They call them railroad ties in the USA and Canada, railway sleepers in the UK and Australa. They are a wonderful material for landscaping and fencing projects. They come in conrete and wooden varieties and there is so many creative things you can do with them. They are excellent options to building a retaining wall, heavy duty garden bed edges, rustic garden furniture, fences and so much more.
Using railroad ties as a means of landscaping has been a classic American solution for more than a century, addressing just about every possible garden challenge.
As our railway system expanded across the country, trees were cut for ties, and ties were used and replaced to maintain the strength and safety of the rails. Now the old one are everywhere, especially since now the concrete versions have taken over the role.
People have found that a railway tie can be an essential tool whether you are creating a terraced garden, a border around a driveway, stairs on a hill, building a wall and so much more. When it comes to landscaping, railroad ties are the ultimate ubiquitous raw material for the do-it-yourself type.
With more modern design inspirations, railroad ties are being incorporated into designs that also use sand, gravel, brick, concrete, along with large and small rocks to deliver both contemporary yet traditional aesthetic in the garden, and even inside the home.
You will also find ties cut down into many lengths and thicknesses to create bed borders, in-ground steps, mailbox posts, just to name a few.
For example, instead of everyday bricks made into steps and paths, ties can be placed lengthwise over the bricks to act as tread material.
On a flat area such as a patio, ties can be laid into rectangles or squares that are then filled with decorative pea gravel or sand. The limit is only by imagination.
There are a multitude of terraced backyard designs that feature railway ties as the main element.
Of course, ties can feature strongly in the indoor environment too. They can be crafted into doors, rough artisan fireplace mantels, just to name a few.
However, railroad ties have had their share of PR issues, and a replacement timber product may be better than a used tie.
As reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, creosote, which is used to treat some railroad ties, can be hazardous to human health as well as some plant life. Thus, creosote-treated ties should not be used for residential settings.
People should not come into contact with the treated wood; they should not breathe sawdust from cutting the wood; ties should not be placed around edible gardens, and they should not come in contact with any water source for humans and animals. The use of recycled ties has not been banned in residential areas, and they are still being sold in numerous stores. You may already have them on your property. Just be aware of their risks.
Now that we’ve gotten the warnings out of the way, you’ll be pleased to learn that railroad ties made from recyclable, composite materials are available on the market. This wood will give you the rustic look and feel of a traditional tie but without any of the health risks.
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