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Distinctive Decking for Your Garden

Using decking to create a raised area gives you an ideal place for entertaining your friends & family for those long summer evenings.  It does not matter if your garden is on a slope or level, timber decking can offer an attractive area for seating.

Tools you will need for to install your garden decking

  • Spirit Level  - you need to make sure the levels are right.
  • Saw - the decking needs to be cut cleanly so a good saw is important.
  • Posthole Digger / Spade - key to making a sturdy base.
  • String / Ranging Line - key to a straight base.
  • Gloves / Goggles - safety always comes first.

How to Lay Wooden Garden Decking

  1. Decking area: Work out the area you want to cover with decking and mark it out with pegs and a line making sure all the corners are perfectly square.  Clear away all debris, vegetation and grass and level the area as best you can.
  2. Fixing: If your decking is to be connected to the wall of your house you can attach it using a ‘timber wall plate’ secured with masonry bolts at 400mm intervals. Good practise is to make sure the finished level of the deck is at least 2 brick courses below your house’s damp course level. Dig holes 600mm deep for each of the decking frame posts and concrete them in with Post Fix making sure all the posts are perfectly vertical. It is usual practise for posts to be set in at 1.2m intervals to each other throughout the deck, and the posts around the perimeter are offset to one side to allow for the decking frame’s perimeter joists to be secured. Once all the posts are set fast, the marking out lines and pegs can be removed.
  3. Weed control: It is a good idea to cover the ground with a weed control fabric at this point. It can be held down with shingle and will aid drainage as well as prevent vegetation growing under your new deck.
  4. Main framework: Making the decking frame is your next job. Fix timber joists to the outer side of each of the corner posts to create a perimeter frame. Next infill the frame with joists at 400mm centres. Remember the joists run in the opposite direction to the decking.
  5. Balustrading choice: Balustrading will add that touch of class to your decking so before attaching boards you should make this your next job. Firstly work out spacing of newel posts which are usually set at a maximum of 2.4m apart. The corner ones can be slotted in the gap left when constructing the decking frame and secured with coach screws. You can fix intermediate ones using same method with just one coach screws at this point to allow for adjustment when fitting balustrade panels. Cut your base and top rail to size and drill pilot holes through both base rail and top rail fillet to enable balusters to be secured, usually at 100 to 120mm centres. Fix balusters firstly to the top handrail fillet and then to the base rail using 50/75mm galvanised screws.  The balustrade panels can be fixed to the posts by means of 12mm timber dowels glued in making sure to leave a 50mm gap under the base rail.
  6. Boarding the deck: Now fit the Decking boards. Start from the outer edge and work inwards cutting notches to fit around posts on edge boards and allow the decking boards to cover the outer edge of the frame. Make sure your first board is level with edge of the framework and fix it with two 65mm long decking screws, attaching the decking to each of the frame joists below. Remember to leave at least a 5mm gap between each decking board to allow for timber expansion. If your decking boards meet in length, make sure these butt joints are supported by the decking frame below and stagger these joints throughout the deck to maintain a strong structure.
  7. Safety: If you have a large gap beneath the deck it is a good idea to fix trellis panels or decking to the perimeter to stop pets and children getting trapped under your platform.
  8. Treatment: It is always a good idea to give your decking a regular coat of a sealing product or stain, this will ensure it always looks its best throughout the year.
  9. Planning Permission: Usually decking installations which cover no more than 50 percent of the garden or are no more than 30cm above the ground are sanctioned within permitted development allowances.  However if you are unsure we suggest you check with your local planning office.

See Our Range Of Decking Online.

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How To Lay Railway Sleepers In The Garden

Railway Sleepers come in various sizes in both new and reclaimed, softwood and hardwood. Reclaimed sleepers have generally been used to support railway lines; they have a worn appearance which makes them ideal for that traditional rustic look. New, square edged sleepers in either softwood or hardwood are more suited to a contemporary scheme. Over recent years railway sleepers have seen a revival due to their versatility and ruggedness when used in landscaping projects. They are commonly used to form planters; they act as an edging and are ideal for retaining walls.

