Yard and Outdoors - Materials

When designing your hammock, rope swing, or bench swing, there are many materials decisions to make. There are the ropes, the seat, the mount point, the mount attachments, and potentially many other extras that can be involved.

With the seat material, especially for hammocks, the material choices vary: Cotton is regarded as the softest in feel of all. The nylon hammock is a bit sturdier and more durable in high humidity. Nylon, however, can be less successful in high sunlight environments. This is because today's nylon hammocks are actually polypropylene, which gets degraded by UV radiation. All hammocks can fade over time, particularly the darker colors.

If you don't have a safe place to hang your swing, have a look at the many styles of free-standing swings available to place on a deck or lawn. A 1 inch thick manila or sisal rope will be easy to hold on to and very safe. However, be aware that manila has a tendency to rot and over time could break, putting someone at risk. Choose sisal for longevity. Sisal or manila rope need some attention at the ends to prevent the fibers untwisting and coming apart: coat the ends with rubber or whipping to prevent this fraying. Sisal and manila do give a more traditional look than synthetic ropes. Priming the seats and then adding multiple coats of paint is also a good idea.

Consider using a cantilever beam fastened horizontally to your tree, rather than attaching your swing directly to the branches. A beam or pole mounted to your tree will give a more evenly balanced swing axis, but may be a challenge to stabilize as it is not as solidly in place as a tree branch itself.

Another design factor to consider is safety. Think about things that might slip - and look to secure them so they don't. An S-hook can have a rope slip out, for example when someone suddenly gets up off the seat. This can result in the swing or hammock, and anyone or anything on it, suddenly crashing to the ground. A locking carabiner works better here. If your hardware consists of S-hooks, it's advised to look into some basic locking carabiners. (Even a non-locking carabiner can be opened by a twisting rope). Another thing that can slip is the knot itself. Use a good knot on your mount points. And any tree strap used should be set up to resist vertical motion. Make sure your entire support design considers the maximum weight supported by the swing or hammock itself.

A basic option that will suit many needs is this complete set single-rope Wooden Tree Swing: Classic Wooden Tree Swing This swing is hand made from Ash, Elm, or Maple. Once the wood is kiln dried and sanded a light coat of mineral oil is applied to bring out the natural beauty. The swing is then attached to 20 ft of the best 3/4" natural fiber rope available (No oil or chemicals; so it's safe for children.) Tree Swing seats are approx. 12" in diameter and a sturdy 2" thick.

Rope recommendations: twisted rope is stronger than braided rope of the same size. This rope offered by Rope King is 3/4 inch and 200 feet long. It floats and is resistant to mildew, oil, and gas. It makes a good choice not only for rope swings, but also camping needs, in pools, for ladders, and other home and garden needs. Rope King have a variety of options available.

For a more adventurous look, when creating a swing with 2 ropes, you can also use mountaineer's climbing rope: Dynamic Rock Climbing Rope It's quite strong and weather-resistant, but with standard diameters of only 1/2 inch or less, they're not such good hand-holding ropes.

Materials tips:

Begin with enough rope that knots can be tied on both ends, and leave a little extra - cut off any excess rope so that the rope does not touch the ground.
For wood parts: sand all the edges, then prime with an outdoor wood primer. Have your child decorate the swing with acrylic paints (freehand or with stencils), then cover it with a coat of protective clear varnish.

A do-it-yourself (DIY) swing can feature a cut board, a round circle, a tire, a belt, or a log for the seat. A nice Polymer Belt Seat is a comfortable and durable choice when 2 ropes are going to be used. The seat is 6" x 24", available in several colors.

Construction will need to be sturdy - try the rope swing by standing on the knots and the seat. Kids will want to play with the rope swing in many different ways such as sitting on it, standing on it, in pairs, etc.

Materials Considerations

  • Fade, mildew, and weather-resistant rope and fabrics
  • Quality varnish on the wood
  • Rust-proofing on the metal (galvanizing, zinc chromate are examples)
  • Fade and mildew-resistant rope
  • Strong overhead support
  • free-standing swings are available for deck or garden landscape. An example is the Free-standing A - Frame Yard Swing which is a good size for 2 persons.
Rope Swings Materials

Seat and Rope Sizing
A one inch rope has a working load of well over 800 pounds. This is a big rope, easy to hold onto and safe, and makes a great climbing rope too. The higher and longer the rope the bigger the ride. With a 16 inch disc seat, even big kids (adults) can ride. Take this for example: residential disc seat for rope swing. Although only 12 inches, it's sturdy and comes in a variety of colors. Some single-rope swings only offer a 3/8th to 1/2 inch rope which may be made of nylon, plastic or cotton -- not ideal since they stretch. Also, kids have difficulty holding the smaller ropes.

swing seat set

High quality Swing Seat set
Sturdy enough for adults, this Hanging Wooden Swing measures 24"x 8", features adjustable hemp rope and tree straps. For tree or porch, it features dual seat holes for forward stability. Supports over 300 lbs.
Pawley's Island Frame

Frame Set for Pawley's Island Swing
You can be a do-it-yourself type without doing it all yourself. Choose a frame first, like this one: The Original Pawleys Island Rope Swing Stand. Then choose a swing to go with it. Make sure you match the dimensions and weight limit.

Seat Design Considerations
We've shown above an example of a swing with a single-knot seat. One rope fastened between the legs. This is simple and provides more variations to the ride - it can go in any direction. And this one to the left is just two ropes without any stabilizers. It's simpler, and as long as the girl holds on there shouldn't be any issues.
Steel Pipe Swing Hanger

Steel Pipe Swing Hanger
This Steel Pipe Swing Hanger works best in pairs. Fix two to a steel pipe (schedule forty 2 inch), then attach a rope to each hanger. These are stamped galvanized steel. From Swing Set Stuff - Click for more of their good ideas.

Bench construction
Notice the bench design here, similar to the one below the top logo bar on this page. The A-Frame is anchored to a flat surface on the ground. The flat surface keeps the construction simpler. And anchoring the frame ensures that any amount of energetic swinging won't result in toppling the frame itself. Here the frame provides not a lot of swing due to it's short rope length, and also not much lateral support, should the swinging momentum build up side to side. These are risks to consider, increasing as the rope length, and potentially the swing force, increase. One available now is the Weatherproof Wood Home Patio Garden Decor Bench Swing by Furniture Creations.
Kids on a tire swing

Tire Swing Kit
The photo to the left shows kids enjoying a tire swing together. This is a fun and unsual type of rope swing option. Available from Swing-N-Slide, this complete set is made with durable plastic, steel and nylon rope materials, and holds up to 350 pounds of weight. (It also includes mounting hardware and illustrated assembly steps). The Swing-N-Slide Tire Swing features a twisting, spinning design and includes 4 lengths of rope that attach to a 360 degree spinning swivel mount. It's extra sturdy with these 4 ropes for support, meeting national Safety Standards.





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