How to Lay a Threshold Path – Ideas & Advice

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Ideal for gardens that are in regular use, pathways provide practical walkways that allow you to zone, separate and demarcate your spaces. They often lead to accessible areas in your garden such as a shed, garbage can, patio or pond and can also be an attractive way to loosen up your lawn and avoid trodden grass.

While pathways can be made from a variety of different landscaping materials, including concrete, paving slabs, and stone tile, wooden sleepers offer a versatile, sturdy, and easy-to-install solution. With a little imagination, they are versatile and do not require a lot of specialist knowledge or experience.

Regardless of whether you are planning a garden redesign or have some remaining sleepers ready for a project, you will find our planning tips and project advice on laying a sleeper path here.

How To Lay A Threshold Path - Ideas & Advice

Whether you’re snaking your way through the garden between flower beds and trees, or straight through your lawn, your sleep path design can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

Try to dig out and place each board individually so that it is sunk into the ground like stepping stones.

Dig the entire path, position the threshold boards and fill the spaces with decorative stones or gravel. We recommend lining your path with landscaping material after digging the foundation to prevent weeds from growing between your floorboards.

Lay long sleeper foundations like a traditional railroad track, which will serve as supports for each of the secured sleeper boards.

To ensure that the boards aren’t too close together and become a trip hazard, we think a distance of about 300mm between boards or 40mm between pairs is best.

Depending on the size of your garden, your preferred style, and your level of experience, it’s a good idea to search for inspiration online before starting a rough sketch to use when planning your design.

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Once you know where the path will be positioned, you need to plan the wood and materials by considering the length of your path and the width of each sleeper board.

Sleepers are available in either softwood or hardwood grades and are supplied untreated or pressure treated against rot and rot. The type of sleeper you want to work with depends on your budget and how long you want the project to last.

While softwoods are easier to work with and a more budget-friendly choice, you can usually expect longer life from hardwood structures that have been treated with suitable finishes.

Once you have the wood needs you need, it pays to stock up on the tools, materials, and finishing touches that you want to add.

You can find that by purchasing longer sleeper lengths and cutting them to size, you can save economically. To do this, you need to invest in a good quality chainsaw and a universal handsaw to work on any areas that the saw blade cannot reach.

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Once you’ve established your design, it’s time to measure and mark your path. Using your tape measure and a marker paint or a measuring tool with chalk, mark the entire outline of your path or each of the sleeper board positions. This serves as a visual guide to perfect placement.

When you’re happy with the placement, remove any vegetation and dig out your path contour or each of the sleeper channels with a shovel and wheelbarrow for easy transport. The boards sit on a thin layer of sand, so you should allow each board to protrude about 25 mm from the surface to allow the floor to settle.

To account for any natural slope and to ensure that the surface of your path is level and flat, it is a good idea to use string lines between wooden stakes.

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The best way to cut your sleepers is with a circular saw. If you want to cut softwood, you can use a universal saw, but that can mean hard work.

Set your circular saw to the maximum depth and measure, mark and score your cut line on each sleeper. Make sure you wear protective equipment like safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask, and then run the blade through the cut line until each sill is cut to size.

Sleepers can be quite rough, so depending on the look you want, sanding the surface smooth with a belt sander can be a good idea. You can also plane each edge for a slightly beveled profile to aid water drainage.

For added protection from rot and putrefaction, as the sleepers are partially sunk into the ground, brush each cut end and surface with a generous coat of wood preservative before letting them dry. If you want to add finishes or other treatments to your sleepers, this is the best time to do it.

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Placing sharp sand in your channels or in the dug area of ​​your path will ensure that each board has a nice, even foundation. Pour in a layer of about 25mm and wrap it up with one of your sleepers or a tamper.

Place each sleeper or position the boards in your lined duct, then use a heavy duty hammer to pound them down until they feel firm and secure.

You need sturdy wood screws to attach your sleepers to rail-like deck boards. If you work with hardwood sleepers, you should make sure to use stainless steel, as the natural tannins can non-ferrous metals. If you plan to work with hardwood, you will need to pre-drill the holes for the attachment. Using a wood drill bit longer than the depth of your sleeper board, run it down, then secure it with an impact wrench and your screw.

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Once your sleeper boards are in place and your path is laid out, there are a number of surfaces to get creative with.

If you haven’t treated your sleepers when you cut them, you can add any number of exterior wood care treatments to the surface at this stage. You can find more ideas for finishing in our 5 options for treating wood outdoors.

Using decorative stones and gravel is a contemporary way to line your path and fill in the gaps between the sleeper boards. Pour the stones into the spaces and brush them together for even placement before pouring the gravel and cleaning the path surfaces.

Design your path with spiked or pole lights for additional lighting and a perfect nighttime ambience.

Over time, depending on the weather, wear and tear, and workmanship of your sleepers, you may want to re-treat them for a longer life. In this case, we recommend cleaning your sleeper path with pressure to remove dirt and grime, and then recoating it with protective oil or wood preservative for outdoor use.

For more advice on working with sleepers, including a range of cutting, joining and finishing techniques, see our step-by-step guide.

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