Replacing a Retaining Wall
If you must use railroad ties in your landscape project, take care to adhere to these handling and placement precautions.
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Q. We need to replace a retaining wall because the railroad ties are disintegrating. How long do railroad ties normally last?
A. Although they're not considered a "green" approach to landscaping, railroad ties are sometimes used for retaining walls because of their density and price. Assuming your wall is well built, it should last several decades.
Although treated railroad ties are an economical solution to building a retaining wall, they are saturated with creosote or other closely related byproducts of burning coal; creosote is considered a probable carcinogen. A few caveats can't be overstated: