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Category Information

What are Garden Sleepers? 

Garden sleepers are a traditional bedding piece that sits flat on top of the earth, grass, pavement etc and supports itself. It is different to a joist which is placed horizontally along its edge and typically supported at both ends. 

Although now a popular part of landscaping, they are referred to as “railway sleepers” due to their historic use to support tracks across our railway networks. These days, garden sleepers have generally been replaced by concrete alternatives. 

How long do Wood Sleepers last? 

How long wooden sleepers last depends largely on what species of wood used and how they are treated, as well as the environmental conditions that they are subjected to throughout their life. 

As a rule, hardwood oak sleepers tend to last the longest naturally with an expected lifespan of around 100 years. An untreated softwood will last for between three and five years if it sits on the ground, whilst treated softwoods can last between 20 and 30 years if they are maintained correctly. 

What wood is used to make Railway Sleepers? 

In the UK, railway sleepers were traditionally made from spruce, pine or fir mix conifers as these were the predominant species available locally when train tracks were originally being laid. Whilst softwoods remain the most popular option for sleepers, oak sleepers are also an option if you are looking for something more durable. 

All wood used to create our sleepers is sourced from sustainable woodlands. 

Do I need to apply treatments to the Wood Sleepers? 

No, you don’t have to, however, some people choose for cosmetic purposes, for example, if they wish to maintain a consistent colour. Most wooden sleepers will naturally fade to a grey colour because of long-term exposure to the suns UV rays, which ages the wood.  

Uses for Timber Sleepers: 

There are many common things that sleepers for the garden can be used for including: 

  • To define borders and garden edging 
  • Create raised bed sleepers and planters 
  • Seating 
  • As the perimeter for ponds and garden features.  
  • Play pits and sandpits 

Whilst timber sleepers can be used as a shed base or to build steps, they are typically too expensive for either of these and not worth it 

At Howarth Timber, we offer a wide range of sleepers for the garden, including: 

  • Sawn Green Treated Sleepers 
  • New European Oak Sleepers 
  • Rustic Redwood Sleepers 

Please Note: The sleepers you receive may not be cut perfectly square at the ends, which makes it difficult to guarantee measurements will be as stated. This should be taken into consideration before purchasing. 


The timber used is a natural product and may include knots in the grain, which will affect the overall appearance of the sleeper. 


If you want to know how to build a raised garden bed with sleepers, we have created a guide for you. Click here to find out more.