DIY Sleeper Fence

Written by donna armstrong
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DIY Sleeper Fence
Railroad sleepers can be purchase new or used. (old tunnel image by Maxim Kulemza from

The term "sleeper" was given to railroad timbers placed under the rails to provide a smoother ride for passenger trains. Sleepers or cross ties can be purchased after the railroad changes them out. Sleepers are still useful for years after the railroad is finished with them. Sleepers are good for landscaping and fences because they have preserving agents that reduce decay.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Sleepers
  • 4-by-6-inch pressure treated boards
  • Saw
  • Wood stakes, 4
  • Shovel
  • Post hole digger
  • Concrete
  • Landscaping screws
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver bit
  • String
  • Level

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  1. 1

    Measure the area where the fence will be to determine how many timbers will be required. Sleepers range from 7 to 9-feet long. The most common length of a sleeper is 8-feet 6-inches. The width of most sleepers is 6-by-10-inches. This fence will have horizontal sleepers stacked on top of each other. The 4-by-6-inch boards are used as the fence posts and need to be placed in between each set of sleepers.

  2. 2

    Lay out the 4-by-6-inch posts at the corners of the fence. Measure the length of the sleepers from each corner and place another 4-by-6-inch board at each location. If the sleepers do not fit into measured area, trim the ends of the sleepers to fit.

  3. 3

    Place the wooden stakes in the ground at each corner and run a string around the diameter of the fence, tying the string on each stake. Make sure the string is taut.

  4. 4

    Dig 18-inch holes at each 4-by-6-inch board location with the post hole digger. Place the poles in the holes and fill the holes with concrete. Use a level to make sure each post is level and plumb. Hold the pole in place until the concrete starts to harden. Allow the concrete to set for 24 hours.

  5. 5

    Lay the first sleeper on the ground in front of a 4-by-6-inch board at the corner. Line the sleeper up so that it can be screwed to the corner post and it is halfway across the next post. Screw the sleeper into place using the two landscaping screws on each 4-by-6-inch board. Place the next sleeper on top of the first and screw it into place. Continue until you reach the top of the 4-by-6-inch boards.

  6. 6

    Work around the fence placing sleepers and screwing them to the 4-by-6-inch boards.

  7. 7

    Dig a drainage ditch around the fence to divert water away from the fence.

Tips and warnings

  • You may want to dig the holes deeper than 18 inches, depending on the depth of the local frost line.

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