Creative uses for railway sleepers

Creative uses for railway sleepers

Railway sleepers are one of the most sought after building materials for home use right now, especially when it comes to garden design and landscaping. But they can truly be used for a plethora of purposes, even for interior design. With a little creativity and know-how, you can fashion sleepers into just about anything, generating some spectacular results for your home and garden. From creating custom furniture to using them as decorative features, in this guide we present a handful of creative ways that railway sleepers can be used.

Interior focal pieces

If you are looking to give your home a bit of character, getting creative with railway sleepers is an excellent way to do it, especially if you enjoy that rustic aesthetic and your current home is a little bland for your tastes. Laura, a lifestyle and home interiors blogger at Elle Blonde, spoke to us about her favourite uses for railway sleepers, suggesting a few garden ideas and a wonderful way to use them inside your home:

"When it comes to railway sleepers, these can be used to create bold features outdoors in your garden and are so diverse. You can build planters, seating areas and even pergolas. However, if you're looking to add a railway sleeper inside your home, then using sleepers in a completely white room, attached to the walls as focal pieces, can really add texture and depth to your space, creating that New England-style nuance and when teamed with rich velvet textures and light and airy pieces give a ‘Summer in the Hamptons’ style feel to your room."

Garden path and steps

If you are looking to add more structure and access to your garden, and just make it look a little prettier, creating a garden path, or adding some steps, is a top idea. Railway sleepers can certainly be used in such a way, providing a solid foundation and unique alternative to stone or slabs.

Lewis Normand, a garden designer from the website iPlantsman, has spoken to us about his view on railway sleepers in the garden, offering his advice, and also sharing some of his favourite applications for them: “New oak or treated softwood sleepers may not be as resilient as the old, used sleepers that were once so common, but they are still very rot resistant and have the advantage of not leaking tar over time. Used railways sleepers can be a problem in the garden as they can leak tar, but they are very resistant to rot making them good when in contact with the ground. I’ve used them very successfully as a paving material and for steps in the garden.”   

Custom furniture

Railway sleeper garden bench

Store-bought furniture can serve a purpose but sometimes it’s nice to have a truly unique piece to enjoy. One of the best ways of achieving this end is to create some custom furniture and railway sleepers provide the perfect material for such an enterprise. Utilising railway sleepers as material for unique furniture is something that Lewis from iPlantsman has looked to achieve in the past, telling us that he has “found them useful over the years to make into robust benches for the garden.” A bench is certainly comfier when you know yours is the only one of its kind. Additionally,

you could even make yourself a chunky chest of drawers or how about sprucing up your bedroom with an elegant and modern bed frame? The sky is the limit when it comes to custom railway sleeper furniture.

Garden edging, dividers, and screens

Railway sleepers also make for an excellent method of structuring your garden, giving it form, and adding different areas for varying purposes. The beauty of railway sleepers is their versatility and if you want to make any kind of barrier, they are an ideal material to use that can also look aesthetically pleasing. When speaking to us about the myriad uses of railway sleepers in the garden, Lewis from iPlantsman shared: “I’ve also set them vertically in concrete foundations to create low walls, dividers and screens within a garden.” You could use the material for garden edging, sectioning off an area for growing vegetables, or how about utilising sleepers to mark an area for the children to play in?

Louise, from the gardening blog Plants Bulbs Seeds, has a number of great uses for sleepers, including some things that the kids might enjoy, telling us that “railway sleepers can be used to build a play area for children, climbing frames, stepping logs etc.” Louise also recommends, utilising sleepers as a “curved or straight screen for a sunken garden area.” The options are truly endless.

Creating levels and raised garden beds

Railway sleeper raised flower bed

Sometimes it can be nice to have levels in a garden. Raising sections such as flower beds can also radically change the way a garden looks, adding focal points in attractive but also practical ways. Railway sleepers can most certainly be used for their creation and retention, and they can even be used to make garden slopes easier to access. Lewis, from iPlantsman, told us that creating levels and raising areas is probably his favourite use for sleepers: “Perhaps my favourite use and their greatest value to a gardener is to retain changes in level. More cost-effective than using brick or block and easier to install. They can be used to create low raised planters or to level off gradual slopes into more ordered garden sections.”

Jeremy, from the gardening blog Let it Grow, decided to overhaul his new front garden/drive area by getting rid of some of the slabs and planting a flower bed. He used railway sleepers to do it, illustrating nicely what is possible: “We decided to make a raised bed where we had taken up the slabs, using old railway sleepers. The slab-free area was 16 feet by 6 feet, and we decided to make the outside dimensions of the raised bed slightly larger by resting the sleepers on the slabs. Luckily the front drive drains well, the concrete being porous and resting on very sandy soil, so we could leave the concrete layer in place.”

Garden pond

Have you ever fancied adding a lovely water feature to your garden? Or are the kids bugging you for a place to watch the fish at home? Well, how about creating a lovely garden pond utilising railway sleepers? The material is ideal for bordering a pond, for creating steps up to the water, and a platform to sit on as you gaze down at whatever you have decided to let live inside. A raised pond area can be a really dramatic feature of any garden and will also be far safer than a water hazard at ground level. Or you could use the sleepers to create a rail around your existing pond, providing an important safety feature and a spot to lean against on a sunny afternoon trying to spot those allusive fish lurking beyond the murky depths.

What can you use railway sleepers for?

  • Interior focal pieces
  • Garden path and steps
  • Custom furniture
  • Garden edging, dividers, and screens
  • Creating levels and raised garden beds
  • Garden pond

As you can see, there are some really creative ways in which you can utilise railway sleepers. Their versatility is pretty amazing. So, whether you want to make some custom furniture for your home, redesign your garden, or create a standout feature to draw attention, consider picking up some railway sleepers.

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