Groove in Your Garden: Porch Swings Add Style and Comfort to Your Outdoor Space
The main things to consider are materials, construction and style. Style is the easy part—swings can be contemporary masterpieces with cool metals and sleek lines, incredibly rustic and natural using warm woods, or straight out of a Southern Gothic novel with intricate decorative iron scrolls and fretwork. Porch swings can be made for one or seat up to three, while some of the suspended-day-bed-styles can squeeze in more.
That’s all up to personal taste, but there are certain traits to consider.
Most swings are made of wood, wicker or plastic, and you can even upcycle one using a chair without legs by following do-it-yourself construction plans available at garden centers or outdoor living websites. When purchasing a porch swing, the material is crucial for durability as well as aesthetics. Prices vary widely, from less than $100 to $1,000 and beyond.
Many common woods are used in porch swings, including redwood, ash, Western red cedar, and pine, which stand up to weather conditions and are durable. Ipe and teak are more expensive hardwoods. Also popular is cypress for its resistance to warping and ease of painting and staining. Colors may complement your exterior or you can add a wow-factor by choosing a punch of bold color to contrast the existing design.
There are many less-expensive options made of “solid wood,” but often these products are not suitable for use outdoors as
they can deteriorate when left outside. Chairs should be made of at least 3/4-inch-thick wood for best support and durability. They should always be held together with screws, especially stainless steel, galvanized and zinc-plated, to resist rust. Hardened steel, however, tends to corrode and should not be used for outdoor swings.
When installing a porch swing, allow for at least a 4-foot arc for adequate swinging room. In addition to the fasteners, galvanized or stainless steel chains may be used to hang the swing, as can marine-grade braided nylon or polyester rope. S-hooks and eye-bolts may be used to hang from the ceiling of your porch and they should have 4- to 6-inch shafts. Professionals with experience hanging swings may be your best bet for installation.
Swings always should hang from a sturdy roof joist. If yours are covered by roofing material, cut a section to find them. If they are not available, hang the swing from a free-standing frame.
Seats should be about 18 inches off the ground for easy access. Measure the height of the beam, and a hardware store can cut the chains or rope for you. Swings should be supported by two chains in front and two chains in back for stability. Pro tip: Sit on the swing before purchasing it. The look may be exactly what you like, but if it’s not comfortable it will defeat the purpose. Try tossing some attractive yet squishy throw pillows, lumbar pillows in a pretty fabric, or blankets to cuddle up in on cool nights.
Another current trend in decking out your porch is sofa swings or suspended day beds. Why just sit when you can recline? These typically are between 5 and 6 feet in length and are wide enough to hold a twin- or queen-sized mattress with the pillows and cushions of your choice. These provide all of the comfort and style of the most relaxing beds transported to the outdoors. Day beds are notably heavier than swings, so consult a construction expert on the correct devices needed for safe support from your structure.
There also are many options for swings or beds that are free-standing using frames that can be placed anywhere if you do not have a porch or a roof to hang them from. All of the various swings are available at garden centers, outdoor furniture stores and online. Or have a creative carpenter install a custom-designed swing in your yard.
With all of the many options out there for any budget, there’s no reason not to wile the hours away swinging in the breeze.