How to Use Railway Sleepers in Your Garden

Railway sleeper sales are booming right now and it's no surprise, as these wooden slabs are versatile, durable and suit most outdoor spaces. Sleepers are ideal for creating sleeper beds but can also be used in other ways in the garden. 

Railway Sleeper plant bed

What are railway sleepers? 
Railway garden sleepers are those large wooden beams traditionally used to support railway tracks but which are now popping up in gardens everywhere. They can be heavy to lift but once in place are long-lasting and look great in any landscaping project.

Which type of sleepers should I choose? 
Softwood sleepers are the best option for most garden lovers. They're uniform in size so have a clean, modern look. They're lighter to handle than reclaimed and oak sleepers and easier to cut too. Our softwood sleepers are pressure-treated so are protected against timber rot and will last for many years. The treatment process makes them safe for use in all garden and landscaping projects too.

Oak sleepers also come in a uniform size but are a good deal heavier than softwood sleepers so cutting and landscaping with them will prove more difficult. They're not treated as they have their own natural protection, however they can be oiled or stained, if required. Oak sleepers will need to be cut mechanically due to their density.

Reclaimed sleepers give a more vintage look, but due to the creosote and the likelihood of old fixings they're not suitable for gardens where children will be playing. They're also likely to be different sizes. In the summer heat the creosote can leak out which means they shouldn't be used for retaining vegetable beds. You'll also need to wear protective gloves when handling.

Four uses for railway sleepers in your garden...
1. Steps and stairways
Constructing steps in the garden? Use railway sleepers to create the riser, then fill in behind with soil or gravel to create each step. Alternatively, sleepers can be used to create a whole, single step and thus create a wooden stairway outside. 

Railway sleeper steps

2. Soil-retaining walls
Sleepers are sturdy enough to make excellent walls. The easiest way to create a soil-retaining or other low wall is to sit them on top of each other in brick fashion then fix in place with landscaping nails or with posts supporting from behind. Sleepers can also be set between steel RSJs or Universal steel columns to produce a sturdy wall. Alternatively, walls can be built by setting railway sleepers vertically side by side, though this is more labour-intensive to build.

3. Edging
Flowerbeds and lawns look stunning when edged with a single-level sleeper. It neatens up borders and keeps flower beds contained. This edging also works particularly well in driveways as the wood is robust enough to act as a kerb, protecting precious plants against car wheels.  

4. Benches
Sleepers are great for making a chunky rustic bench that's perfect for the garden. Whether choosing a simple or more complex design, fix with landscaping screws and paint or stain however you want.

Thinking of building a raised bed from sleepers in your garden?
Save money with our new Raised Bed Sleeper Kits – all you need to build a raised bed out of beautiful wooden sleepers in your garden. Choose from softwood or oak and a size that suits your garden. Each kit contains sleepers, membrane, landscaping screws and soil. The only other tool you'll need is an electric drill and a drill bit.

Help & Advice
If you want to know more about railway sleepers, please get in touch with your local branch. Our specialists will be happy to offer help and advice and can provide you with a free quote for supply of all relevant materials.

16th May 2019