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How to Build a Freestanding Arbor Swing

A freestanding arbor frame can support a store-bought swing or the custom model below.

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Step 1: Dig Holes

The swing used in this project measures about 4 feet wide, so the 6x6 posts need to be 9 feet apart inside edge to inside edge. This will leave about 2-1/2 feet of clearance to walk between the swing and each post. Determine the final position of the swing, then carefully measure and mark the location of the individual posts.

Use an auger to dig a hole for each of the posts. Make sure to dig the holes deep enough; for this project, the crew digs holes 3 feet deep and 12 to 18 inches wide.

Remember, the same power that makes an auger effective at digging holes makes it hard to control; if you don't think you can control the auger safely, have a friend help or call in a pro.

Step 2: Set the Posts in Concrete

Mix 80 pounds of post concrete in a wheelbarrow according to the manufacturer's instructions. Position a 12-foot post in the hole, make sure it's plumb on all sides; have a helper hold it in place. Fill in the hole around the post with concrete until the concrete is level with the ground.

Repeat the process for the other post. Make sure the posts are on the same plane, level and plumb.

Let the concrete set overnight.

Step 3: Cut Post Tops

Once the concrete is dry, carefully measure each post to 8 feet off the ground; use a string level to make sure the marks on the posts are level with each other. Use a reciprocating or circular saw to cut the posts flat at the marks. Set the excess wood aside to make the swing supports.

Step 4: Set Crossbeams and Add Trim

Position one 2x12 crossbeam across the front of the two posts, level it to the top of the posts and temporarily hold it in place with a screw at each end. Repeat the process for the other beam, sandwiching the posts. Make sure the beams are level and lined up with each other.

With the beams in position, drill a hole through the beams and post. Slip a washer over a rust-proof carriage bolt, insert it through the hole, then secure it with a washer and nut. Tighten with a socket wrench. Repeat for the other end of the crossbeams.

To add visual interest, screw short pieces of 4x4s to the top of the crossbeams. Place the trim pieces 6 to 12 inches apart, perpendicular to the beams.

Step 5: Add Swing Supports and Hardware

Retrieve the one-foot pieces of lumber that were trimmed from the top of the posts. Measure the width of the swing. Measure and mark the center point of the crossbeams. To center the swing supports, measure out from the center of the crossbeams half the width of the swing. Make a mark at this point, then repeat on the other side of the center point. Position a one-foot piece of 6x6 between the crossbeams at one of these points and tack it in place with screws. Position and attach the other 6x6 scrap on the other mark. To attach the pieces permanently, drill through the crossbeams and supports, then install carriage bolts, nuts and washers as above.

Drill up through the bottom of the swing supports and install heavy-duty anchor bolts. These anchor bolts will hold eye bolts, which in turn will connect to the swing chain.

Step 6: Measure and Cut Lumber for the Swing Seat

This simple, custom swing is a good fit for the freestanding arbor frame above.

Use a jigsaw and cut the seat supports on a curve for a more comfortable seat. Draw the curve before cutting and make sure the pieces match exactly.

Lumber Sizes:

2x6 (1-1/2" x 5-1/2")

  • back uprights (cut two): 28"
  • seat supports (cut two): 24"

1x6
  • Rip a piece of 1x6 lengthwise to 3-1/2" wide, then cut two pieces 20" long for the armrests.

2x4 (1-1/2" x 3-1/2")
  • front uprights (cut two): 13-1/2"
  • arm rails (cut two): 24"
  • stretchers/back supports (cut two): 39"
  • back cleat (cut one): 48"

1x2 (3/4" x 1-1/2")
  • top rail (cut one): 48"
  • back seat slats (cut eight): 25"
  • seat bottom slats (cut five): 48"

Step 7: Sand Lumber and Drill Pilot Holes

Use a belt sander or a hand sander to sand down the edges of the wood. To save time – and help make sure the holes line up properly, pre-drill pilot holes before starting to assemble the swing. Throughout assembly, use galvinized or stainless screws to attach the various pieces of lumber.

Step 8: Assemble the Swing's Skeleton

Attach the back upright, front upright, seat support and arm rail for both sides of the swing.

Step 9: Assemble the Seat

Attach the 2x4 seat supports and screw the 1x4 seat bottom slats to the supports and the sides of the swing. The seat supports should be cut on a curve for a more comfortable seat.

Attach the seat back stretchers and back cleat; the cleat goes at the top of the seat back, while the stretcher connects to the bottom of the swing. Attach the 1x4 seat back slats to the stretcher and back cleat.

Step 10: Finish Assembly

Attach the sides to the back and bottom of the swing. Attach the armrests to the arm rails. Determine where the swing chain should attach to the seat supports, and drill holes at those points large enough to accommodate anchor bolts. Also drill a hole through the armrest large enough for the chain to pass through. Install anchor bolts in the seat supports, then screw eye bolts into the anchor bolts. Install the chain, and the swing is ready to hang

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