How to Lay Railroad Ties


Railroad ties can be a cost-effective, lovely addition to the landscaping for your home or business. Railroads are constantly undergoing maintenance, which ensures a steady and relatively inexpensive supply of these wooden ties. Some railroad ties have rounded edges, while others have flat edges, so you can customize the shape of your project with relative ease. While railroad ties are usually 8 feet long, you can cut them to size with a chainsaw if you need something smaller. Because of their great weight, they will stay where you put them with no need for nails or screws.

Step 1

Measure the area where you would like to put your railroad ties, using a tape measure.

Step 2

Sketch an outline of your design on a piece of paper, including the measurements. This will help you know how many railroad ties to buy, depending on the length of ties available in your area.

Step 3

Cut your railroad ties to the correct lengths, if necessary. Have a helper help you to hoist each tie up onto sawhorses and to steady the tie as you cut it with a chainsaw.

Step 4

Dig a straight trench in the soil the width of a tie and about an inch deep. This will provide a solid base for your ties to ensure they do not shift.

Step 5

Lay the first layer of ties into the trench with ends abutting each other.

Step 6

Lay the next layer of ties on top of the first one in a way that the ends do not abut at the same place as the ends on the first layer. This alternating layering will give your ties more stability and will add to the beauty of your tie border.

Tips and Warnings

  • All railroad ties are treated with creosote to prevent wear. Creosote is toxic, so make sure runoff from the location where you install your railroad ties does not go into a water source or into a garden where you will be growing food. If you like the look of railroad ties but are concerned about their creosote content, consider landscaping ties. These are usually railroad ties before the creosote treatment. They do not have the same weathered look as railroad ties and are usually much more expensive. However, they are safer for your vegetable garden and the environment.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Railroad ties
  • Tape measure
  • Chainsaw (optional)
  • Sawhorses (optional)


  • Landscaping Design Services: Railroad Ties
  • Pro Garden Biz: Landscaping with Railroad Ties
Keywords: landscaping railroad ties, laying railroad ties, railroad tie garden

About this Author

Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker, and writer. In addition to cooking and baking for a living, Chuasiriporn has written for several online publications. These include Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty, and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.