How to use garden sleepers to enhance your garden


Garden sleeper can be the perfect use for your garden and enhance your garden aesthetics. Garden sleepers come in various sizes in both new and reclaimed, softwood and hardwood. Traditionally reclaimed sleepers have normally been used in the railway industry to support railway lines; they have a rugged exterior appearance which makes perfect for a traditional rustic garden look.  

Uses – There are numerous ways to use garden sleepers. They can be useful if you are thinking of designing your garden and incorporating a retaining wall, also can be used for garden paths or steps.

They can be very cost effective if you need material for raised beds and garden plants as well as garden edging. If you want to make an outdoor bench and table, sleepers can also be used for this purpose. Garden sleepers are highly durable as they can carry enormous weight. A popular sleeper choice is one made out of hardwood such as oak or beech. Wood carries natural properties that it has been in the construction infrastructure for hundreds of years thus making them perfect material for sleepers. At McMahons, we stock a range of regular Timber Sleeper and Grade A reclaimed American Oak sleepers.

Over recent years garden sleepers have grown in popularity,  but this not for everybody’s preference, as there are many supporters or people who are not in favour of their use in garden designs. Nevertheless, one of the main benefits of using garden sleepers is their versatility in their construction use. They are very desirable in the use of outdoor architecture making them very attractive for landscape and decoration purposes.

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It is important to note that with all the advantages of garden sleepers, the main disadvantage is that sleepers are treated with creosote oil, obtained from coal tar fraction. This preserves sleepers and prevents fungi growth on the wood and insect infestation; it is poisonous so it is important not to use them in playground areas, tree houses where children could spend a lot of time in recreation.

At McMahons, we sell both regular sleepers that are safe to use around children recreational areas. Also, we sell reclaimed sleepers which can be used for all general purpose garden construction such as raised beds, edging, garden paths or retaining walls.

Tools you will need for your garden sleepers' project

      • Spirit Level - you need to make sure the levels are right

      • Hammer - a steel hammer to knock those nails in.

      • Screwdriver - a crosshead screwdriver is recommended with wood screws.

      • Saw - the sleepers are thick so a good saw is important.

      • PPE (gloves, goggles) - safety should always come first.                                         


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Forming a Planter or Raised Bed:  Once you know the size of your location, it is important to make sure you have the material to complete the project.  Clear the area of any unwanted vegetation that you do not need and then dig a shallow, level trench to allow for bedding material. Normally, you would use 3-4 courses in height and start by bedding the first sleeper onto a semi-dry concrete mix laid in your trench.
Going Up: Now it is time to build up the course of the sleepers, it is important to overlap the joints on corners as well as on straight sections. These can be fixed with Heavy Duty Wood Screws which require no pre-drilling.                                                                                                    

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sleeper strapping 

Alternative Fixing: Garden sleepers can be fixed together by means of galvanised straps. Corner sleepers can be connected by means of “L” shaped and straight length by vertical flat straps. All of these come pre-drilled so they can easily be screwed to the sleepers. 

Finishing Off: After the construction phase has been completed, the final part is to cut off any unwanted ends and sharp edges. Make sure the corners are planed away, particularly if you have children that use the area. Any exposed edges or cut surfaces apply an appropriate wood preservative to prevent wood rot setting in.

The Fill: Once everything has been set and dry. Fill the area with high-quality topsoil and now it is time to start planting. Raised beds are great for planting; spring bedding or you want to grow some vegetables. Whatever you like garden sleeper can give centrepiece structure to your garden project.  

Tips and advice Sleepers

Has this helped you make a more make a more informed choice when choosing your garden sleepers if you have any questions with regards your sleepers? Please let us know your thoughts on Facebook @mcmahonsbuildersproviders or find out more on our range of products on 

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