Tools you will need for your garden sleepers project

  • Spirit Level - you need to make sure the levels are right.
  • Hammer - a steel hammer to knock those nails in.
  • Screwdriver - a cross head screwdriver is recommended with wood screws.
  • Saw - the sleepers are thick so a good saw is important.
  • PPE (gloves, goggles) - safety should always come first.

Railway Sleeper Planters

  1. Forming a Planter or Raised Bed: Once you have worked out location and size, make sure you have enough material to complete the project. Clear the area of all unwanted vegetation and material and then dig a shallow, level trench to allow for bedding material. Usually you would allow 3-4 courses in height and start by bedding the first sleeper onto a semi-dry concrete mix laid in your trench.
  2. Going Up: Place the next course of sleepers, making sure to overlap joints on corners as well as on straight sections. These can be fixed by means of TimberLOK Heavy Duty Wood Screws which require no predrilling- they can be screwed straight through to the one underneath.
  3. Alternative Fixing: Sleepers can be fixed by means of galvanised straps; inside corners can be tied by means of “L” shaped ones and straight lengths by vertical flat straps. All come pre drilled so they can easily be screwed to the sleepers.
  4. Finishing Off: Once you have achieved your required height trim any unwanted ends and plane sharp edges and corners, especially if children are to use the area. Make sure to treat any exposed or cut surfaces with a proprietary wood preservative.
  5. The Fill: After allowing your finished masterpiece to dry and set, fill with a good quality top soil and get planting! Raised beds are particularly suitable for vegetables or those special centre pieces that give structure to your garden project.

We stock a wide range of reclaimed sleepers!

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Railway Sleeper Edging

  1. Garden Edging: Sleepers are ideal for forming garden edgings as they can be used in a single height, either flat or on their edge. Alternatively, they can be stacked and secured using the method described above for planters.
  2. Vertical Edging: Another way sleepers can be used is vertically in varying short lengths; for this method you need to dig a 300mm wide trench dug to an appropriate depth. Cut your sleepers to your required length, which could be random for a rustic look. Then mix up some lean mortar, such as 6:1, to be used as a concrete base and haunching. Place at least a 50mm bed of concrete in the bottom of the trench and start inserting the sleepers, haunching them up as you go. Remember to taper the haunching away from the timber.
  3. The Finish: If laid in a stepped fashion this will add interest to any dull corner of your garden- especially if reclaimed sleepers are used.

We stock a wide range of reclaimed sleepers!

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Railway Sleeper Retaining Walls, Terraces & Steps

  1. Garden Themes: If you have a particular idea for your design, such as breakwater groynes to act as a retaining wall, you would need to follow previous instructions for vertical garden edging with a few additions. It is a good idea to nail a timber batten to the back edge of the sleepers to help keep them in line while the concrete haunching is setting. The concrete setting may take 2-3 days. If you are using sleepers around a pond it is a good idea to use new as opposed to reclaimed sleepers. Reclaimed sleepers have generally been treated with creosote which can be highly toxic to fish.
  2. Terraces: Railway sleepers are an ideal component for supporting terrace edges. Laid on their side they are a good height for a stepped lawn or patio. They can be secured to short fence posts driven into the ground, thus providing a rigid structure.
  3. Steps: Due to their height, if sleepers are laid on edge, they make an ideal front for a slab inlay. This pattern can be repeated with each step using different infills, if required, such as stone chippings or natural stone slabs. Make sure to secure all sleepers to timber stakes (driven deep into the ground or concrete) in short lengths of fence post.

We stock a wide range of reclaimed sleepers!

Buy Wooden Sleepers Online
Create a Pathway Using Railway Sleepers

If you have a path that’s in regular use – usually to a shed or pergola – it can have an impact on your grass quality. Creating a path is an excellent way to break up your lawn and offer an easy way for people to get around the garden without ruining your lawn. Sleepers are extremely hardwearing and versatile, and perfect for laying garden paths. Unlike gravel paths, you can easily walk on them barefoot and they won’t heat up like stone or concrete pathways.

The best thing about using railway sleepers is that they are easily cut and you don’t really need much expertise – just a strong back and a little inspiration.

