Introduction: Backyard Hammock Swings - DIY Project
With everyone's summer plans being ruined by COVID-19, my wife and I decided to take on a bunch of backyard projects to pass the time so that we all don't go crazy. One of our first projects was this awesome backyard hammock swing. It is great for reading a book or relaxing away the evening while watching the kids play until the fireflies come out.
I made a video of this project and posted it to my YouTube channel. You can check out that video below, but also keep reading, because I provide more detail here than I was able to add to the video.
This is a relatively simple project and it does not require a lot of expertise or a bunch of expensive tools, but I will add a list of all the supplies and tools that I used so that you can get an idea of what is needed.
List of supplies:
- 4 - 12 foot 4X6 posts. You could also use 6X6 posts or 4X4 posts. The 6X6 would give more structure, but cost more and require a larger hole to be dug. The 4X4 posts would be much cheaper, but they would also not be quite as sturdy.
- 3 - 12 foot 2X6 boards
- Tape Measure
- Flat Head Shovel
- Post hole digger
- San Angelo bar for breaking up and prying out rocks (Note: The link is from amazon so you know what it looks like, but it would be much cheaper to buy at your local hardware store)
- String Level
- 3-4 bags of all-purpose gravel
- 12-15 bags of QuickCrete fast setting concrete
- Structural Screws (Note: Again, this is from amazon so you know what to look for, but this the link is for a whole box of 50, but since I only used 3 it would be a waste to buy them here. You will get them much cheaper at your local hardware store.)
- 3" Outdoor Screws
- Right Angle Screwdriver Attachment
- Corner Braces
- Hammock Hooks
Please note that some of the links above and throughout this article are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products and tools that I’ve personally used and believe are genuinely helpful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them. Most of all, I would never advocate for buying something that you can’t afford or don't need.
Step 1: Planning and Site Selection
Selecting a site is perhaps the most important part of the project. I wanted a spot that would give me a good vantage point for the rest of the yard. I wanted somewhere with some privacy as well as somewhere with a bit of shade. My yard also has a bit of a hill and so I wanted to put them somewhere relatively level. I ultimately placed it in front of my deck under the partial share of a tree. The ground is not perfectly level, but it is still something that I can work with (more on that later).
There are many options for the hammock swing itself. You could go with a single swing, two or three or even more if you have the space for it. We opted for two. The height of each station needs to be at least 7 1/2 feet tall, but we opted for 8. The width needs to be at least 4 1/2 feet wide, but we opted for 5.
With the plans all set, we are ready to dig.
Step 2: Digging Post Holes
Digging is perhaps the hardest step because it requires the most exertion and physical labor. You could complete it in a snap with a power auger but because I don't have one of those so I had to use brute strength and a few hand tools. I used a flat head shovel, a post hole digger and a san angelo or pry bar. I first used the flat head shovel to cut out the grass and shape the hole. The diameter of the hole should be about 3 times the diameter of the post. My posts were 6 inches by 4 inches and my holes were about 16 inches by 12 inches. I then used a post hole digger to get out most of the dirt and a san angelo bar to break up the rocks I came across and pry them out. A san angelo bar is basically a heavy pry bar with a point on one end to break up the rocks and a spade on the other end to pry them up.
I dug all of my holes to 3 1/2 feet or 42 inches. They need to be that deep so that they are secure. You could even make them deeper if you wanted too, and may need to if the frost line in your area is higher.
Step 3: Setting Posts
Setting the posts is one of the most critical parts of the whole project. there are a number of ways to do it, but I did the research and found that the simplest way was to use Quickrete fast setting concrete because it does not have to be pre-mixed. The concrete can be placed in the hole dry and will set when water is added.
The most important thing to do before adding the concrete mix is making sure that the posts are level and in line with one another. be sure to keep checking for level as you pour the concrete because it is possible that the posts could move slightly during the pour. With fast setting concrete you will have limited amount of time to make changes and so be sure that everything is set before you begin.
