How to secure landscaping/railroad ties

gedmanSeptember 21, 2005

Hi all-

I plan to use 6x6 landscaping ties to create a border around our swingset and then fill the frame with smooth pea gravel. The border will only be 1 board high (meaning, boards will not overlap or be on top of one another).

How do I secure the ties to the ground so that they don't shift when the kids walk on them?



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A mini foundation of concrete.

At each corner of the landscape tie dig a shallow footing ( unless you are in a major freeze heave area then speak with your local landscapers for their recc. )

Fill the footing with concrete.
As the concrete is setting up insert a L shaped carriage bolt - threaded end up sticks up out of the concrete about 1/2 inch below the top of the finished elevation of the landscape tie.

Drill a hole thru the landscape tie and slip it over the carriage bolts.
Drill another hole larger than the hole that slipped over the carriage bolt. ( a counter sunk hole ) - use a forsner bit and drill down about 3/4 of an inch.

insert a washer and a nut over the carriage bolt and tighten down.

You will now have a certified child safe counter sunk bolt holding your landscape tie.

If the ties ever become loose, simply tighten down the bolt

Whe you want to remove the whole shebang, simply unscrew the bolts, lift the landscape ties away and cut off the exposed carriage bolts.

We use this method in installing landscape tie steps as well.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 11:48AM
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At minimum, cut 2' lengths of ties and set them below grade so that the top of them is where you want the bottom of your ties. Ten or twelve inch galvinized twisted twisted nails with no drill holes for pressure treated work pretty well for a DIY job.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 12:14PM
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Thanks for the helpful answers.

What is the best way to cut 6x6 landscaping ties? Even a 12" mitre saw blade can't cut through 5.5 inches. I suppose that the ties could be cut (carefully) with a chain saw - but I presume that it would create a rather rough cut.



    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 1:16PM
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We use a chain saw, or if we are doing fine detail work we will rent a beam saw.

A beam saw is the scariest tool I have ever witnessed.
I have never used one personally because I can barely pick it up and balance it at the same time.

Usually the chain saw will do an adequate job , and if you need to clean up your cuts you can run a skill saw across your cuts and or a power hand planer.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 3:45PM
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jake(z4b-5 NE)

Mich has offered a tried and true process of tools for cutting 6x6's.

I have used a wood rasp to clean up the ends if the chain saw operator got a little "off" in the cutting process.

I have also used a Skill saw and rotated the 6xÂs cutting each side as the blade is too short. If the rotating didnÂt make a through cut then I use a bow saw to complete the cut.

We have anchored the 6x's by making a lap cut on the ends and bolting the 6x's together. This makes the frame a one piece unit. With the lap joint it can only be a square unit unless you do some fancy cutting.

It is not secured or anchored in place but just sits where you put it together. Like "Free standing", Dude !!!

This lap joint holds the 6xÂs together and if you wanted to you could use the bolt and concrete method that Michelle uses to secure the frame in place rather than the free standing method I suggested.

Hope this inspires you to " ...give it try".


    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 5:35PM
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janandalan(Z7-NC Piedmont)

Although Michelle's method sounds both extremely safe and very "professional", DH and I have, in the past, secured landscape timbers to the ground by drilling 1/2 inch holes through the entire width of the board on either end and then pounding 3 ft. pieces of 1/2 inch rebar through the holes and into the ground until the ends of the rebar are flush with the tops of the timbers. You could substitute longer pieces of rebar if your freeze line is actually deeper than 30 inches.

This method doesn't require the pouring of concrete, and due to the fact that the rebar is virtually the same width as the holes, the timbers don't tend to work their way back off.
(you will need a sledgehammer to pound in the rebar and a drill bit long enough to go through a six inch piece of wood).

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 7:07PM
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bunkers(z5 CO)

I secured my 6x6 to the ground with 24" 3/8" rebar. You just drill some 1/2" holes in the timbers, 3 per timber and then drive the rebar through them and 12" into the ground. No foundation needed, real stable.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 10:41PM
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Great tips but wondering if pressure treated landscaping beams (thinner,looks like a 4X4 instead of the 8X8 of a railroad tie and flat on only two sides)are applicable to all of these tips too.

I picked up these pressure treated beams- well, they look like trees cut flat on two sides, for my kid's playset. The area I am surrounding an irregular area roughly 22X18 with an outtake for the slide....some long runs and some short runs . . less than 3 feet . . .

Wondering if anyone has used these or has seen them secured and lasting . . . .


    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 7:37AM
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Need some advice or a book on how to cut staris into a hill, but use railroad ties as the stairs themselves. probably use 1/2" stakes/rebar to secure them as the steps. thoughts???

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 1:48PM
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Sunset Books (a subset company to the very popular west coast Sunset Magazine) has a title called 'Hillside Landscaping' that outlines specifically how to construct wood or railroad tie steps into a slope. Most other DIY landscaping books, often available at the big home improvement stores like Lowes or HD, will have similar step-by-step instructions.

fwiw, you will typically get better and faster results to a specific question if you initiate a new thread, rather than tacking on to one that is quite stale, such as this.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sunset's Hillside Landscaping

    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 9:15AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Hopefully those kids didn't end up picking up toxics when they walked etc. on them. Nobody mentioned this that I saw skimming this thread. Treatments used are poisonous, that's how they keep the wood from rotting - for awhile anyway. Railroad ties in particular are ghastly, being treated with sticky malodorous creosote containing over 200 toxic compounds. CCA wood apparently just about bleeds arsenic. Understand situation is existing stocks can still be sold, even though it has been realized they are too nasty to keep making new ones. Maybe by now these are unlikely to be encountered at outlets. Anyway, roofing paper or other resilient protective layer needs to be attached to exposed surfaces of such to eliminate direct contact with users.

Here is a link that might be useful: CCA wood.pdf

    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 1:34PM
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drexler(Z5 PITTSBURGH)

I have personally use landscape timbers (1/2 trees as phil v has mentioned). I've used these as a small raised garden bed at my mothers house about 6 years ago. I have learned more as I go but found that the best way to build a 3 layer wall is to:

1 Vary the lengths of the boards so the seems don't match up.
2 over lap the corners so you can drill down through them and run a 4' length 1/2" rebar through all layers.
3 run a total of 3 or more lengths of rebar into each board.
4 On the inside wall of the structure, pound in some treated 2x4 posts. Then drill them to the wall to help maintain their shape to hold what you fill it with.
5 use 10" exterior spikes to connect your layers together if you plan on leaving them there as a longterm fixture in the landscape.

I Then stained the wood to match the exterior of my mother's house and was all done. Now, looking back, I wish I knew to do this myself. But, you learn as you go. I just fixed up the wall this year on Mother's Day for her and it looks as good a new where I hadn't connected the corners with the rebar. Good luck

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 1:55PM
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I plan on replacing some rotted out timbers. Any suggestions on how I (a homeowner) can remove timbers that are secured with 2 or 3 feet of rebar?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 6:06PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

Cut the rebar with a sawzall?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 6:34PM
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