A Simple Garden Sleeper Pathway

The simplest sleeper pathways just involve digging and arranging the sleepers where you want them:

  1. Place the sleepers where you want them to be in your garden – make sure that they’re not too far apart to step from one to the other, but you don’t want them so close together that you might trip up either. Around 300mm apart us usually ideal.
  2. Mark out their positions using chalk.
  3. Measure your sleepers and dig deep enough so that the sleeper is mostly submerged with 25mm above ground level.
  4. Pour 25mm of sand into each hole and tamp it down.
  5. Slowly place a sleeper into each hole, using a sledge hammer to tap it down and level it out.

As the sleepers settle, they’ll sink down a little further so if they look like they’re protruding a little too much don’t worry – they won’t look like that for long.

Your Pathway Options

If you’d like something a little more sophisticated, you can dig out a larger section of your garden to fill it with gravel or peddles and add sleepers to walk on comfortably within that path. Another option is to dig out the whole area and use sleepers to fill it entirely, like you would with paving. This option would require a lot more effort to stabilise the sleepers since they’re likely to push at the earth around them or move against each other.

The simple pathway above is often the best option for a low maintenance path, especially if you have a smaller garden. If you have a larger area and don’t mind a more intensive project, the possibilities are endless.

Build a Fire Pit in Your Back Garden

There’s nothing like a crackling fire on a summer evening to draw friends and family together. A well-built fire pit can extend the amount of time you spend outdoors and improve your garden as a social area. They’re also surprisingly easy to build, even if you’ve never tried bricklaying before.

Always check whether there are any local ordinances or restrictions before you begin a major building or landscaping project.

Dig Your Pit

To begin your fire pit, you need to mark out where you’d like to dig it. It’s important to get in touch with your utility company to find out whether there are any parts of your garden to avoid, and make sure that you have plenty of clearance so that you’re not in danger of setting fire to any trees or a pergola.

A 900mm (3ft) diameter fire pit is an excellent size – it offers a large fire but doesn’t space people too far apart. Once you’ve marked your circle, dig a hole around 200mm (8”) deep and 75-100mm (3-4”) wider than you want the interior of the pit to be.

Pour a Concrete Base

A concrete base will keep the sides of your pit from cracking as the ground moves over time. Stake the forms into the pit that you’ve dug – the first (outer) circle should be 1200mm (4ft) in diameter and the second (inner) circle should be 900mm (3ft) in diameter. This means you have a 300mm (1ft) circle in between to pour the concrete into. Fill the forms halfway and press a rebar ring into the concrete for strength. Finish by filling the forms up to the top and tap the tubes with a club hammer until the concrete is level.

Let the concrete set overnight and remove the forms.

Build Up Inner Firebrick Walls

It’s a good idea to use firebrick or refractory brick to build the inner walls of your fire pit – this is because regular bricks crack at high temperatures. Fire bricks are denser than regular bricks and are kilned to withstand the heat of a fire pit. It’s a more expensive option but it means that your fire pit will last longer. You’ll need around 25 firebricks for a 900mm (3ft) fire pit.

Mortar the bricks with refractory cement, which usually comes pre-mixed. Trowel the cement on in a thin layer and use the tightest joints you can to reduce the amount of air in between the bricks. Remember to place gaps for draw holes at four opposite points around your fire pit. Check that the bricks are level regularly so that you can still adjust while the cement is wet.

Build the Outer Walls

You have a lot more flexibility in the outer wall materials since they won’t be subject to such extreme temperatures. Some people like to build them out of the same material as their paving or other garden walls to make sure that everything matches. You’ll need around 80 standard-sized bricks for a 900mm (3ft) pit.

Level your bricks in between courses by tapping down when necessary. Again, check the level regularly to make adjustments while the mortar is wet.

Finish the Top Lip

To finish your pit, use the same brick as the outer wall to create a cap that covers both the outer and inner walls. This will protect the wall joints from rain and keep any sparks contained within the pit. It also means you’ll have a warm ledge to rest your feet on or put your plate on.

You’ll need to give your brand new fire pit around a week to set before you can light a fire. Make sure to pour a few inches of gravel into the base for drainage, and don’t forget to buy a few marshmallows. 

Should I Buy New or Used Railway Sleepers?

