How to Build Railway Sleeper Retaining Wall

How to Build Railway Sleeper Retaining Wall

A railway sleeper retaining wall is one of many alternative materials you can use to create a retaining wall, but is this the best option you can use?

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.

What is a retaining wall?

Is a raised garden bed the same as a retaining wall?

A retaining wall is a structure that is designed specifically to hold land to an area it would not naturally stay in. Retaining walls can help to create paths, and more space, in gardens or outdoor areas, they have the ability to remove natural slopes to create a uniformed space.

Practically, this can help to create space in a garden that can be used for planting flowers etc, depending on the material used for the retaining wall. Retaining walls can range from a few centimetres high to a few meters high.

Who can build a retaining wall?

Retaining walls can be built by yourself or with a landscaper/other retaining wall professional, depending on where the retaining wall is erected, planning permission may be required.

The materials used for making the retaining wall itself can range from wood, metal, and concrete. All three have their own pros and cons, as well as specific considerations that each option requires in order to last long.

What is a railway sleeper?

How To Build A Sleeper Retaining Wall

A railway sleeper, sometimes referred to as railroad ties, are pieces of wood, generally made of treated hardwood. This is what makes the railway sleeper stand out from a normal piece of wood, the treatment process helps to make the railway sleeper durable, and protected from rot and decay.

Due to the aforementioned features of the railway sleeper, it makes it a great option to consider for a retaining wall.

What kind of railway sleeper can I use for a retaining wall?

Although railway sleepers can be used for a retaining wall, there is more than one kind of railway sleeper. But are they all suitable for a retaining wall? We will explain below.

Here are some specific types of railway sleepers that can be used in retaining walls:

  • Hardwood Sleepers: These are the most common type of sleeper used for retaining walls. They are strong, durable, and can last for many years with proper care. Popular hardwood choices include oak, eucalyptus, and jarrah.
  • Softwood Sleepers: While not ideal for retaining walls due to their lower natural durability, some pressure-treated softwood sleepers can be suitable for certain applications. However, they may require more frequent replacement compared to hardwoods.
  • Recycled Plastic Sleepers: An eco-friendly alternative, recycled plastic sleepers are becoming increasingly popular. They are impervious to rot and require minimal maintenance. However, they may not offer the same aesthetic appeal as traditional wooden sleepers.

How to build railway sleeper retaining wall

Building a railway sleeper retaining wall is similar to building a wooden retaining wall. There are two main ways railway sleepers can be used in retaining walls:

  • Horizontal sleepers: These are stacked on their long side, creating a tiered wall effect. This is suitable for lower walls.
  • Vertical sleepers: Sleepers are stacked on their short side, offering a more substantial look for taller walls. These walls typically require additional support like metal posts for stability.

Before you build a railway sleeper retaining wall, you should consider

  • Wall height and engineering: For taller walls or those retaining a significant amount of soil, consulting with an expert is recommended to ensure proper design and support.
  • Drainage: Proper drainage behind the wall is crucial to prevent water build-up and potential structural issues.
  • Permission: Depending on your location, you may need a permit to build a retaining wall.
  • Size: The size of the sleepers you require will depend on the height and design of your retaining wall.
  • Treatment: Ensure the sleepers are pressure-treated with a product suitable for in-ground contact.
  • Source: Sourcing your sleepers from reputable suppliers is important to ensure they meet quality and safety standards.

Is wood or concrete better for a retaining wall?

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

Although wood can sometimes be cheaper and, in some cases, a slightly more aesthetic option than concrete, it does not have the durability and natural strength of concrete.

Naturally, due to the heavier weight and aforementioned features of concrete, it is a more viable option for retaining walls to hold soil back, especially for larger retaining walls. Generally, wood can be more suitable for smaller retaining walls.

Does every kind of retaining wall need drainage?

Regardless of the material of the retaining wall, it will require drainage. Drainage allows for any water that is collected within the retaining wall through the soil, to be removed naturally. Failure to do this can result in a few issues, including…

  • Puddles appearing on the top of the retaining wall.
  • The wall has bent or has bulges. This is due to the additional undrained water increasing the total weight that the retaining wall is retaining.

Interlocking Concrete Blocks for retaining walls

One of the most effective resources you can use when it comes to creating a retaining wall are Interlocking Concrete Blocks. These special pre-cast blocks do not require mortar in order to create a long-lasting and effective connection.

Interlocking Concrete Blocks connect to each other via studs and recesses at the top and bottom of the blocks, respectively. Individually, concrete blocks are heavy, but once they are joined, they provide an excellent counterweight against exceedingly heavy applications like a retaining wall.

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
  • Sound resistant
  • Sustainable
  • Ability to stack them upon each other
  • Flexibility in sizes
  • Appropriate for temporary and/or permanent buildings
  • Unlikely to be displaced due to the interlocking function

Create a railway sleeper 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 railway 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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