Porch swings can be a great place to relax with family and friends, but if hung improperly, they will be an accident waiting to happen. Not every porch is built the same. How can you tell if yours can sustain a swing? Read what these home and garden experts recommend.
Terry Fraser has been involved in the home renovation industry for over 25 years. He founded Renco Home Improvements in 2002.
Alternative one-person porch swings
Not every porch is capable of holding a porch swing. For existing porches, there are two areas I look at for swing installation. The most important [area] is the joists. To hold a minimum 500lbs, one 2×8 joist, or two 2×6 joists, must be supported at both ends. If this is not possible, I recommended installing new dedicated joists or two 4×4 beams to span across existing joists.
The next [area] is the range of motion. A minimum of four feet with the swing centered in the middle is important for clearance. Depending on the porch width, this may not be possible, and I suggest homeowners look at alternative one-person porch swings.
The size of the joist
You’ll need a joist to hold a porch swing. In many cases, you’re legally required to have one for safety and building regulations. The size of the joist (or number of joists) is going to depend on how big the swing is and how many people you intend to support. A single joist can comfortably support two people. If you’re trying to seat four people, you’ll need two 2×8 joists, four 2×6 joists, or six 2×4 joists.
You need to make sure you’re installing the swing properly, too. Use a durable chain and clean it regularly to keep it from rusting. Check the structural integrity of the joist often. Don’t put too much weight on the swing. If you feel it starting to creak or sag, get off of the swing immediately and examine the supports.
Kieren Windsor is a hammocking expert who advises anyone thinking of installing hammocks at home, he shares tips and information about hammocks over at thathammocklife.com
If you do not have the correct support beams for hanging a swing on your porch, hammocks are an excellent alternative. These can be hung from two adjacent posts on your porch, or by installing roof hooks. Not only is a hammock much simpler to install than a swing, but it’s easy to take down and put away when not in use during the winter months. I highly recommend a Mayan-style hammock, these are made from a light cotton material that molds to your body shape for maximum comfort while allowing for plenty of air circulation to stay cool.
How and where to install
On average, porch swings have a maximum weight capacity of 550lbs (250kg). This number is directly linked to the strength of the chains, and the majority are rated at this number. You can purchase stronger chains at a hardware store, which will allow you to increase the weight capacity of your swing.
Another thing you need to pay attention to is how and where to install the swing. Never install swing supports on unstable surfaces such as plywood or beadboard. A 2×6 load-bearing joist will be sufficient to support a two-person swing, but a 2×8 is even better and stronger. Should you be purchasing the hardware separately from the swing, make sure it’s made of galvanized steel.
Another method of attaching the swing is using rope instead of a chain, however, make sure you are using marine-grade braided nylon or polyester.
Know the maximum weight capacity
Yes, porches can hold specially designed porch swings. However, it’s good to know what the maximum weight capacity of the swing is because if you go over that capacity, the swing will most probably collapse. In some rare cases the whole porch can go down with it.
Most porch swings available on the market have a weight capacity of 249kg (or 550lbs). The weight the swing can handle depends on the strength of the chains that hold it and the quality and state of the porch. If you have a solid porch you can always opt for a bigger chain, which will increase the weight limit of your porch swing.
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