How to lay garden sleepers

How to lay garden sleepers

Why use garden sleepers?

Sleepers are hugely versatile and can be used in a wide variety of building and landscaping projects. Whether you are making sleeper steps, planters, edging, terracing, screening or benches, our timber sleepers come in a range of different colours and styles so you are sure to find a sleeper suited to your garden project.

How to choose garden sleepers

  • Reclaimed Sleepers: are the sleepers that have been on the railway. They provide an attractive rustic look but caution must be taken when handling these as they can be very heavy. Avoid skin contact and don’t use in public or play areas.
  • Treated Brown Softwood Sleepers: are lighter in weight and easy to use. These sleepers are pressure treated for long lasting protection.
  • New Oak Sleepers: are surprisingly good value. Made from European Oak, they provide a neat modern look and have become the most popular choice in our range.
  • New Treated Brown Hardwood Sleepers: are made of Alder, Aspen or Birch and are less likely to split than oak sleepers.

How to lay garden sleepers

  1. When using sleepers for a retaining wall, or for steps or terracing, firstly, make sure your area is clear of debris and vegetation and dig down a shallow trench. Concrete the sleepers in on a 100mm deep bed. Haunch at the back end of the sleeper and if possible, the front end too. This will help fix sleepers to the ground so they remain stable. If using sleepers for a low border or planter it may well be enough to fix a wooden post or spike behind the sleepers and fix this into the ground.
  2. Stack the sleepers, overlapping them neatly at the corners, making sure they are level with a spirit level.
  3. Oak sleeper planter being constructed using landscaping screws and metal plates

    There are various ways of connecting sleepers together if building planters or walls. Steel rod pins are a good way of securing a higher stack of sleepers.  Long landscaping screws that are counter-sunk into the sleeper are perhaps the most popular method, whilst metal plates and corner braces on the inside of the build also prove useful and help keep the build nice and square

  4. Finish your wall, steps or terracing by sanding off any sharp splinters of wood. You may also want to consider covering sleepers with a wire mesh or cutting grip into the surface if you are using them as steps, as they can become quite slippery when damp.

How to cut sleepers

Sleepers are usually cut with a handsaw, an electric saw or a chainsaw. Softwood sleepers are easier to cut at home with basic DIY equipment than hardwood. We advise against sawing reclaimed sleepers. Always wear personal protective equipment and seek professional help if you are at all unsure.

How to make a planter out of sleepers

Follow our simple guide to making a planter out of sleepers.

How to use sleepers in your garden design

Sleepers can be incredibly versatile and using them vertically can provide an eye-catching option for a wall or even feature. Consider varying the heights of vertical sleepers for added interest. You can butt them up together for a smart solid wall or space them out slightly to create a privacy screen. Create straight or curved walls. Remember to ensure a third of the sleeper is fitted/secured into the ground to make sure the vertical sleeper is well supported.

Consider using railway sleepers on a pathway, space apart at a stride’s length and infill between with gravel, decorative aggregates or grass.

Finish sleeper planters or low walls with a horizontal layer which can double nicely as a bench.

Sleepers are a hugely adaptable product that have become increasingly popular in garden landscaping and design. With a little imagination, you can achieve stunning results…

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