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Can You Put Sleepers On Uneven Ground? (How To)

Railway sleepers are a very convenient option for retaining walls and other DIY landscaping projects around the home. The problem is, the ground is not always level. Can you install sleepers on uneven ground?

Sleepers can be put on uneven ground but you should install the sleepers level by preparing the ground in advance. This could include digging into the ground to lower any high points or perhaps building up the low points.

Sleepers with plants and grass

In most cases, you will be using sleepers to build a retaining wall. It is an excellent choice for a low retaining wall and with the proper support, it can even work on larger retaining walls as well.

The unfortunate reality about landscaping is the fact that the ground is never level. If you go any direction for any distance, you will find that things are not matching up properly.

Can You Put Sleepers On Uneven Ground? (How To)

There are a number of different types of retaining walls that can be built from sleepers. Some of them are better suited for that material and others are better suited for using either concrete sleepers or another type of material.

Gravity Retaining Walls – This is probably the most common type of retaining wall and it is the one that most people picture in their mind when they think about a retaining wall. It uses gravity to hold the dirt or other type of ground in place.

Sleepers make an excellent choice for gravity retaining walls because they are heavy. The size of the sleeper makes it possible to hold back a considerable amount of dirt. That being said, you should also make sure that it is supported properly if you are holding back a large amount of soil.

Copyright protected content owner: and was initially posted on September 30, 2022.

Anchored Retaining Walls – This is another type of retaining wall that can use sleepers. As the name would suggest, it uses some type of anchor in order to hold the retaining wall in place.

The strength of the sleeper and its size makes this a great choice for an anchored retaining wall. As long as it is able to support the soil being held in place, you can use a sleeper for this purpose.

The other types of retaining walls are sheet piling and cantilever walls. They are different types of walls that are not typically used along with sleepers. There may be some instances in which they could work, but it is not common to use sleepers for that purpose.

If you are only doing a small amount of landscaping and perhaps building some raised beds or other minor DIY projects, you can typically put a sleeper in place and let it do its work.

It is still a good idea to level the sleeper as much as possible, even though the ground underneath it may not be level. Having an uneven or unlevel sleeper in place would not look right and would make the project look unfinished or out of place.

On the other hand, if you are going to be building a large sleeper retaining wall, it is important to understand the dynamics and the engineering behind it. After all, the weight of the soil bearing down on the wall over the course of time can cause it to shift or even fall.

That is why it may be necessary to get an engineer involved so you know exactly what you are up against. You might also need to get a permit to build a large retaining wall in your area, and that may require that you have some additional work done as well.

It may be frustrating to have to do the extra work because it comes at a cost. Then again, knowing that you have a safe sleeper retaining wall that is going to last for a long time may be well worth the extra effort.

We are now going to consider some of the problems behind installing sleepers on uneven ground as well as giving you the process of doing so from the preparation onward.

Should You Put Sleepers On Uneven Ground?

Sleepers with plants and grass

As long as you prepare everything properly in advance, you are not likely to have too many problems installing sleepers on uneven ground. That being said, here are a few things to watch out for.

Tripping Hazards – Perhaps one of the big issues associated with installing sleepers on uneven ground is the potential that you could trip and fall. This could cause problems, leading to injuries on your part or perhaps liability if there are other people on your property.

Generally speaking, this is only an issue if you simply put the sleeper down and don’t do any prep work in advance. As the ground shifts under the sleeper, it can lift and twist, leading to that possibility.

Curb Appeal – One of the reasons why many people use sleepers in landscaping is because they want to beautify their property. If you install them on uneven ground without preparing in advance, you are not adding curb appeal and in fact, you are likely doing the exact opposite.

Structure – If you are using sleepers as a gravity retaining wall, you need to ensure that they are installed properly. The last thing you want is for the retaining wall to fall down, leading to potential injury and a lot of frustration.

Simply putting a sleeper on uneven ground is not going to provide you with the structure you need in this regard. You might need to dig into the ground and stack the sleepers to ensure that they are level on top and properly situated to last for a very long time.

What Tools Do You Need To Put Sleepers On Uneven Ground?

confused woman standing

When it comes time to put the sleepers in place, you will want to have all of the tools necessary to get the job done. Here are some of those tools that you will want to have on hand:

Shovels – One of the most important tools to have on hand is a shovel. A spade and a flat shovel will allow you to dig out the ground and make a base for the wall or sleeper so that it is level.

Rake – If the base of the sleeper is not on level ground, then the sleeper is not going to be level. After you dig out the base so the sleeper is level, you will want to rake it and finalize the job.

Guard stakes and string – Since you are going to install the sleeper level, you will want to have a reference point to work from. Putting some guard stakes in place and running a string with a string level will give you that reference line.

Levels – We already mentioned the string level but you will also want to have a 4-foot level on hand as well. This is important for leveling the top of the sleeper as well as keeping the wall vertical.

Tamper – For small jobs, you can use a hand taper but if you are doing a larger job, you may want to rent a gas-powered tamper from a local hardware store.

PPE – Don’t forget safety. You should also have safety glasses, gloves, and sunscreen available when working outside on this type of DIY project.

What Preparations Do You Need To Install Sleepers On Uneven Ground?

confused man standing

The key to installing sleepers on uneven ground is to prepare the ground in advance. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Guard Stakes – Drive some guard stakes and attach a string between them that is level. You can use a string level for this purpose. This will provide a reference point and allow you to dig the foundation and lay the sleepers in place.

Step 2: Dig down – It is a good idea to dig below the surface, not only to level the sleeper but also to provide a foundation. This is especially important if you are building a sleeper retaining wall. After digging, use a rake to level and then put some gravel or sand in place as a base for the sleeper.

Step 3: Landscape Fabric – Although this is not necessary, you may find it beneficial to put down some landscape fabric. It will save you a lot of time in the future from doing any weeding.

How To Install Sleepers On Uneven Ground

confused man standing

Now that everything is prepared, it’s time to actually put the sleepers on uneven ground. In reality, you’ve turned the uneven ground into an even area for installation.

Step 1: First Row – The first row should be put in place on the foundation that was established. You can then use long nails to firmly hold the first row in place.

Step 2: Other Rows – Each remaining row should now be put in place. Stagger the ends of the sleepers so they are not all in line. Use screws to hold the sleepers together in place. You may not need to use screws if you are only using one or two sleepers as the edge of a landscaping bed.

That’s really all there is to it. At this point, you will have sleepers that are installed level, even though the ground is uneven.

Copyright article owner is for this article. This post was first published on September 30, 2022.

You can install sleepers on uneven ground if you prepare the ground by leveling it in advance. You only need to level enough of the ground so that the sleeper will be on a solid, level base. You can then stack the sleepers as desired.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on September 30, 2022.

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