Railway sleepers are one of the most popular gardening trends of 2016 – designers and gardeners are using them for everything from creating paths, retaining walls and to building planters.

There is a range of railway sleepers available – they vary in colour, wood, and size, but there are also used and new sleepers on the market so it can be difficult to decide which to buy. That’s why we’ve created this short overview so that you can find out about the main differences between new and used railway sleepers.

New Railway Sleepers

New railway sleepers tend to be made from softwoods such as pine or spruce, but you can also find new oak sleepers at a higher price. Softwood sleepers are not quite as durable as the used, hardwood sleepers but they do have straight edges and no wear, so they’re suitable for projects where you want a crisp edge and consistent sizes or finishes.

You can also choose from a range of colours or treatments. In most instances, you can’t do this with used sleepers since they have their own patina rather than a stained colour.

Because the majority of new sleepers are made from softwoods, they tend to be lighter than used sleepers, so they’re easier to handle. They’re also a little cheaper due to the material.

New oak railway sleepers are usually more expensive than the used ones but are far easier to treat and paint than their used counterparts.

Used Railway Sleepers

Used railway sleepers are the top choice for gardeners and designers who would like to add some character to their project. Since hardwoods are more durable, you’ll find that the majority of used sleepers that are in good condition will be made from oak. While there are some used softwood sleepers on the market, they often have very broken edges and are in much worse condition. If you are looking for a softwood sleeper, it’s best to go for new ones.

Used sleepers are dark or medium brown in colour as generally have been treated with an oil based preservative.. Sizing for used sleepers is only approximate, unlike new sleepers, since they may have been cut decades ago. This means that the sizing may only be very rough and weather has made its own changes to the wood. If you need exact accuracy in your project, softwood sleepers are the best choice again.

Making Your Choice

Sleepers are an excellent material – they’re durable, relatively easy to use (if you don’t mind heavy lifting), and extremely versatile. As with any material, it’s important that it’s suitable for your project. Typically, if you need exact sizing and clean edges, new sleepers are the way to go. If you’d like a little character and the ‘distressed’ look, used sleepers will deliver that for you. Finally, if you’re on a budget and just want to try out an idea, it’s probably best to use new, softwood sleepers so that you can buy everything you need for less. 

3 Ways to Use Concrete in Your Garden

Concrete can be a little intimidating as a material, especially to novice gardeners and DIY enthusiasts, but it’s an extremely versatile material and you may be surprised at how many different things you can make with concrete. You can buy a large bag inexpensively and you know that your finished items will definitely last!

Always remember to wear gloves and a mask when you’re handling concrete and don’t add too much water at the beginning. If you make sure to add water gradually and mix your concrete thoroughly, you’ll have a smooth usable material for your projects.

Concrete Spheres

These spheres are surprisingly delicate for something made out of concrete and really easy to make. They make fantastic plant pots or even candle holders for late summer nights.

If you remember covering balloons in papier mâché in school, the technique for these spheres will be very familiar. All you need to do is cover your ball in Vaseline and drape concrete-covered material over the ball, letting each layer dry before you add the next. This will take a couple of days to complete since you need to stop in between each layer, but finally you can deflate the ball and use some left-over cement to fill in any small cracks you can see.

You can leave your hollow sphere bare or paint it to match the rest of your garden furniture.

Draped Concrete Plant Pots

Or if you have some old tea towels to throw away, you could turn them into these beautiful draped planters. This project is even easier than the spheres and should only take you around a day or two (depending on your drying times). All you need to do is mix your concrete and soak the towel in it. Then drape it over an old bucket (one you don’t mind getting concrete on) and leave it to dry.

You can even pour concrete into it to make a table if you prefer, or turn them upside down to make unusual plant pots.

Concrete Hands

Unlike the other crafts here, these concrete hands are solid rather than hollow. They’re easily made by filling rubber gloves with concrete and moulding them into the shape you’d like the hands to be (you may need to use string or wire to hold them in place while they dry). Then just cut away the gloves and add your plants.

