How to Build a Timber Sleeper Retaining Wall

How to Build a Timber Sleeper Retaining Wall

Retaining walls can be constructed with a variety of materials. Timber sleepers being one of them. But what is the method of building a retaining wall with it? And is there an easier method?

In this blog, we will provide guidance on how to build a railway sleeper retaining wall.

At PPC Concrete Products, we are here to provide solutions for your construction needs,

from the person working their own part-time project, to commercial clients, and everyone in-between.

Monthly construction output had risen an estimated 1.6% value in June 2023, and we would like to think our accessible concrete products had a small part to play by giving our clients easy access to reliable and easy-to-use construction solutions.

Where are retaining walls made?

What’s the point in using an expert for a retaining wall?

Retaining walls can be built on areas of sloped grassland, they can come in various sizes from a few centimetres high, to a few meters. They can be in a garden, a nature reserve, a public park, the premises of a business, the list is essentially endless. That being said, if the area is completely flat, you can not create a retaining wall at all.

If you have a flat area and would like to create a height difference, there are alternatives to a retaining wall, which can include…

  • A raised garden bed. This works as an elevated planting area, and can be built with wooden frames, bricks, concrete and other materials. They can work to create a defined planting area on flat ground.
  • Levelling the ground is an additional option if the height difference between areas is minor. Using soil from the higher ground and placing it in the lower ground until it is level.

Are retaining walls essential?

Retaining walls become essential if the land that is sloped requires constant access, and walking across or past said slope is a health hazard for residents or members of the public. However, if the slope is miniscule, or in an area such as a private garden, then retaining walls are not essential in instances like that.

How to build a timber sleeper retaining wall

How to build a timber sleeper retaining wall

Building a retaining wall with timber sleepers is possible, but can vary depending on the area the retaining wall will be erected. Please note that the following steps are a general outline for this process, and may not be applicable for every instance of constructing a retaining wall.

With that being said, the first step is to plan and design.

Planning and design

Of course, you will know the area that you want the retaining wall to be in. But, before you can decide on how you want it, you should make calls to the relevant authorities to check if you require planning permission, or if the digging will disturb any pipes underground. By doing this, you are saving yourself any possible issues which could severely delay your progress.

Wall Layout

Next up, it is time to design the layout for your wall. Consider the height difference you need to retain, and the total length of the wall itself. At this point, you should also factor in the depth you’ll need to bury the timber sleepers.


After this, you can begin to choose the materials you would like to use. Treated timber sleepers can last for a long time, but would also require additional materials such as metal posts for additional support. A material that requires fewer additional materials are concrete blocks, which are an excellent option. That being said, you would need your additional materials such as gravel for the backfill anyway.

Regarding the planning and design stage, it may be a good idea to hire an expert to help you with this phase. This helps to ensure that your plans are realistic and within your budget.

Building the retaining wall

  1. Dig a trench along the planned length of the wall. The trench should be slightly wider than the sleepers, and generally, at least a third of the sleeper height in depth.
  2. Ensure the bottom of the trench has a layer of gravel to allow water to drain from the wall.
  3. Place the first course of sleepers on the compacted gravel base, ensuring that they are level by securing them with galvanised screws etc.
  4. Fill the space behind the sleepers with gravel and make sure it is compacted, this helps to boost stability and drainage.
  5. Lay the sleepers on top of each other, staggering the joints like brickwork for additional strength.
  6. For taller walls, using a metal post that is driven into the ground behind the sleeper, and bolted together is a way to provide additional support. Though it is optional.
  7. After your wall has reached the desired height, you can add a capping material to the top of the sleeper for weather protection or aesthetics.

Once again, this is an extremely basic overview which may not be applicable in every situation. For the best possible results, use the services of an expert.

What are the costs involved with constructing a retaining wall?

There are many costs that can occur from creating a retaining wall, in some cases, further costs can be expected depending on the material you use.

It is difficult to give a direct number as it does not take into account the rates of individual providers. However, we can provide a list of items or methods that can contribute to further costs.

Is there an easier way to make a retaining wall?

Is there an easier way to make a retaining wall?

Yes. Using Interlocking Concrete Blocks makes the construction of a retaining wall dramatically easier. This is due to Interlocking Concrete Blocks having no need for binding materials to achieve a permanent, lasting hold.

Additionally, due to the heavier weight of the blocks, they are naturally more inclined to be able to support a larger amount of weight from a retaining wall with less support. Available in many sizes, and with their unique studs and recesses, Interlocking Concrete Blocks are ideal for anyone who wants a retaining wall hassle-free, and fast.

Considering the fact they do not require mortar to connect, it is safe to say you will be saving money that would otherwise be spent on binding materials, and even some labour costs. But what actually makes Interlocking Concrete Blocks special? Well, a lot of things.

Here is a list of some of the uses that Interlocking Concrete Blocks can facilitate.

  • Material Storage bays
  • Blast walls
  • Salt stores
  • Crash protection
  • Push walls
  • Security barriers
  • Segregation bays, i.e. recycling centres
  • Retaining walls
  • Industrial buildings
  • Fire breaks
  • Counterweights
  • Roadblocks

What are the advantages of interlocking concrete blocks?

  • Longer lasting and more durable than a Gabion basket
  • Quicker and less hassle to install
  • No need for mortar, saving you money and time
  • No need for steel reinforcement or shuttering
  • Resistant to extreme weather conditions
  • Fire-resistant properties, mitigating the spread of fire depending on the structure
  • Little maintenance required
  • Often, no foundation is needed before installing

Create a retaining wall today

Create a retaining wall today

As an established supplier all over the UK, PPC Concrete Products is always happy to help, which is why we encourage you to get in touch with any questions you may have or have a look at our FAQ.

In this blog, we hope to have provided guidance on how to build a timber sleeper retaining wall. Whilst also providing additional information including construction solutions that we offer.

Take a read of our case studies to truly understand how we have provided solutions for business in the past with the use of our interlocking concrete blocks, and ultimately, how we can help you today.

Read our blog page for more insights into our passion, construction.


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