How to Build a Porch Swing
We asked a home improvement expert for his advice on adding one of these outdoor fixtures to your own space.
Thanks to last year's stay-at-home orders, you likely had the time to cross a number of major home improvements off your list. That means there's a good chance your backyard deck is newly restored and your front lawn is fenced in and freshly cut. Why stop the updates now? This year, perhaps a porch swing project is on your to-do list. According to Matt Ehrlichman, home improvement expert and CEO/founder of Porch.com, a home improvement marketplace, 64 percent of homeowners made at least one exterior renewal since the start of the pandemic. One such project? Building a porch swing, which even DIY novices can achieve if they set their mind to it. "A porch swing is actually a great project for beginner woodworkers," says Ehrlichman. "Even if you don't have a lot of experience with DIY home improvement, don't let that stop you from trying to build a porch swing."
Armed with this pro-approved advice, you can craft your ideal outdoor retreat.
Draft a Design
When it comes to building a porch swing, drafting a blueprint is the first step. According to Ehrlichman, you don't have to be an architect to create these plans—there are actually plenty available online. "Here's where the Internet will be your number one tool," he says. "If you search for 'porch swing plans,' you will find many all over the web. Designs come in all shapes and sizes, and can be as simple or intricate as you desire." Take your porch's measurements and style into account. If you're a beginner, pick a design concept that's simple and easy to follow. The porch pictured here is decked out with a mix of classic and contemporary touches, including a slatted bench-style swing (a must on any Southern veranda), a concrete-and-steel coffee table, and zinc planters.
Before you begin any construction project, it's worth understanding your local codes and permitting requirements. Since these vary from town to town, ask your municipality for a detailed list.
Choose Tools and Type of Wood
After the blueprint has been drafted, Ehrlichman suggests researching your cost of materials compared to your budget: "But, the most important information you need to glean from them are which and how much material to buy, what dimensions to cut the pieces with, size of screws, and weight capacity."
Now that your plans are set, materials are sorted out, it's time to create a project budget and select what type of wood you'll be using. Ehrlichman relays that a weekend project such as this can range anywhere from $150 to $1,000. Costs will fluctuate depending on the materials you select; for instance, pine wood will be budget-friendly and teak is for the more affluent builder. Ehrlichman recommends a wood that falls at a middle price point as well as a great well-weather wood, cedar. He adds, "You might find that you really enjoy researching designs and working with wood."
Suspend the Swing
At this point, the swing is ready to suspend from the porch. "Hanging the swing from the ceiling might seem like a daunting task, but it's actually more simple than you might think," assures Ehrlichman. "First, you'll need to locate the horizontal joists which run perpendicular to the ceiling beam."
The key to secure suspension is in purchasing a Porch Swing Chain Kit ($16.97, homedepot.com), which can be found at almost all hardware stores. Ehrlichman explains that the kit should come with detailed instructions including the correct amount of space to distance the two hooks from which the swing will hang. However, here's a good rule of thumb: The hooks, screws eyes, or eye bolts should be installed two to four inches wider than the swing's length to ensure even weight distribution and the swing should hang about 17 to 19 inches above the porch floor.) After the hooks have been installed, you're ready to hang it up high.
Maintain Your Swing
Now that your swing is ready for summertime naps and conversations over afternoon iced tea, you'll want to prevent any signs of weather damage. A few times each season, check the bolts and hardware for loosening or rust, and inspect rope and wood for signs of decay. And always remove exposed swings for storage during the winter if you live in a cold climate. "Consider either staining or sealing to add a protective finish to the wood," recommends Ehrlichman. "Before adding any finish though, make sure that the wood is as clean and dry as possible. I suggest doing two coats of whatever you use, 24 hours apart from each other. Add a fresh coat annually to keep your swing looking its best."