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How to Transform Your Garden with Namgrass

Why Use Artificial Grass

Namgrass is an excellent alternative to grass if you’d like a low-maintenance lawn that looks fantastic all year round. There’s no mowing, no watering, and no mud – you can just relax on your pristine lawn and know that even if the kids are out playing on it, you won’t have mud dragged across your carpets.

It’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor use and you can opt for professional installation if you prefer. If you’re a little more hands-on, here are the last instructions you’ll need for your lawn. Once installed, Namgrass comes with a minimum of a 10 year warranty, so you won’t need to work on it again for at least a decade.

How to Install Namgrass

Installing Namgrass is quick and easy. It can take anything from a few hours to around 24 hours, depending on the weather conditions and the size of your lawn. Here’s a video to take you through the process and help you create a lawn that looks perfect in every season.

The first step is to dig up your existing lawn and edge the area – you can use timber, concrete, brick, or even metal edging systems to contain your new lawn. Once that’s been installed, you’ll need to lay the base. If you need to build up a lot, it’s best to use heavy gauge type 1 material, but in most instances you can use fine type 1 – rake and level it before compacting to make sure that you have an even surface.

Once your base is ready, spray it with water to reduce dust and lay a weed membrane over the whole area to prevent weeds from growing through. Then you should roll out your new grass so that the sides overlap the entire area. Leave it for an hour or so to acclimatise and settle.

If you need to join your Namgrass (which is common if with larger gardens), fold the sides together and count in 4 stitches. Cut between the stitch lines and bring both sides together until they’re around 1-2mm apart and the join is invisible from a distance. Once you’re happy with how that looks, put jointing tape shiny side up underneath the join and apply your adhesive. Then carefully fold the grass down onto the tape and walk over it to compress.

Finally, cut around any obstacles and along the edges, taking your time to ensure a good fit. You’ll need to let your lawn settle to again and leave the glue to cure, which will take 2-24 hours depending on the weather.

You’re almost finished now! You just need to add the top sand and brush up the grass to finish. Applying top sand stabilises the grass and makes it more durable – it’s best to use around 5kg of kiln dried sand per square metre. Then just brush up the pile to settle the sand and get your lawn looking its best. The video uses a mechanical brush but you can use a broom if you don’t have one.

Then all you need to do is admire and enjoy your new fuss-free lawn. 

Raise Your Gardening Game with Planters

Raised planters are a fantastic way to separate your flowers or vegetables from the rest of your garden – they offer a way to save space, maintain healthier soil for your plants, and even mean that you don’t need to bend down as much when tending to your garden if you have a bad back.

Fortunately, they’re also extremely simple to make – essentially they’re just boxes with a soil mix added to them. You can choose from a huge number of materials when making them, and you can tailor your soil mix to whatever you’re growing without having to dig up your entire garden.

DIY Raised Garden Beds

While you can buy raised garden planter kits, you don’t necessarily benefit from doing so. You’ll need to work with the materials in the kit – rather than what’s best for your garden – and you’ll be restricted when it comes to size or shape. Starting from scratch doesn’t require much more effort but you’ll get exactly what you want.

First, decide on your size and placement – if you’re putting your planters on a roof terrace or in your garden, you still need to decide where they’re going and how large the planters can be. It’s generally easier to make fewer, large planters than lots of small ones but the arrangement is entirely down to your preferences.

Then you need to find out what materials are best for you and your garden. Our clients have used everything from bricks and paving slabs, through to timber and railway sleepers. Sleepers have the added benefit of not needing cement to put them together – you can just stack your sleepers and fill the box with your soil!

Once you’ve got your measurements and materials, you’ll need to start making your planters! Remember to make them at a comfortable height – if your aim is to look after your garden with minimal bending down, it’s a good idea to build them up to waist height so that you can achieve that.

If you’d like to build using timber, this wikihow will be helpful.

And if you’re building with bricks, this will help you with the technique and steps.

Remember, if you’re using railway sleepers or paving stones, you won’t need to spend as much time putting your planters together since the materials are heavy enough to stack together and stay put.

