It takes a long time for a tree to grow large enough to hang a tree swing on it. The last thing you want to do is damage the tree with your swing.
Tree swings can damage a tree. The main factors that cause damage are the type of tree, material used for hanging, weight, number of contact points, and how the swing makes contact with the tree.
The good news is you can hang a tree swing without damaging your tree if you follow some guidelines. In this article I go into details for all of the ways a swing can damage a tree. Then I give you solutions you can use to prevent your tree from being damaged by your swing.
Your swing should be on a strong, sturdy tree. The best type of trees to hang a swing on are oak and maple. These hardwood trees can support the load your swing will place on them.
This also means the branches can take a lot of wear and tear without sustaining too much damage. If you only use your swing every once in a while or your swing is for a toddler, then you may not see any wear or damage.
Eventually, most branches will start to have damage if they are not cared for properly. Ropes and chains will dig into the bark and cut away at the branch. If ropes or chains are tight, the tree can grow around them. Also, continued pulling on the branch can weaken it.
Material used for hanging
The materials you use for hanging your tree swing have a great effect on how much damage your tree could sustain or not.
Chains are harder than rope. A chain rocking back and forth on your tree limb will damage it fairly quickly.
Also, although many chains are made of galvanized metal or stainless steel they will begin to rust over time. Trees are a source of moisture and acid. Both of these speed up the corrosion process. The trees strength will not be compromised by the rust, but the chains strength will be compromised. Stainless steel chains will resist corrosion a lot longer than galvanized.
Rope is probably the least damaging to your tree. Rope will wear into the tree limb some. Sometimes the tree will grow over the rope; embedding the rope into itself.
You can use a piece of rubber between the limb and the rope to keep the rope from damaging the tree.
Tree swing straps
In terms of damage, tree swing straps are like rope. They can dig into you tree. The damage may be less than what rope will cause because tree swing straps are flat.
Eye hooks require you to drill holes in your branch. Drilling holes in your branch damages the branch, but the tree can recover. To place the smallest amount of stress on your tree, use a wood drill bit and try to keep the drill bit oiled. This will reduce friction. Friction from your drill bit will cause further damage to your tree.
Heavy duty swing hangers
Heavy duty swing hangers are a good way to hang swing. They are especially good for hanging a swing to a beam. They will also work for hanging a tree swing to a branch if the branch is large enough.
The down side to using heavy duty swing hangers is you need to drill a minimum of two holes per hanger into your branch. Some hangers require up to four holes per hanger. This will increase the amount of damage to your tree.
Damage cause by weight
The load you place on your swing will have a great effect on the tree and its branches. If the tree or branch you select is not strong enough for your swing, the tree or branches could break.
You should follow some general guidelines when determining if your try is strong enough for a swing. The tree should be of a hardwood species that can support a swing. The tree should be mature. If it is too young. The tree may break without notice because it hasn't had enough time to develop.
Your tree's branches should be at least 8" thick. You should test the branch you are going to hang your swing on to be sure it can support the weight.
Also, both your tree and branch should not be rotting, have fungus growing on them, or have any other damage.
Number of contact points
The more places you have your tree swing touching your tree, the greater the amount of possible damage that could occur. If you are installing a single rope tree swing, then you will only have one contact point with the tree. This will lessen the amount of potential damage.
If you decide to hang a swing that needs two rope to support it and you want to use heavy duty swing, you could potentially have to drill eight holes in one branch.
How the swing makes contact with the tree
Limbs aren't perfectly straight. They usually have bends in them and many are angled. When you hang your tree swing on a branch, the way it contacts the branch can cause more friction or undue pressure. Over time this can damage your branch.
If you don't have a good branch and need to put an artificial branch on you tree for your swing, you will have several contact point where the brackets connect to your tree.
Tree swings are fun and can be a good addition to your tree. You can minimize damage by choosing a healthy, mature tree and limb. Be sure your tree can support the weight you are going to put on it.
Use good rope, straps, and connectors. Also, protect your tree by not allowing your swing hanging material to dig into the tree.