Playground equipment is nice and all, but not everyone has the luxury of a spacious backyard and extra income to put towards the initial investment and maintenance. If you want your child to have all the fun, flight-like fun they experience at the park, why not try the DIY version? Tree swings are a great way to add a little flare to the yard without spending too much time or money on the project. All you need is a good, sturdy tree with the right branches. Scope out the area to make sure your swing won’t collide with anything nearby, find a branch that is at least eight inches in diameter and free of disease and rot, and then get yourself the proper rope. If you’re in the market for affordable, durable, safe rope to fasten your tree swing, take a look at our top picks below. With just a little research and elbow grease, your family can be sky-high in no time.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Natural Twisted Cotton Rope
- Triple Twist
- Climbing Rope with Platforms
- Very soft rope
- Koch Twisted Polypropylene Rope
- Low Stretch
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Ropes for Rope Swings
When evaluating different types of ropes for this list, we like to keep three key factors in mind: Durability, Strength, and Resistance. Under the Durability section, we looked specifically at how long these ropes last, and under what conditions they last. For strength, we judged the rope overall tensile strength and weight limits to gauge hardiness of the rope itself. And, finally, we lumped quite a few different types of resistances under the Resistance section. For more detail on these aspects please the information below on the more in-depth information of each section.
We wanted to make sure that only the best of the best ropes made it onto this list. By looking at ropes with high durability, we feel that we achieved that goal. Overall, we wanted ropes that would last a considerable amount of time under both harsh and favorable conditions. All the ropes on this list can handle a number of conditions such as harsh sunlight, heavy rain, wind, and saltwater, to name a few. Because these ropes can such harsh weather conditions, this also means they can last for years when properly cared for. We wanted ropes that could hold up to the test of time and be there for your child whenever they needed.
Though strength and durability often go hand in hand, strength for ropes aligns with their overall tensile strength and weight limits. We only wanted ropes with extremely high weight limits and tensile strengths because you never know what life will throw at you. We had a threshold that each rope had to have minimum tensile strength of 1,400 lbs. and a minimum weight limit of 150 by the manufactures. These numbers might seem a little crazy, but remember that factors like weather, age, and temperature work against the integrity of the rope. By having high weight limits and tensile strengths, you ensure that a child will not be harmed by other outside factors.
A rope can have a number of resistances, but there are a few that we believed took precedence over others. For instance, water resistance, specifically salt-water resistance, were high on our list. This is because of the amount of rain a rope swing will see in its lifetime. We also took weather resistance into great consideration because temperatures have a direct effect on the overall integrity of rope. UV resistance was also very high on our list because of the amount of sunlight the average tree swing will undergo in its lifetime. Though the ropes on our list do not have all of these resistances and treatments, they have at least one. This allows the buyer to buy a rope that they feel best matches their setting and circumstances. If you don’t live a particularly sunny area, or your tree swing is shaded most of the day, then a UV resistant rope will not be very beneficial for you or your family.
Things to Look for in a Rope for Your Tree Swing
Installing a tree swing can be a very easy endeavor. However, there are certain things that you have to consider especially when choosing the rope that essentially forms the bridge between the tree branch and the platform upon which your kid will be sitting on. Here are some of the things that you may need to look for when choosing the best rope for your tree swing.
It is important to take note that there are a variety of roping materials for swings. This often has implications in their durability or the length of time it will need before the materials used in its construction start to wear away. Know, too, that the more durable the material is the more expensive it usually is.
Metal chains are highly durable, especially those with excellent corrosion resistance while polypropylene is usually indicated for indoor use or those where it’s not exposed to the elements as it is not really that durable. There are also natural fiber ropes such as Manila, sisal, hemp, and cotton which can have highly variable durability. As a rule, if you do choose a natural fiber, you may have to replace them every year or two. Polyester and nylon are exceptionally durable, although the latter is more susceptible to stretching and has the tendency to be quite slippery.
Akin to a rope’s durability is its strength. However, it is crucial to understand that there strength pertains more to the ability of the rope to hold as much weight as possible without breaking or losing its integrity. Obviously, metal chains provide you with the greatest strength while polyesters are also exceptional when it comes to synthetics. If you’re choosing natural fibers, Manila rope seems to be an excellent choice, although it is quite pricey. Nylon is super strong but, again has the tendency to be quite slippery and as such is not really ideal for swings that are primarily intended for young kids. Polypropylene ropes can be strong, too, provided you don’t unnecessarily expose them to the elements.
Perhaps your choice of rope is best defined by who will be riding on the swing. If it is primarily children and that ample signage be posted to prevent adults from using the swing, then any of these choices should be great. But, if you’re making a swing that’s intended to hold even adults, then it’s crucial to choose a really strong rope. Additionally, while metal chains are strong, these are not really ideal for tree swings and should only be mounted on eye bolts.
The length of the rope is dependent on the height of the tree branch or the structure that you’re going to anchor it with, forming its fulcrum. Just make sure that there’s enough length left to allow for any adjustments to be made.
