How to Use Railway Sleepers in Your Garden

Railway sleepers continue to be a popular choice for landscaping projects, as these wooden slabs are cost-effective, versatile, durable and suit both rustic and modern settings. They have a variety of uses in the garden including raised beds, retaining walls, lawn edging, steps, even garden furniture.

Sleepers provide a fantastic way to create striking, eye catching landscape design features with real impact.

Which type of sleepers should I choose?

At AVS Fencing & Landscaping Supplies we offer three different types of railway sleeper.

Softwood railway sleepers are the best option for most garden lovers. They're uniform in size so have a clean, modern look, and are lighter to handle and easier to cut than reclaimed and oak sleepers. Our softwood sleepers are pressure-treated so are protected against timber rot and will last for many years.

Oak hardwood railway sleepers also come in a uniform size but are a good deal heavier than softwood sleepers. They're not treated as they have their own natural protection, and if anything are more durable than softwood sleepers. Oak sleepers will need to be cut mechanically due to their density.

Reclaimed sleepers give a more rustic look due to their weathered, stained finish having been reclaimed from old railway lines. However due to the residual creosote and the chance of old fixings, take care when using in gardens where young children will be playing, or for building raised beds where vegetables will be grown.

How to cut railway sleepers

A circular saw is the best method for cutting railway sleepers, although a hand saw can be used for softwood sleepers. However a circular saw blade may not completely cut through the thickness of a sleeper in one pass - cut through one side, then turn the sleeper over and recut to finish the job.

Always remember to treat any cut ends of softwood sleepers with End Grain Treatment to preserve the weatherproofing of the timber.

Alternatively, your local branch of AVS may have the facility to cut sleepers to size for you.

Raised beds

Sleepers are the ideal material for constructing raised beds, whether for flowers or vegetables. You can read more about sleeper raised beds in our dedicated article.

Our Raised Bed Sleeper Kits contain everything you need to build a simple raised bed.

Sleeper steps and stairways

Railway sleepers are an ideal material for constructing simple garden steps and stairways. Use sleepers to create the riser, then fill in behind with soil, slate or gravel to create each step. Short pieces of fence post can be hammered in at the front edges of the step for added stability.

Railway sleeper steps

Using sleepers for a retaining wall

Sleepers are sturdy enough to make excellent retaining garden walls. Depending on the weight of soil being contained, and on whether the sleepers are being used flat or on edge, the bottom layer of sleepers may need to be set in a concrete or hardcore foundation. Alternatively, set short lengths of sleeper vertically in concrete to act as posts to which the sleepers can be fixed.

Fix each row of sleepers together with Timberfast Landscaping Screws.

Read our article on How to Build a Sleeper Retaining Wall.

Sleeper 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.

Making benches or tables from sleepers

Sleepers are great for making a chunky rustic bench or table that's perfect for the garden. Whether choosing a simple or more complex design, fix with landscaping screws then paint or stain for a sturdy, rustic piece of garden furniture.

Ask the experts

For further advice about your railway sleepers project don’t hesitate to speak to our experts at your local AVS Fencing & Landscaping Supplies branch. Our ranges of sleepers are all available from stock, click and collect from your local AVS Branch or home delivery within our AVS Branch delivery area

1st Apr 2021 AVS Fencing & Landscaping Supplies