Construct a Sleeper Bed 27 August 2021

Constructing a raised bed out of railway sleepers is amazingly easy. Think wooden building blocks. Very simple & quick, with very few tools needed. Creating these sleeper beds is also a very creative way of adding personality to your garden as the design and style of them comes down to how you would like them to look.

What you’ll need...

  • Sleepers
  • Screws
  • Plastic
  • Membrane
  • Soil
  • Stone (optional)
  • Plants

1) Choose where your raised bed will be located
Choose the best place for your raised bed, taking into account if you want to sit or stand next to it, or if you want both sides to be accessible.

2) Lay the railway sleepers on the ground.
Place the sleepers in the rectangle or square shape that you desire, making sure the corners of the sleepers meet up at 90° angles, like putting together a huge picture frame. Many people simply lay them down directly on the earth, grass, deck or concrete, but we would recommend using a foundation of hardcore or concrete, however, both options will be suitable. Also, keep in mind creating some sort of drainage for the raised bed.

3) Fasten them together
Fasten the sleepers together with screws, making sure the screw goes about two inches deep into the adjoining sleeper. We recommend putting two screws per corner as a good rule of thumb.

If you have placed the railway sleepers on the ground on their wider edge, then again simply screw them together at the 90-degree corners, allowing at two inches of the screw to go into the adjoining sleeper. You will need to screw through more of the railway sleeper than on the narrow edge option. The one exception is if you are intending to have a second layer. In this case, you don't have to attach the first layer to itself. Simply place the second layer on top of the first (remembering to overlap the joints) and simply screw through the second layer into the first layer below) Repeat if you want a third layer. Remember at least two screws per sleeper. You have now created a structure that is interlocked and solid.

4) Stack and fix a second layer (if you want it to be higher)
If you want a second or a third layer, simply repeat stages 2 & 3, apart from you are placing the second or third layer of railway sleepers onto the already positioned first layer. Once you've done that, you will have two or more layers sitting on top of each other, but not attached. Simply now fasten the layers together with a screw that goes through the top layer to the layer below. If you don't want this to be seen, screw at 45 degrees on the inside of the raised bed, through the side of the top layer into the layer below. Alter­natively, you can use a batten to fasten the different layers together. The whole structure is now interlocked.

If you are stacking the sleepers horizontally on their broadest side, e.g. on the 250mm width of a 250mm x 125mm sleeper, then all you need to do is to overlap the joints of the sleepers, from layer to layer, like building a brick wall, and fasten each layer to the layer below with timber lock screws or similar. You have now created a structure that is interlocked, and could be picked up in one piece by a crane if you were inclined!­

5) Fit a plastic membrane.
Some landscapers choose to fix a plastic sheet on the inside of the raised bed, to create a barrier between the wet soil and the railway sleeper. Occasionally people will even use heavy-duty plastic refuse bags, but normally landscapers use a thicker heavy-duty plastic that won't degrade in the soil.

6) Get the soil

Before you fill with bags of compost, topsoil or manure, it might be worth considering putting stone/hardcore etc.. on the bottom to encourage drainage.

To improve keeping moisture in the bed, you can apply a top surface of your choices such as wood chip, bark or pebbles. The soil in the raised bed can take time to settle and may need topping up – this could take a few years in the highest of raised beds so some plump for just planting annuals or vegetables to start with and leave permanent plants for a later time.

7) Stick some plants in!
Now you are ready to fill your sleeper bed with whatever vegetables or plants you desire.

So if you’re looking to improve your garden this summer look no further than Johnsons Timber Supplies, call us on 0121 706 0404 or email

Get in touch...

If you would like to get a quote or find out more about our timber products that we offer please get in touch with us through our contact form, by phone or by email - we will be more than happy to help you in whatever way we can.

Call us: 0121 706 0404

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