So You Want to… Hang a Porch Swing
Before you can relax on the ultimate piece of folksy outdoor furniture, you’d better read up on the basics.
A porch swing symbolizes one thing: leisure. That’s why it became such a popular fixture in the mid-19th century and why it retains its appeal today. There are various ways to enjoy its simple charm—whether curling up with a good book or exercising your legs while chatting with loved ones—but first you’ve got to pick the perfect place, confirm its structural integrity, and familiarize yourself with installation. Ahead, your porch swing primer!
Choose a size and a spot. A porch swing can be a single-occupant hanging chair, or it can be wide enough to hold several people. A 4-foot swing comfortably sits two adults, but swings also come in 6- and 8-foot lengths. Decide how many people might typically pile on at the same time, allowing 2 feet per person.
As to placement, find a spot below a sturdy beam or joist that allows an arc—the distance the swing travels back and forth—of no less than 4 feet. An ideal place would have 3 to 4 feet of empty space fore and aft of the swing and at least 14 inches of clearance on each side. The swing should hang at least 17 inches from the floor so the average occupant’s feet can touch the floor.
Also consider the view. If you wish to admire your front yard and easily wave to neighbors, position the swing to face forward; if you prefer a more private space for reading, contemplation and intimate conversation, consider aligning the swing sideways.
Consider structure and safety. The beam or joist that supports the swing’s hardware—and the fasteners themselves—must be sturdy enough to bear at least 500 pounds. Never install swing supports in something as flimsy as plywood or bead board. A single 2×6 load-bearing joist or beam can support a two-person swing, but a 2×8 is even stronger.
A porch swing hanger kit comes with the proper hardware; if gathering the hardware yourself, however, make sure it’s made of galvanized or stainless steel to withstand the elements. If you use a rope instead of a chain, it should be marine-grade braided nylon or polyester.
Get familiar with installation. Porch swings hang from either two-chain and four-chain suspension systems. The former design has one chain on each side that branches into two separate chains that attach to the front and back of the armrest. Others use four separate chains; the fasteners on each side support two separate chains—one that connects to the front of the swing and one that connects to the back or bottom.
You also have a choice of fasteners. Porch swing hangers made specifically for this purpose include a base, hook, and comfort spring. Or you can use eye bolts or S-hooks that have 4- to 6-inch shafts. Install the fasteners 2 to 4 inches wider than the swing’s length at each end to prevent the chains from rubbing against the swing and to better distribute weight. When installing the fasteners, drill a pilot hole that’s slightly smaller than the hardware so you have a snug, secure fit.
No porch? No problem! You can also be a swinger if your porch’s beams or joists are inadequate. Simply hang a porch swing from a stand-alone frame or turn to that trusty oak or other hardwood tree with a thick, strong, healthy limb. Loop each chain around the limb and secure it with a large, weather-resistant bolt. To protect the branch from wear, wrap a rubber hose around the chain where it loops around the branch.
Inspect your swing at least once a year. Check the seat for splinters or loose parts and repair. Also replace any fasteners that seem rusty or worn. But right now, kick back and relax!