Can a Pergola Support a Swing?


pergola and swing

Pergola’s are one of those backyard features that most people either have or want to have. A pergola can add class to a yard as well as define a beautiful place to kick back and take it easy. You can purchase pre-made or pre-cut packages and put your pergola together that way. Or, if you have a bit of carpentry experience and the desire to build something incredible, then accessing some plans or looking at ideas online may be the answer for you.

Can a pergola support a swing? Yes, a pergola can support a swing if it is attached to beams. There will also be a weight limit based on the size of the pergola’s lumber as well as the size of swing and people planning on using it. A pergola must be reinforced to accommodate a swing and users.

So, the good news is yes, a pergola can potentially support a swing and someoneon it. But, is it safe to just hook up a swing to any pergola and jump on? No of course not, you could get seriously hurt. In this article, I will go over a few things like what makes a pergola safe for a swing and give ideas on how you could reinforce a pergola so a swing can be added. Let’s begin!

Signs that a Pergola is Safe to Hang a Swing On

These are my observations and should not be misconstrued as the ‘end all to be all’ for what makes a pergola swing safe. I do have years of construction experience, so take that for what it is worth.

  • Your pergola is cemented into the ground. The difference between a pergola being cemented into the ground versus being screwed to a patio at its base is huge when it comes to having a swing installed. The problem arises when you swing and the weight of the swing and occupants starts pulling on the pergola as it goes through its motions, back and forth and so on.
    • With a pergola screwed down to a concrete pad, you only have the strength of the bolts screwed into anchors into the concrete stopping the whole structure from flipping over.
    • With a pergola that has its structure cemented into the ground, you now have something very solid that can be pulled from different directions. Provided the structure itself is solid, there is not way your pergola is going to collapse to the swing’s weight and motion. The next two points are extremely important so please take note.
  • Your pergola is built with posts instead of 2×4’s – 2×4’s are great, in the right application, and yes you can strap them together to create a make shift 4×4. I don’t feel that this is as strong as a 4×4 or 4×6 post in the ground, creating the solid base you need for a pergola that you plan on hanging a swing on. The problem with two 2×4’s screwed together is they can warp, twist and pull apart, whereas a solid 4×4 or lager post is less likely to do so once the pergola is built.
  • Your pergola has hangar beams. The chain that attaches the swing to the pergola should be connected to a solid beam. This means the pergola should have designated beams bolted into place. It’s these beams that the chain from the swing gets attached to and will be the main contact. They should be securely supported by bolts.

Of course, there are other things like rotting wood and a wobbly structure you should be checking for. This gives you an idea of where to start when undergoing a project like this. I want to add that it’s very important to prepare a pergola properly in order to support you and your swing. The lumber is very heavy and with momentum can be extremely dangerous if a piece should break off and strike you.

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How Much Weight Can a Pergola Support?

The next obvious question is how much weight can a pergola support? It’s going to vary from structure to structure. If you see a pergola at the park with a swing on it, you know that is can handle multiple people and will stand the test of time.

But what about a typical pergola setup you often find in someone’s back yard? If you install a double seated bench type swing, then obviously you will have two people on it at times. One person on one of these bench swings will usually not be a problem for the average or even slightly heavy person.

With a strong enough chain and attachment system installed on your pergola for a bench swing, you should be able to hold at least 300lbs. Of course, your swing will have to be strong enough so, if you purchase one pre-built, make sure to check the weight ratings on it. If you are building or having one built, you won’t have to worry about it, provided the bench is solid when handling.

How Do You Reinforce a Wobbly Pergola?

Before you start attaching pieces of wood in the hopes that you will strengthen a wobbly pergola, you need to check the structure at the base. If you have posts cemented in, are they loose? If you have the bottom of the posts screwed to a concrete base, is that loose? By loose I mean, in either situation, if you shake it by hand, does the wood visibly move? If this is the case, then what you need to do first is secure the structure at this point before doing anything else!

The reason you need it to be strong and secure here is that even if you have an overall solid structure, it will still wobble if the part of it that holds it in place is loose. This could (again) be very dangerous, if the whole thing falls over.

Now that you know your base is solid, if your pergola still seems wobbly, you can start adding cross pieces to tighten it up.

  • Sometimes all it takes is some 2×6’s measuring a bit longer than the structure and cut with a bit of an arch in the center as well as a tapered end and bolting them to the vertical posts.
  • Make sure to use 2 bolts on each end so there is less chance of any movement happening.
  • Once you have these pieces on either side of the structure, you could add cross pieces attaching one piece to the other. These cross pieces can be installed by using 3” to 31/2” screws.

These are some great ideas to fix a wobbly pergola. Other things you could check include the quality of the wood. Does it appear to be rotting? If it is an older pergola, there is a chance some wood is rotting, losing its integrity. If this is the case, then it’s time to replace some pieces of lumber.

Sometimes a wobbly pergola is the result of the swings chains not being of equal length. This can cause the structure to wobble and move in a way that makes it feel like the pergola is the problem. Check your chains by either measuring or counting the links to see that an even amount span from the swing to the bolted connection.

Learn more!! see our article The Ultimate Guide To Choose And Install A Gazebo for more information

Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to mention that most pergolas will support some sort of swing. Of course, if you have a small decorative pergola that Uncle Bob built and it’s just sitting on your patio, then it’s not a good idea to attach a swing! Use common sense and (of course) the tips and recommendations I have provided in this article and you should have great success with it.

Good luck and happy swinging!

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