How to build a raised pond with railway sleepers

21 September 2013

How to build a raised pond with railway sleepers


Creating a pond or water feature from railway sleepers adds a whole other dimension to your garden. Water loving plants, fish & frogs, the sound of running water, dreamy reflections etc.. Constructing a raised pond out of railway sleepers is amazingly straightforward. Think lego or wooden building blocks. Very quick & simple, with very little tools needed.

1) Chose where you want to put the raised pond
Consider where the raised pond will be positioned and whether you can stand or sit next to one side of the raised pond, or whether both sides are accessible.

2) Lay the railway sleepers on the ground.
Place the railway sleepers on the ground in a square or rectangular shape, with the railway sleepers touching at the 90 degree corners.(Like creating a big picture frame). The railway sleepers should ideally be laid on a surface that is level and firm. Many people simply lay them down directly on the earth, grass, deck or concrete. Perfectionists and Engineers will probably consider a foundation of concrete or hardcore, but more mortal people will often go for the simpler, quicker option. As you are building a raised pond, you don't have to think of drainage! 

3) Fasten them together 

Fasten the railway sleepers together with Timberlok sleeper screws (See website page for sizes and details) If you have placed the railway sleepers on the ground on their narrow edge, as in the photo opposite, then simply screw them together at the 90 degree corners, allowing at least 50mm (or 2") of the screw to go into the adjoining sleeper. Two screws per corner is a good solid formula. 

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 least 50mm (or 2") of the screw to go into the adjoining sleeper. You will obviously 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 thrird layer. Again, at least two screws per sleeper end is a good solid formula. 

4) Stack and fix a second layer (if you want the raised pond to be higher)
If you want a second or a third layer, simply repeat stage 2 & 3, apart from you are placing the second or third layer of railway sleepers on to the already positioned first layer. If you have placed the railway sleepers on the ground on their narrow edge, then simply again screw the second layer together at the 90 degree corners, as above, allowing at least 50mm (or 2") of the screw to go into the adjoining sleeper. Two screws per corner is a good solid formula. Once you've done that, you will have two or more layers sitting on top of each other, but not attached TO each other. 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 pond, through side of the top layer into the layer below. Alternatively you can use a batten or metal strip 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 timberlok 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 had the inclination!  

5) Attach Pond liner.
You'll probably want to first put some carpet or material onto the floor of the pond, to cover any stones or sharp edges. Then attach a pond liner to the inside of the railway sleeper box.  If the liner is then folded over the top railway sleeper you will probably want to put an additional railway sleeper or timber capping on top of it to hold the liner in place, and to hide it.

6) Fill with water.
Allow time to fill the raised pond with water, and for the liner to slowly expand into the space.

7) Fill with fish!
Of course you may want to add pumps & water filters, depending on the seriousness of your aquatic adventure!

a) Which type of railway sleeper should I use for a raised pond?

There is a wide choice of railway sleepers, so it's hard to say which one would be best for a raised pond. Whether you want a new crisp-lined raised pond, or an old, weathered raised pond, it is generally advisable to avoid creosote treated railway sleepers, that can ooze sticky tar in the summer, and get on skin, clothes, children, pets etc.. and also can contaminate the water for fish. So, where does that leave you? What kind of non-creosoted sleepers can you use? Ideally, a choice of:
New British Pine railway sleepers
New French Oak railway sleepers
Used Australian Jarrah railway sleepersUsed African Azobe railway sleepers

b) Height of a raised pond
Height: Of course you can construct a railway sleeper raised pond in any size, length, height or depth you want. Sometimes, if the raised pond is placed over an excavated hole, it may be much deeper than it appears on the outside. However the ideal height of a railway sleeper raised pond will be determined by what’s best for you and how you want to use it. Think about how people will look at the pond & fish. Whether they will be standing up, sitting down and whether they'd like to be able to sit down on the edge of the raised pond. Generally speaking, an approximate height of around 900-1000mm is good for standing, 650-750mm is good for sitting, and 600-620mm is good for wheelchair access.

c) Advantages of a raised pond
PLEASE have a look at some of the 100's of RAISED PONDS & WATER FEATURE PROJECTS, on our railway sleepers projects page. It is a fantastic resource that will fill your head with wonderful dreams and ideas about making raised ponds out of railway sleepers! If you can't find what you are looking for, or need advice, then give us a ring. 


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