Tree Swings 
A tree swing (or a rope swing or tire swing) is composed of a single rope or chain attached to a 
high tree branch, along with a seat, which is typically a wooden plank or tire. For many 
homeowners, tree swings represent fond childhood memories, but this type of DIY play 
equipment is too often poorly constructed by nonprofessional 
builders for their children who can 
be unaware of the potential dangers. 
Consider some recent tragedies. In 2010, a British girl enjoying her tree swing was killed when 
she was pinned to the ground by the falling silver birch, which is a tree species considered 
unsuitable for tree swings. That same year, an unsupervised boy accidentally hanged himself 
when he became tangled in the tree swing’s rope. Children are also killed or injured when ropes 
snap or hanger brackets dislodge. An article in the journal Pediatrics stated that “recreational, 
tree swing injuries among children resulted in significant morbidity, regardless of the 
height of the fall. This activity carries a substantial risk for serious injury.” 
To prevent accidents, homeowners can learn about what goes into a properly installed tree 
swing, and how to inspect them for potential hazards. 
Tree Inspection 
A sturdy tree is a must for a safe tree swing, but this consideration may be overlooked on 
properties that lack a variety of healthy trees from which to choose. Also, homeowners should 
remember that while trees appear stationary, they are actually alive and constantly, albeit 
slowly, growing and changing shape. As such, branches will “absorb” hanger brackets, and 
overhead branches will become brittle, gradually transforming what was once a properly 
installed tree swing into one that is no longer safe to use. 
Check for the following indications that the tree will pose dangers to the user: 
Inappropriate tree choice. According to London Play, an organization that promotes outdoor 
exercise for children, beech, oak, sycamore and Norway maple are suitable for rope swings, 
while pine, poplar, spruce, willow and silver birch should be avoided. Cherry, cedar and ash can 
be used only when their limbs are large and the tree is in good condition. 
The branch is too thin. The branch’s minimum thickness depends on the tree species, but, in 
general, it should be at least 8 inches thick. 
Bulges, cracks, or unusual swelling. These tree defects often lead to limb failure. If possible, the 
candidate limb should be inspected from above as well as from the ground. 
Decay, fungus, or signs of hollowing within the tree. Dead wood is often dry and brittle and 
cannot bend in the wind under the stresses of the weight of a swinging child. Strike the tree at 
different points with a hammer to test for the sound of hollowing. 

Dead or hanging branches above the swing. These should be secured or removed, as they are 
likely to dislodge from the motion of the moving swing. 
Ground Cover 
Whether on purpose or by accident, sooner or later, children will fall from playground 
equipment, including rope swings, and the extent of their injuries will be determined, in part, by 
the condition of the ground beneath the swing. 
Inspect for the following hazards that may make injuries more likely: 
Safe ground surface that extends only in a narrow path in front of and behind the swing. Tire 
swings, which permit a swinging motion in any axis, demand a larger safeground 
surface than 
other rope swings. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends 
installing a protective surface outward from the swing equal to the suspension rope plus 6 feet. 
Tree swings are sometimes installed adjacent to ponds or rivers so the user has the option of a 
water landing. As exciting as this prospect may be, water presents its own set of dangers. A 
flotation device may be kept next to the tree so that it can be thrown into the water in case of an 
Also, check for the following: 
Obvious exit. A steepwalled 
river can be difficult to escape, as can swift river currents. 
A tree swing is only as strong as its rope or chain, so care should be taken to choose adequate 
Poor tree architecture. While a tree that naturally leans may have no structural defects, straight 
trees that have started to lean recently may be damaged and in danger of collapse. 
Cracks or seams where the branch forks from the larger limb. Weak unions indicate that the 
limb is at risk of tearing out. 
Asphalt, concrete or other types of hard surfaces. Grass or bare earth covered with leaves is 
usually safe, although additional safety can be provided by loosefill 
material, such as mulch, 
wood chips, shredded rubber mulch, or engineered wood fiber. Earth that has been compacted 
by frequent foot traffic may be too hard. 
Natural objects that may be tripped over or injure a child, such as rocks, exposed roots, stumps 
or branches from a neighboring tree. These objects should be removed so that only a flat 
surface remains. 
terrain. This will have the effect of accelerating the speed or adding to the 
distance for the child to dismount the swing, increasing the likelihood that s/he will trip and fall. 
Such a slope will also encourage the loss of leaves and other natural loosefill 
material to wind 
and rain. 
Water depth. Check to make sure that the water is sufficiently and uniformly deep within the fall 
Sharp rocks, branches or other objects that can cause injury. 
