24/7 Support  01727 226666

Hardwood or Softwood Garden Sleepers

Hardwood or Softwood Garden Sleepers

At Lawsons we stock a wide range of railway sleepers which can be used for many purposes around your garden. Our range includes reclaimed sleepers, softwood sleepers and hardwood sleepers. With a variety of choice, it might become difficult to decide which garden sleeper is best for the job in hand and that’s why in this blog we explore the differences between hardwood and softwood sleepers and which one you should choose.


What are Softwood Sleepers?

Our softwood sleepers are the most economical way to use sleepers in your home. As you can see from our range below, they start at a very cost effective price point. They are lighter than their hardwood counterparts and therefore easier to manoeuvre, cut, and position. However, if you would like a durable sleeper that needs to withstand a lot of heavy use (such as a path), hardwood sleepers may be your best option. The softwoods used for our sleepers are either spruce or pine, and are all responsibly sourced from the Baltics or the UK. Our Softwood railway sleepers are commonly used for raised flower beds, garden edging, retaining walls, paths and steps.


What are Hardwood Sleepers?

Our hardwood sleepers are extremely versatile, durable and robust. Hardwood sleepers have inherent properties of durability and offer a maintenance free alternative in comparison to our softwood sleepers. They tend to be heavier than softwood sleepers and you do need a helping hand while lifting them. Hardwood sleepers can be used for various garden projects including garden paths, retaining walls and planters and are more suitable for your garden and exterior projects.


So, what are the key differences?

While both softwood and hardwood sleepers may physically look similar, there are some key differences between the two, which we will outline below.

Did you know that while these sleepers are referred to hardwood and softwood, in reality there are no hardness or softness features in either of the sleepers as their names might suggest – the hardwood sleeper is not hard and the softwood sleeper is not necessarily soft. These names are actually derived from the type of seed and tree from which the sleeper wood is made from. For instance hardwood can be described as a trees seed which may have a fleshy coating or shell, whereas if the tree seed has no cover or coat it’s generally described as softwood.  

In terms of weight, hardwood sleepers tend to be heavier in comparison to softwood sleepers. Hardwood sleepers can weigh up to 50 kg! This does make them more denser and long lasting than softwood sleepers. They are great for building retaining sleeper walls or garden planters, however while working with hardwood sleepers, we recommend you don’t lift it on your own and get some help. On the other hand, our softwood sleepers are sourced from the Baltics and are much lighter making them easy to manoeuvre around the garden, cut and even drill.  

Moreover, hardwood sleepers can be a challenge to deal with. Hardwood is strong and dense and this makes it harder to  insert nails. Generally, you should avoid doing this and you must predrill pilot holes before screwing anything in to hardwood, if you don’t then you could possibly crack or split the wood.

When we use sleepers for outdoor use, the most important feature we look for is the sleepers resistant to decay. Hardwood sleepers are much more resistant to softwood sleepers, this is because oak is generally high resistant to any decay and without being treated it can last you up to 30 – 40 years. Softwood sleepers comes from pine and it is known that they a less resistant to decay and have to be treated to ensure they last a long time, when treated and maintained after purchase you can expect softwoods sleepers to give you up to 20 years of use.  


We hope this blog has given you further insight in to the different characteristics of softwood and hardwood sleepers offered at Lawsons. If you require further advice, then don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team on 01727 226666.


Related Articles 

What types of Railway Sleepers are there?

How to make a retaining wall with railway sleepers

How To Lay Railway Sleepers In The Garden