Using Sleepers as a retaining wall


29 Jul 2008
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United Kingdom
I am planning to use new sleepers as a retaining wall/steps upto a raised patio.

The height is circa 400mm so will be using 2 sleepers of 200mm high, forming a step with a sleeper on its wide face (ie the 200mm face, so the step will be 300mm deep) - does this make sense?!!

Currently, the soil to be retained is a grass bank, so I am planning to cut "steps" into the bank to accommodate the sleepers - my question is how to "fix" the sleepers so they will not move?
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i'm no expert, but wouldn't a sleeper stay in place if you're cutting into a grass bank? it sounds as though the soil would be quite compact to start with, and sleepers are quite heavy.

However, personally i would probably drill a hole through the sleeper (that sounds a job in itself) and use a three foot (ish) metal rod, hammered through into the ground. A lot of the steps you see on paths in the countryside are supported this way.

or how about a shallowish concrete footing below the sleeper? there'd be a few ways of tying the two sleepers together and to the concrete....
With it being such a low height, I don't think you need to tie the sleepers together. Dig a very shallow ditch for the bottom one (just say an inch) so it doesn't slide, and the friction between the two sleepers will keep the top one put, with them being so heavy. If you want to be extra sure, just find something to increase the friction, say hammer a few tiny nails into the bottom one before putting the top one in place.

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