Start a new thread

1 to 5 of 5 replies

Hi all, just joined the forum as I'm about to landscape the garden. I plan on  building  log sleeper retaining wall, about 3 sleepers high. My question is, do I go with French oak, hardwood or softwood?

Thank you in advance

Sleepers are originally old railway sleepers which have been soaked in creosote and last for years - if you can still find the genuine article.

Hardwoods will always last longer but will normally be more expensive.  Pressure treated boards will do the job but it is often recommended that you leave them for a year or two before applying a wood stain.

Really down to your preference and budget,

There are also plenty of companies which offer complete raised beds for you to fix together in whatever configuration suits you.  Not wood so perhaps less maintenance.


Harder to find old creosoted railway sleepers now and they can be bumpy and uneven but do the job.

New ones are very good but expensive and, in this part of France, we'd have to get a lorry load shipped from Brittany which is even more expensive so we're going to use roofing beams which are pine but have been treated.   We used them in our Belgian garden when we were repairing our raised beds and they did fine, even in all that rain.   They come in different lengths and will be easier for us to cut to size and also easier for us to lift and manoeuvre.

Old sleepers can still be found and will last many years. Try demolition yards or reclamation places. New oak sleepers will look nice but unless treated will rot in the soil.

Hi David,

If you use new softwood sleepers they will be easy to work with when cutting, building on top of each other and to fix together. To prevent rot you can apply bitumen paint using a paint brush on the side exposed to the sleeper. If you use original sleepers in the warm weather they will ooze tar and will stain clothes or hands if they come in contact. If you want to be extra safe when you build the sleepers up you can put pea gravel down between the soil and sleeper, aprox 30 - 50 cm in width. This will mean that all surface water can percolate straight down to the ground and not sit over time against the timber. 

Hope this helps


Sign up or log in to post a reply