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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
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