Retaining Walls

Building a retaining wall out of railway ties along your house is a cost-effective and decorative landscaping solution, especially if your house is situated on a hill or if your property area drops off or slopes.

Railroad ties, also called cross ties, are chemically treated or creosated planks of wood that were once laid on railway tracks to create the cross base for which the train rode upon. But because of wear and tear or a no-longer-in-use railroad path, the planks have been discarded, only to be re-used by individuals who have both a flair for natural design and craftsmanship.

Because railway ties are easy to work with and require only a few tools and additional materials to complete a project, building a retaining wall can cost far less in comparison to hiring a professional construction or landscaping company to do the design and installation for you.

Here a few things to consider as you prepare for the build-out of your railway tie retaining wall:

When choosing railroad ties for your wall, it is important to select those based on the accurate height, depth and length measurements so that your retaining wall, while looking rugged and natural, will also be consistent and functional. Most of the railroad ties best suited for walls will be wooden, particularly hardwoods, like oak or maple

Also, make sure that you are purchasing ties from a quality and reputable timber source or railway supplier. Avoid railway ties that are decayed, fissured or splinted and instead opt for clean and well-weathered ties that are made from durable wood.

When designing the retaining wall and calculating the measurements, keep the height of the wall at six feet or below. Anything higher than six feet is likely to result in safety issues. You can easily incorporate multiple angles and steps within your wall to create texture and to accommodate the natural curvatures in the landscape. Once you have your design in place, the individual timbers are then fastened and secured using spikes of rebar.

Railway tie retaining walls will need to be built within the ground surrounding by a layer of stone that is dug and filled within the ground. This will set up a level working surface area for your wall and the stone will help to buffer any settling that may occur.

Always choose wood planks that have a .40 treatment rating, which means that it is suitable for ground contact. Cutting the ties may lessen their longevity and may also make them more prone to weathering or a potential insect infestation. But if you must cut their lengths, re-treat the cut ends with preservative to prevent rotting.

If you live in a wet climate, it is important to create a trench and base that is wide enough to allow for proper drainage. In fact, drainage issues can affect the stability of the retaining wall and threaten its structure. Many retaining walls that do not have the proper drainage systems built into them will end up collapsing.

Using gravel stone to back-fill the ties will not only add support to the entire retaining wall, but it will also offset any potential drainage issues. For very soggy regions, you may need to add more gravel to the trench to absorb the excess moisture.

But since many railroad ties have been treated with chemicals, it is safest to build your retaining wall away from edible plants or where children are present. When building your wall, you should also wear gloves to avoid any unnecessary exposure to harmful irritants.

Railroad ties create a raw and natural beauty to your outdoor landscape. R+R's railroad ties are lightweight, can be nailed without drilling and can be painted or stained to compliment the color scheme of your outside scenery. Once they are installed, they require virtually no maintenance.

Railway tie retaining walls offer a decorative and simple DIY solution to eliminate slopes in your yard, prevent erosion and create an attractive enclosure on your property. Plus, as long as you are selecting quality railway tie timbers, you will create a durable and long-lasting landscaping feature to your home or business.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact R+R. Our timber and landscaping experts can help you select the best ties for your retaining wall needs.