Garden Design Tips: Railway sleepers and how to use them

garden design

Railway sleepers are such a great material to use in any garden. They can be used in so many ways to create structure, retain soil or make furniture.

Garden Design Tips Railway Sleepers

Garden Design Tips Railway Sleepers new and reclaimed

There are several different types of railway sleepers on the market including new treated softwood sleepers right through to reclaimed African hardwood sleepers. Be careful when using reclaimed sleepers as they can be carcinogenic and harmful to wildlife, children and pets. Choosing the right kind of sleeper for your job is vital.

Things to remember with railway sleepers

  • The first of our garden design tips for railway sleepers is to ensure you are using the right sleeper for the right garden – whether it is reclaimed or new. Reclaimed sleepers are very heavy and will require at least two people to move them into position. They can also be carcinogenic. They look great though if used in the right way.
  • Consider the size. Sleepers do vary in size. If you are using them to make furniture, try to source one that is the right size for the height of the bench and the backrest.
  • They are fairly easy to install, use coach bolts and make sure the ground is level before you put your first course in.


Garden Design Tips Railway Sleepers - used for furniture

Another of our garden design tips railway sleepers is that they are great for making fabulous bits of furniture. They really lend themselves to sitting on both in their appearance and dimensions. If you don’t want them to appear too bulky, put them on legs and just use one horse on its side to make the seat.

Water features

Garden Design Tips Railway Sleepers - water features

Railway sleepers can be perfect for rustic water features. Simply build a trough with a beautiful liner. Make sure they are well above the water level so none of the toxins leak. You can attach a spout or fountain s,imply by screwing in or drilling through the wood.

Raised beds

Garden Design Tips Railway Sleepers - used as raised beds

An important garden design tip for railway sleepers is that they were made for raised beds. In our gardens we use them all the time to raise the planting above ground level. When constructing then, try to alternate the joints as it will make it stronger and visually more interesting.

To retain soil

Railway sleepers can be used for levelling ground

If there are level differences, sleepers in a garden are perfect for coping with that. You can backfill with gravel if necessary.

On the floor

Garden Design Tips Railway Sleepers - can be used on the floor

You can use sleepers on the floor, but beware they can be slippery. Sync them into gravel, or add anti-slip strip to make them safer.

Create a garden structure

Create a garden structure with railway sleepers

You can use new sleepers in the garden to build paddlers, or create outdoor room. Sync them into the garden upright and make crossbeams to create the perfect outdoor room. Perfect for adding down lighting, or to hang a hammock from.

Make shelves

Garden Design Tips Railway Sleepers - can be used for shelving

In this garden, we created a shelving unit to display selection of objects and add interest to the space. This made a great night time feature and gave the client the opportunity to include small pots plants and change the display when they got bored.

We hope this has been helpful, read more of our garden design tips here.