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FAQ: Are old railway sleepers dangerous?

Railway sleepers were often coated in Creosote in order to protect them from the elements and from insect infestation. Creosote also extends the life of wood but it is hazardous to the environment. As long as creosoted sleepers are not used around children, food or indoors, it is fine to still use them.

Are old railway sleepers toxic?

This consequently releases carcinogenic compounds. So, if you do use old railway sleepers, when getting rid of them or renewing them, be sure to dispose of them correctly – as hazardous waste.

How long do railway sleepers last?

How long do railway sleepers last? Railway sleepers will last for years, with our softwood treated sleepers they can last around 8 to 10 years due to the pressurised treatment, UC4 sleepers extend this to 15 years. Softwood that is left untreated will still last around two to five years.

Can you clean old railway sleepers?

Cleaning up railway sleepers depends on what’s on them. If ‘railway muck’ is merely airbourne grime and dust, then scrubbing with soapy water & detergent / or wirebrushing / or power jetwashing should nicely do the job.

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Are railway sleepers hazardous waste?

Railway sleepers are treated with wood preservatives such as tar and creosote and should be regarded as hazardous waste under Decision 2000/532/EC.

Can I use reclaimed railway sleepers?

As long as creosoted sleepers are not used around children, food or indoors, it is fine to still use them. Though as mentioned earlier, there are considerable benefits to using new sleepers which have not been coated in Creosote. You can find more detailed information on the use of creosoted railway sleepers here.

Can you use reclaimed sleepers?

Other applications are varied and for those it’s generally fine to use reclaimed sleepers. If you want your sleepers to be utilised in the building of steps, borders or planters for non-edibles, then it will be safe to use either new or reclaimed sleepers. Both are suitable and it just depends on your preference.

How long will wooden sleepers last?

As a rule, hardwood oak sleepers tend to last the longest naturally with an expected lifespan of around 100 years. An untreated softwood will last for between three and five years if it sits on the ground, whilst treated softwoods can last between 20 and 30 years if they are maintained correctly.

Will sleepers rot on soil?

Like all wood, sleepers will eventually rot and fade when exposed to the weather. To prevent them falling to bits before their time, you need to use a good wood preserver.

How do you keep a sleeper from rotting?

To preserve the sleepers further, we would recommend treating them with an exterior wood oil or decking oil, ideally twice a year in Spring and Autumn. This will help to repel water and prevent water ingress, the main cause of wood rot.

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Can you paint old railway sleepers?

Wood Preserver Reclaimed railway sleepers can last for decades without being treated. However, to help nourish and protect the timber from decay it is a good idea to apply a wood preservative. It is best to apply a wood preservative before installation of your sleeper, so that you can paint all sides.

How do you remove creosote from railway sleepers?

Another way to get rid of creosote from sleepers involves using a solvent, whether in the form of white spirit or a paint thinner. Use this solvent to rub the creosote away.

How do you get the green out of a sleeper?

Mix two parts warm water and one part household bleach into a bucket. After you’re done, put on your rubber gloves and work clothes. Take your scrub brush and dip it into the bucket with the cleaning solution.

What can I do with old railway sleepers?

Ideas for Using Railway Sleepers in Your Garden

  • Raised beds. You can use softwood or hardwood railway sleepers to make raised beds for flowers or vegetables.
  • Lawn or path edging.
  • A children’s sandpit.
  • Steps.
  • Retaining wall.
  • Garden furniture.

Do old railway sleepers have asbestos?

Used railway sleepers contain asbestos Even though asbestos train brake linings were phased out in the mid 1980’s, many old sleepers pre-date this time. Microscopic fibres from the asbestos brake linings can become trapped in cracks on the surface of timber sleepers.

Is wood waste hazardous?

Wood that is used in commercial and industrial applications is commonly treated with preserving chemicals. Certain wood treatment chemicals can pose a risk to human health, and the environment, which is why the treated waste wood may be classed as a hazardous waste.

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