Check for the following rope defects: 
Unsafe, makeshift or additional ropes. Ensure that the rope does not create strangulation 
hazards. Also, check for any stray jump ropes, clotheslines, pet leashes, or anything else 
unnecessarily attached to the tree swing. 
The seat should be high enough so that the user’s legs do not scrape the ground but not so high 
that the swing isn’t easily accessible or requires unsafe effort for the user to dismount. 
Remember that tree limbs can sway under the user’s weight, and weaker limbs may permit the 
seat to get too close to the ground. Sufficient clearance is roughly 10 inches between the 
ground and the user, which may translate into 16 inches for an unoccupied swing. A seat may 
be made from a wooden plank, which can be inspected for splinters, or a tire, which is usually 
suspended in a horizontal orientation using three suspension chains or cables connected to a 
single swivel mechanism that permits both rotation and a swinging motion in any axis. 
The tire may be a discarded vehicle tire or a plastic imitation, but it can present its own set of 
defects, including: 
Beehives or hornets’ nests. Carefully inspect the interior of the tire for dangerous animals and 
insects and their nests, especially stinging insects, which may require special handling in order 
to remove safely. 
Hanger Clamp 
Hanger clamps provide a fixed point for the rope and the tree branch to intersect while keeping 
them properly separated, reducing friction on the rope that can cause it to gradually wear away. 
Too thin. Rope that is too thin will either not support the weight of a swinging child or be difficult 
to adequately grasp. 
Too thick. Ensure that the rope is not so thick that a child cannot easily grasp it. Rope that is an 
inch to 11/
2 inches thick is typically sufficient, depending on the material. 
Inadequate strength. Remember that as the user swings higher and higher, the tension in the 
rope or chain will equal several times the rider’s weight at the bottom of the arc. Therefore, the 
rope should be rated to withstand significantly greater weight than that of the intended rider. 
Abrasiveness. Before wrapping the rope around the tree limb, protect the tree from abrasion 
and subsequent damage and weakening by wrapping a section of rubber around it. 
Exposed metal wires. Newer radial tires should not be used for a swing. In fact, the American 
Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) explicitly advises against their use because they can 
become worn, exposing dangerous metal wires. Radial tires should be closely inspected for 
wear before their use. Older bias tires are usually safer to use for swings. 
Using a heavy truck tire. This type of tire may be too heavy, causing the hanger clamp to 
dislodge. According to the ASTM, the entire rope swing assembly should not be greater than 35 
No water drainage holes. Tires will collect rainwater if they lack holes through which water can 
The likelihood of failure at this point is increased due to the additional stress of rotational 
movement and multiple users. 
Check for the following defects: 
Pinch points. Hanger clamps, especially for multiaxis 
tire swings, should not have any 
accessible pinch points. 
Additional Inspection Tips 
Maintain adequate loosefill 
surfacing beneath the swing. 
In summary, tree swings can be great fun if they’re used with safety in mind first and foremost. 
Homeowners should inspect for their proper installation and maintenance to prevent avoidable 
and potentially tragic accidents. 
Treehouses are great fun for kids, but danger is inherent when you let children play in trees. 
Homeowners should keep aware of potential hazards. 
Poor clamp location. The hanger should be installed far enough away from the tree trunk that 
the user cannot inadvertently swing into the tree, especially if the swing permits horizontal 
motion. Likewise, the hanger should be placed at a point on the branch close enough to the tree 
trunk that the branch is of desirable strength and thickness. 
The clamp is not securely installed. If it detaches, the swing and its rider will fall to the ground. 
The CPSC has ordered a recall of tire swings manufactured by Miracle Recreation Equipment 
Company (model #714852, 
and #278) for this safety defect due to reported 
Check for signs of vandalism. Even if intended as a harmless prank, disaster can result from a 
partially cut rope. 
Supervise children at play. Children may stand on the swing, swing excessively high to outdo a 
friend, or spin the swing to create dizziness. A little supervision can mean the difference 
between childhood antics and serious danger. 
Remove drawstrings from children’s clothing, as they can become attached to the moving swing 
and create a strangulation hazard. 
Remove the swing in bad weather if it may become damaged or damage the tree. 
Clean, sand and repaint rusted areas as needed. 
Occasionally inspect the condition of the equipment for signs of wear (especially after a season 
of harsh or inclement weather), such as splintering wooden surfaces, damaged suspension 
ropes, broken and missing components, and bent pipes or tubing. 
Ensure that protective caps and plugs that cover bolts and tubing ends are in place and secure. 
Periodically oil any moving metal parts.