This young Burr Oak supports this swing.

Nothing exemplifies the carefree nature of childhood than a swing. And a swing from a tree adds an extra layer of magic! 
Yes! I’m ready to install a tree swing in my yard but don’t I need a big tree?
The common wisdom for a tree swing is to select a healthy, hardwood tree, like an oak, with branches 8″ or more in diameter. But what do you do if you don’t have a big tree? Do you have to wait until it grows? 

Not necessarily. . .
This is where having years of experience climbing trees comes in handy. Our arborists can evaluate young trees and determine by their species and structure if they can support a tree swing. For example, the young Burr oak pictured below does not have any large horizontal branches. But the tree has a strong central leader (as assessed by our experienced arborist!) that can support the weight of the swing. And by re-directing the tie-in point over branches it can allow for the three-foot distance from the trunk so the swing can operate freely.  

But won’t the rope rub against the trunk and damage the tree? 
Yes, it might. It all depends on what kind of weight you put on it. The heavier the child or the thinner the bark, the more potential damage to the tree. However, this can be minimized by the use of a sleeve, such as a hose to run the rope through. They are called cambium savers―arborists use them all the time. Not only do they protect the crotch of the tree where the rope runs through but provides less friction on the rope as the climber moves about the tree. A foam pool noodle was used in the picture on the right where the rope comes in contact with the tree.

The crotch of the tree is protected by a foam pool noodle.

What kind of rope should I use?
We’re partial to synthetic arborist climbing rope as it has one of the highest safety ratings. Of course, it is designed to protect an adult climber, who is properly tied in, from an unintended fall in a tree. However, for a child’s swing, any rope or strap, synthetic or natural, that has a safe user rating of over 200 lbs (2000 lb tensile strength) will work. 

Annual Safety Inspections 
Alas, nothing lasts forever including a rope swing. Therefore, it is important to inspect the rope periodically to make sure it’s still in good shape, and replace it when it starts to wear. You also need to watch and see if the branch is growing over the rope causing the rope to girdle the tree. This is especially true if you have installed the swing in a young tree. As your tree grows, you may need to re-direct the rope. And if you wait long enough, that young tree one day may develop a horizontal branch large enough to hang the swing from!

Tree Swing Experts
There are a lot of tree swing kits on the market and perhaps this article has inspired you to install a tree swing for your children (or grandchildren!) If you would like the expertise of someone who knows trees to help you evaluate the health and safety of your chosen tree, please give our office a call and we will be happy to set up an appointment with one of our arborists. 


Swing in a Coast Live oak

Several swings from a mulberry tree.