Before I add the concrete I filled the hole with about 6 inches of all purpose gravel and level it with the post. I bought 50 lb bags of gravel from the hardware store and each hole took about 1 1/2 bags.
Once the gravel is in place, I filled the hole with the concrete and then water; the instructions say that 1 gallon of water should be added for each 50 lb bag of mix used. It took about 5 bags to fill each hole, which surprised me at first, but made sense once I had done the math. The instructions also say to fill the hole with concrete mix until it is 3-4 inches from the top, but I found that it was best to fill half of the hole with concrete and then water and then the second half and then water. Doing it that way helped the water penetrate the concrete mix better.
Step 4: Leveling the Top of the Posts
I mentioned before that my ground was not quite level and because of this the three posts are not at the same height and so I cannot add the top joist until this is fixed. The best way to do this would be to use a line level or string level. These are very inexpensive tools that are essentially levels that can be added to string. They help you ensure that you are level across a space much bigger that an average level could reach. I attached a string to the top of my lowest post and then pulled the string across the other two posts marking a line where I needed to cut them level. Ultimately I cut a bit off of each post to get them to the height that I needed. If your space is level and you do a good job of digging your holes all the same depth then you could skip this step, but chances are that you will need to make some adjustments.
Step 5: Installing the Joist
Installing the top joist is simple, but again, requires some elbow grease. I lifted the joist up on top of the three pots and then secured it to each post with 6 inch construction screws. I drilled a pilot hole for each screw, but you would not necessarily need to as the screw has a head that drills in to the wood. I should note that I cut the joist a bit so that it was 11 feet long and not 12. I did this so that it was slightly less wide than the two boards that I will install in the next step - oh, and I also painted the boards (or my wife did). I find that painting them before you install them is much easier. I still had to do some touch up in the end, but it did save time to paint a coat while it was on the ground.
Step 6: Install the Front and Back Pergola Boards
Next I installed a 12 foot 2X6 board to the front and back of the joist. This does a few things. First, it adds a bit of structure and makes it feel more substantial. Second, it hides the joint between the posts and the joist and lastly, it provides a base for the decorative pergola pieces that will be added in the next step. Because the boards were long and heavy it was a challenge to hold them in place while I screwed them in. If you have a friend to hold one end for you that is ideal, but I was by myself and so I put up a couple of clamps to help hold the piece up while I screwed it in.
Step 7: Install Pergola Top
For the top, I took the last 2X6X12 board and cut it up into 7 equal pieces of about 20 1/2 inches each. Then I cut off 2 corners of each board for a decorative feature and painted them before I put them up.
I thought long and hard on the best way to put up these boards. I wanted them to be secure, but I didn't want to be able to see any fasteners. I decided to use some L brackets, but screwing them in to the top was going to be a challenge because the space was too tight for my drill. To solve that problem, I used a handy right angle screwdriver attachment which allowed me to screw them in without any problems. I've added a short video clip below so you can see what that looks like. I added one board on each end over the post and one over the center post. From there I added 2 boards on both the right and the left equidistant from the post in the center and the posts on the end. I didn't measure for that, but rather just eye balled it and it looks great.
Step 8: Install Hammock Hooks
I purchased hammock hooks that were each rated for 1000 lbs which is more than I would ever need. I didn't use the screws that came with the hooks, but rather used 3 inch outdoor screws and screwed in the hooks in the center of each side. From there all that was left to do was hang the hammocks and enjoy!
Step 9: Enjoy!
This was a fantastic project and we have really enjoyed relaxing in our hammock swings. They are a great place to watch the kids play, to read a book or take a nap on a lazy afternoon. We also love to sit and watch the fireflies come out at night and enjoy the cool summer night air.
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One last thing to mention and that is the inspiration for this project. My wife's sister runs an Instagram with her sister in law called Fox and Timber and this was a project that they first posted. They also have a bunch of other really great project and so check them out if you are in to that sort of thing.
Runner Up in the