- UV Resistance
This pertains to the rope’s ability to resist the harmful rays of the sun and can be a major factor in determining its durability. As we have already mentioned, polypropylene may not be the best when it comes to handling UV exposure.
- Lack of Stretch
You don’t want your kid to be swinging lower and lower every time he or she takes a seat. That’s why it’s important to choose one that has little or no stretch. Nylon has the tendency to stretch while polyester gives you very little stretch. Of course, you have metal chains having no stretch at all.
Benefits of Swinging for Kids
Many of us don’t know that swinging helps kids calm down and that this activity can actually help children who may have sensory problems. In fact, there are several studies that suggest swinging can actually be beneficial to kids with autism. There are many benefits of swinging for kids. Here are a few of them.
- Helps with sensory integration – Swinging helps the brain process a variety of information all at the same time. Visual, kinesthetic, auditory, olfactory, body awareness, and movement inputs together with the pull of gravity are all integrated into the brain allowing for faster integration and processing, leading to better learning and the molding of behavior in the future.
- Aids in the enhancement of balance – Children have to work against gravity to maintain a more stable balance of the body. Rocking their bodies to and fro leads to the strengthening of the core muscles which helps in the more efficient development of balance.
- May provide for calm and relaxation – Experts believe that this has something to do with our instincts. The gentle rocking motion of the swing brings us back in time when we were calmly soothed by the fluids in our mother’s womb. Exactly how it works still remains to be adequately explained, however.
Swinging is definitely not only for kids. It’s great for adults, too. Choosing the right rope for your tree swing means choosing one that is durable, strong, has exceptional UV resistance, has no or minimal stretch, and easy to install, too. With the 5 best ropes for tree swings, you can easily make one for you and your kids right in your backyard.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is polypropylene?
A: Polypropylene, simply, is a plastic made from combining propylene monomers. Essentially polypropylene combines the best features of propylene into a single plastic. Polypropylene is known for its chemical resistance, toughness, elasticity, insulation, and resistance to wear and tear. Features like this make polypropylene perfect for tree swing and other outdoor endeavors.
Q: How should I judge a rope’s tensile strength?
A: To judge a rope’s tensile strength accurately, you must first understand that tensile strength is used to refer to new rope. This tensile strength is determined under factor conditions and therefore can never accurately represent real world circumstances. Tensile strength also is cut half each time you make a knot. The general guide is that when 8 knots are made in rope the tensile strength is reduced by about 50% depending on the rope. But, above all, tensile strength is used to determine how much weight a rope can handle over a period of time. As long as you understand those basic things, you can accurately judge a rope’s tensile strength for your needs.
Q: Why should I be concerned with weight distribution on a tree branch?
A: An even amount of weight distribution means that no point of the tree branch is carrying more weight than another point. This is particular important for child safety. If one point of the branch has too much weight, that point weakens over time. Given enough time, that point on the branch will become a point of breakage. When you evenly distribute the weight over a larger surface area, you minimize the chances of breakage.
Q: What does ‘low stretch’ mean?
A: The term ‘low stretch’ refers to the amount of stretching a rope does trough when weight is applied. If a rope has ‘low stretch,’ that means the rope stretches very little when weight is applied. Conversely, a rope is considered to have ‘high stretch’ if it stretches out a lot when weight is applied. For tree swing projects, you want a rope to have very little stretch whenever possible.
Q: Do I want my rope to have no ‘stretch?’
A: Not necessarily. While you want to have as little stretch as possible, completely no stretch rope is virtually impossible to come across. Even great ropes stretch a little bit, even though this amount of stretch isn’t noticeable to the human eye. So, don’t be concerned if your rope stretches a tiny amount. As with anything carrying a substantial amount of weight, some type of strain will occur.
Q: How trustworthy are these weight limits?
A: We trust the manufacturers when they claim the weight limit of their rope. However, just because the weight limit of a rope is over 1,000 lbs. does not mean the tree can hold that much weight. Most trees sturdy enough to house a respectable tree swing can hold quite a bit of weight, but always check the strength of the branch before building a swing. To effectively check the strength of a tree branch, tie a heavy weight to the end of a rope and attach this weighted rope to the tree. If the branch bows or dips a considerable amount then it’s not strong enough to hold your child.
Q: What size of rope is best for a tree swing?
A: The size of rope depends on the kind of rope you purchase and the kind of tree you eventually build the swing in. If the tree is larger and older, say an old oak tree, you want a coarser, thicker rope because the rough bark of the tree can handle the coarser material. If you build the swing into a cypress, however, you want a gentler rope as to not disturbed the bark of the cypress tree.
Q: When is it time to retire a tree swing?
A: The best time to retire a tree swing is when you notice signs of degradation. This can be a number of things like: high stretch, fraying of rope, weakening of rope, rope discoloration, loss of shape, creaking or snapping sounds, etc. If you notice any of these signs or a combination of these signs, then it’s likely that you need to retire the tree swing. After you remove the tree swing, check out the branch to see if the tree is strong enough to house another one. If the branch looks weak or brittle, relocate the new swing.
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