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Sleepers splitting

We've just last week built a new retaining wall out of sleepers, using a brick layout and criss crossing the corners for stability. We also drove oak dowels into them from the top afterwards to keep the three layers together. We've noticed that some of them are starting to split around the dowels - what could be causing this and how can we save it from getting worse? I'm not sure what wood the sleepers are, they just said timber but confirmed they were treated when we bought them. 


  • Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 1,145
    ‘New’ wood will do this as it’s dries out. It’s one of the challenges with using new railway sleepers over reclaimed. They are often softwoods such as fir/pine or larch or less often hardwood such as oak. You’ll notice the same thing happens with wooden fence posts. 
    Not a great deal you can do as they will continue to move until they eventually settle. If you get any that are splitting near the edge you could try knocking in some panel pins to stabilise that section. 
  • You could try some Danish oil on it. It won't stop the crack but will help keep the wood "moist" so it dries slower in a more controlled way and hopefully reduces the size of that crack (which, with some wet then dry and sunny weather, looks like it could take out the edge of that sleeper unfortunately).
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