DISCLAIMER: Here’s the deal… I am not a structural engineer! If you need one of those, please hire one! I assume no liability for the way you or anyone may interpret this information!
I’m writing this as a form of general, thought-provoking discussion and information to help keep people safe. I’m originally a carpenter by trade who has been a general contractor for quite some time. I’ve been in the construction industry for decades and I have all that real-world experience to fall back on. I’m going to try to explain how I think and figure this stuff out in my head when I build or install something. I have installed rigging points and suspension beams that even my own kids hang on with their aerial silks. I suspend my own wife, the woman I love, from my own installations. Like you, I don’t want the people I love, or anyone for that matter, to get hurt.
“Is my suspension point strong enough?”
If you are asking that question, the answer may be “No.” However, it is a good question because we all want to be safe. There are lots of do-it-yourselfers out there (and there’s nothing wrong with being a do-it-yourselfer) who are building and installing rigging points and beams and things improperly simply because they just don’t have the proper information, knowledge, or experience. They just simply don’t know.
One of the most common examples is the fun-loving couple who purchase their first sex swing at the local sex store. They eagerly rush home and install it in their bedroom with the screw-in eyelet that came in the box, tear each other’s clothes off, hop on in, and start sucking & f*cking. I cringe every time I even think about it!!! There’s no way that little threaded eyelet, screwed into the door frame is actually safe! Sure, it came in the box. Sure, the box says the swing holds up to 300 pounds. Sure, it may hold for a little while but then the wild monkey sex starts happening! The swing is bouncing around and swaying back & forth to the motion of the ocean… There’s moaning & screaming & shout-outs to a favorite deity… Then, maybe on the 4th, 5th, or even 15th use, that eyebolt wiggles around enough to fail and cause screaming and moaning for a much different reason. That eyelet pulled out and somebody is going to the emergency room.
Yes, it happens! Ask around and you’ll probably hear of someone it happened to.
“Why would they sell it with inferior parts in the box?” Because it’s simple and cheap and it did work for a little while. Actually, I believe that most sex swings don’t come with that particular part anymore. The instructions just say to use an “appropriate attachment point.” That means it is now up to you, the naïve consumer, to figure it out and it relieves the sex swing company of the liability.
“So, how do I figure out how to do it right? I can’t ask the neighbor guy for his advice… That’s embarrassing!”
Yup, I understand. Also, if the neighbor is a weirdo like me, he’ll probably want to watch or something now that he knows this little tidbit about his neighbors. But I digress…. Let’s talk about how to do some of this stuff right or at least start thinking about what factors to consider, what to look for, and how to realize when you might be in over your head and need to call a kink-friendly contractor to do the work or give the proper advice.
First things first…
Remember what or who you are holding up in the air. It’s a human being. It’s a loved one. It’s probably a fun toy that, if you break them, you won’t be able to play with again. Let’s not do that. Now, because your favorite toy is a human being, it’s called a “live load.” No, not simply because they are alive and breathing (I hope, because otherwise that would be icky) but because they move! They don’t just hang there motionless. I guarantee that your favorite rope bunny is going to start squirming around and moving quite a bit when you start poking them with the business end of the violet wand! Yeah, it’s tons of fun but it also puts tons of different and unusual stresses on your suspension system. It’s going to pull and wiggle everything in all different directions other than straight down. That’s how that eyelet holding up the sex swing comes loose and fails.
This factor needs to be kept in mind all the time. We need to install attachment points with features that aren’t going to fail or at least with such incredible strength or overdesigned so they won’t fail. A simple example would be climbing gear and professional theatre rigging used to support people. These rigging systems are typically made to a factor of at least ten. That means that if a person who weighs 200 pounds is going to be lifted, everything in that lifting system will be rated for at least 2000 pounds. (Yes, one ton.) This is the overdesigned safety factor. Odds are, that 200-pound person isn’t going to break a 2000-pound-rated cable or connector. This is easy to see for yourself. Just look at the posted rating on a carabiner used by rock climbers. It’s huge! That’s why we use, or should be using, the same kind of gear in our suspension kits.
“So, what should I use instead of a screw eye?”
Well, If you want something that’s not going to pull out, (not talking about your husband here) you need to look for something that goes all the way through your support with a big washer and nut or something that wraps all the way around. We all use nylon straps to go around beams but if you want it attached to the ceiling in your bedroom, you should think about getting up in the attic. The idea is to drill all the way through and use an eyebolt with a large washer and nuts on the top side. Yes, I said nuts… plural. Two or three nuts locked together tightly so that nothing can unscrew and fall out. When you purchase the eyebolt, look at the rating on it. Go for a big rating as I explained above. 3000… even 4000 pounds is okay. You never know when you’re going to have 2 people climbing in that swing! Don’t be afraid to get that big, 1/2 or 5/8 inch eyebolt!
Now, since we’re talking about these weight ratings and bedroom ceilings, let’s talk about the ceiling structure. That 2x4 roof truss that the drywall is hanging on isn’t intended to support these new loads. They were just meant to hold the ceiling and maybe some lights and stuff. You don’t really want to just drill through and put that eyebolt in just one 2x4 up there. This is the other reason for getting up in the attic. Take some more lumber up there with you and spread that load over more trusses. Preferably at least three. Run a couple more 2x4s or even 2x6s over the top of the 2x4 trusses, put some more blocking between these new pieces and the drywall ceiling where you want the eyebolt, and drill your hole all the way through the ceiling, blocking, and new supports. Yeah, we’re talking about a 7” or 8” long hole to drill. Which means a 10” long or longer eyebolt by the time you add room for the washers and nuts and get it all tightened up. Now that suspension point isn’t going anywhere!!! …and it’s in the right place because you put the blocking and everything exactly where you want it! …and you’re not going to damage the trusses and ceiling structure because you added some support by spreading the load out!
Yaaaaay!!! Go you!!
Your suspension point is now much safer. You feel amazingly confident and proud of the job you’ve done. It’s time to hang that swing back up or suspend your favorite rope bunny and have some fun!!! Wait… just one more thing. Well, you don’t really have to wait. Just keep one more thing in mind as time goes on. Pay attention to your suspension point! Inspect it once in a while. Make sure it’s not loosening up or suffering from any stress fatigue by checking on it from time to time.
Okay… NOW go have fun!!