How to Build a Deadman Retaining Wall With Crossties

article image
by Adobestock/Michal

Using a deadman retaining wall, you can build a crosstie retaining wall for a simple, economical way to terrace uneven ground and reduce dirt erosion.

Dirt is not exempt from the law of gravity. It seeks, and in time will reach, the lowest level. But it is possible to resist its will. A retaining wall allows you to turn a useless (for landscaping purposes) slope into a terraced, flat area. And perhaps the easiest way to build such a wall is with used railroad crossties.

As you know, ties are 6 x 8 feet x 8 inches (more or less) chunks of pine, redwood, or oak treated with wood preservatives (usually creosote but sometimes also pentachlorophenol). These nasty chemicals make the difference between a few years and several decades of life span for wood that’s in contact with the ground. We wish there were some economical alternative to crossties. But, at this time, inherently decay-resistant woods and lumber treated with the less toxic chromated copper arsenate cost a minimum of twice what used railroad ties run. So, for now, we’re forced to recommend crossties for this purpose, but with some reluctance and the following precautions: Never use railroad ties near edible plants or in areas where children play, never burn the trimmings from these treated timbers, and always wear gloves when handling them.

Elementary Soil Mechanics

You don’t have to search far to find an example of a wall where someone underestimated or misunderstood the forces that soil can exert. Tilted, bulging, or tipped retaining walls can be found just about anywhere there are hills and construction. In some cases, designing a sound retaining wall can become a very complex task that is best left to an engineer. But we can simplify the job if your situation allows you to follow several guidelines:

  • Updated on Mar 14, 2023
  • Originally Published on Jan 1, 1986
Tagged with: retaining wall
Online Store Logo
Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368