5 Ways to Cover A Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

Railway tie retaining walls are a popular way to add interest and functionality to your home landscaping. They are easy to install and can be used to create terraces, steps, or retaining walls. Railway ties are made from durable wood that is resistant to rot and decay, making them the perfect choice for outdoor projects. They are a great way to provide an attractive and functional design within your garden.

The main task of a retaining wall is to hold back soil from sloping down a hill or to create terraces. Retaining walls can be made out of many different materials, but they always have some form of retaining material on their face that prevents erosion and holds the soil in place.

Railroad tie retaining walls are becoming more popular because they’re cheap and easy to install. However, while some think they have a certain rustic charm, others believe they aren’t particually aesthetically pleasing so people want them covered up with something else.

Below we will discuss four ways you can cover your railroad tie wall:

1) Put sod over it

Sod is a great way to cover up the top of your railroad tie retaining wall because it matches the natural look of soil. In order for sod to work, you will need to purchase and install a layer of topsoil on top of the railroad ties so that there’s enough room for the grassroots or ground cover roots. You’ll also need an irrigation system installed so that anything planted in the sod can survive in dry weather.

This is a good option if you want an environmentally-friendly look to your retaining wall, and don’t mind spending money on installation costs on the additional soil on top. The downside of this method is that it needs regular maintenance to maintain the plants planted in the sod, which may not be for everyone. Sod will need more water than standard rough grass, and will need to be mowed more often.

If you want a retaining wall that requires less maintenance, sod may not be the best option for you.

2) Line it with stones

This option costs more upfront since stones are not usually cheap. You’ll need to find large, flat pieces that will cover the entire surface of your retaining wall and install them in sections as you build up. Ideally, these should be set close together so they look like a solid barrier from all viewing angles. Stones can also make for an attractive finish, especially if you alter the height of your retaining wall and use a variety of materials.

3) Cover it with concrete blocks

If you’re trying to stick with the cheapest option, concrete blocks can be a great material for the front face of your retaining wall. You’ll need both small and large blocks that are sturdy enough to stand up on their own without help. Blocks should also dry in the sun before installation so they won’t move around as easily once set in place. In order to install these blocks, you’ll need a strong adhesive material that will ensure the block won’t fall.

4)Cedar boards

This is an easy way to cover your railroad tie retaining wall without spending money on installation costs or worrying about maintaining your retaining wall. Cedar boards are a great material because they’re strong and durable, but also easy to install without any help or expensive equipment. You can get the cedar boards in different lengths so you don’t have to worry about cutting them down yourself. Make sure the height of your retaining wall is appropriate for what you need before you install the boards, and then attach them to your retaining wall with screws.

In order to make sure they stay in place, drill pilot holes into the top of each board before screwing it together. If you have any overhanging parts on your railroad tie retaining wall that need a special spot for installation, use cedar blocks so they can be screwed in easily.

If you’re going to paint your cedar boards, use a primer before painting them so they don’t absorb the pigment and color too quickly. If you have these components of railroad tie retaining wall already assembled, make sure not to leave it lying on its side because this could cause moisture damage or rot the wood.

5) Plant Shrubs At The Base Of The Retaining Wall

By carefully selecting a range of shrub-type plants and planting them at the base of your railway tie retaining wall, over time the foliage will ‘fill in the blanks’ and lessen the starkness of the wall. You may have to wait a while for the plants to grow into their own, but once this happens, you will only see the odd rustic glimpse of the retaining wall, broken up with the foilage in front of it. Of course, you may also need to install a watering system at the base of the wall to make caring for the shrubs easy over time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Railroad Tie Retaining Walls

Are railroad ties good for retaining walls?

If railroad ties are your only option, they can work but the whole issue is ground stability.

Spikes will hold it together very well so there’s no need for a base and, if you want to make it wider or taller, you can stack them on top of each other vertically. You’ll have no problems with stability but anchoring the posts in dry soil will be an issue. In wet conditions, they swell too much and will shift or twist and crack apart in gaps between boards.

How much does a railroad tie retaining wall cost?

A railroad tie retaining wall can cost anywhere from $1.5-$2 per linear foot, or about $250 for 165 feet.
Here are a few of the costs associated with such an endeavor:
The quantity of railroad ties needed is determined by the height and length of the slope being retained (the taller and longer the slope, the more ties will be needed). For every 5 inches in height, you’ll need 8’x8″s for one pier; so if your slope is 10-feet tall you’ll need 24 piers either end to retain it. Lengthwise, each pier should be at least 3 feet long (36″).

How long will a railroad tie retaining wall last?

40 to 50 years. Railroad ties are put down in place and attached to the ground. They have no self-draining or drying abilities so they have a tendency to dry out or break apart due to shrinking soil volume over time. Adding more gravel to increase water drainage and airflow will likely make them last for more than 50 years.

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