Finally, you’ll need to decide on a soil mix and add that to your planter. The most expensive option is to use all purchased materials, with varied composts, peat moss, and vermiculite. If you’re building extra tall planters, it’s best to use the ‘lasagne method’ which means that you bulk out the bottom of your planter with leaves, grass clippings, or hay. This bottom layer will eventually turn to compost and give you extremely rich soil without having to pay as much for it. Once that layer is built, add a compostable barrier (like untreated cardboard) to stop your quality soil from moving down too quickly, then add your growing soil mix to the very top 6-12 inches. You’ll notice the soil sinking over the next year or so – all you need to do at that point is add a fresh layer of compost to keep your planter topped up. 

Transform Your Landscape with DIY Garden Steps

If you have a sloping lawn, garden steps could be a great way to tidy up the look of your garden and offer an all-weather alternative to walking down the grass and getting your shoes muddy. You can use a huge range of materials and while the excavation for the steps can be time consuming, it’s actually a relatively simple project. It’s the perfect way to join up your landscape, especially if you have a shed or garage at the end of the garden you’d like to access regularly.

The deeper your steps, the fewer you need to build so it’s always worth considering that when you’re planning your garden steps. If you’re using a material like paving slabs or railway sleepers, the depth of each step could be determined by the length of the material – that means you also save time on cutting each step to size.

Remember to begin your garden steps with a concrete slab for stability, and stack the end of the last step onto the inner lip of the next one (rather than letting it rest on soil) so that your steps are level and structurally sound. There will be a lot of digging involved so that you can put each step into the ground and make it level!

Railway Sleeper Garden Steps

Using railway sleepers for your garden steps means you have an interesting material for the edging, don’t need to shape or cut other timber, and you know that they’ll be stable. You can choose between using railway sleepers for the entire step (lining them up width-ways so that the length of the step is made with sleepers), or you can just use the sleepers for an outside ‘box’ and then fill the main part of your step with concrete, soil, or even gravel.

If you’re opting for a sleeper frame, you can fix the railway sleepers together with metal brackets to keep them still and then fill the inside with your material of choice. This means that you don’t have to relocate the soil you dig up for the steps and can put it straight back into the centre before adding your concrete or gravel.

If you’re pouring concrete, remember to cover the sleepers with plastic sheeting so that you don’t accidentally drip the mixture onto your wood.

Building your garden steps yourself can save hundreds, if not thousands, in contractor fees. All of the materials can be bought from your local Lawsons branch, so in a few weekends’ time you could have your own beautiful garden steps. 

Railway Sleepers Versatile and Beautiful

Railway sleepers aren’t only fabulously cheap to purchase but they’re also beautiful and there’s actually not a lot you can’t make with them. If you’re dreaming up all manner of timber based projects for the coming summer and wondering how you can afford all of those materials…look no further than railway sleepers.

We know they’re often used in gardens for building steps, making raised beds, or edging planted areas, but did you know that they also make great decking, seating, tables, and even beds and fireplaces?

Sleepers come in a variety of timbers with softwood sleepers usually being of pine or spruce and hardwood usually of oak; they also come in a variety of measurements so depending on your project, you can be pretty selective about which sleepers will be the best fit for your needs.

Given the chunky nature of used railway sleepers and the naturally weathered look they gain during their original usage, they’re perfect for creating a country-style look to your projects which you’ll never replicate with “new” timber.

In terms of their use as decking, they’re great for stacking and raising the height of a deck on sloped ground and you can use whichever timber you like the look of for your deck; pine, spruce or oak will all suit.

A cottage-style bed, chairs and table is another simple construction which even inexperienced carpenters can manage and again, railway sleepers offer a wonderfully rustic look for your DIY furniture.

Stain, paint or “wash” the finished furniture according to your taste and you’ll have a beautifully hard-wearing and personality filled talking point to add to your home.

Timber can surprisingly be a great medium for water features and railways sleepers just happen to be the perfect choice for a raised garden pond. Garden ponds that are installed on decking areas can look very stylish and they suit the country look which sleepers provide. Filled with fish and carefully arranged plants, a beautiful raised garden pond can inject a real flash of style into your outdoor seating area.

Railways sleepers are incredibly versatile and Lawsons supply everything you need to really get creative with them. Why not consider a new fireplace surround made to your own specifications and design? What about a stylish garden seating set with integral planters? The choices are endless and only your imagination is the limit.

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