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How long will railroad ties last in moist dirt? Willamette Valley

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Bigfoot, Mar 17, 2016.

  1. Bigfoot

    Bigfoot Clack Co. OR Well-Known Member

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    I'm wondering if I should put down a layer of gravel or sand for drainage.

    I'm planning new stairs for the side of the house that will be tough enough to back into when I'm unloading firewood etc.
     
  2. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Carpenter Ants love railroad ties. I don't know why, but they do.
    I would research concrete RR ties as an alternative. They will never rot on you.
     
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  3. woody06

    woody06 Southern Oregon New Member

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    I have 2 planters, one above ground and the other below grade. Both are made from RR ties and were installed in 2004. No signs of degradation on either one.
     
  4. markl32

    markl32 North Plains Member

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    There were lots of railroad tie earthworks on the property I bought in 2005. The RR ties are are about 30 years old and most of them are completely destroyed on the inside by rot and carpenter ants. I have been slowly removing them all for years. Some of them it's just scooping up with a shovel...

    I would not use RR ties again even if they were free.
     
    Dyjital likes this.
  5. ZA_Survivalist

    ZA_Survivalist Oregon AK's all day.

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    As the two fellas before me said, Carp. Ants WILL infest RR-ties. Its just a matter of time.

    Better off going with something that cannot rot nor be infested.
     
  6. DuneHopper

    DuneHopper Douglas County. Well-Known Member

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    We have no ants that here so ours have lasted over 15 years no issues.
    But I get why the Capentatr ants would not be good for these.
    You can get retaining wall brick pretty darn cheap and will last a life time.
     
  7. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I've used those concrete parking lot wheel stops for outdoor stairs.
    Michael's Precast out in Sandy, OR. makes them locally and if I remember correctly, they were only $15-20 each depending on length.
    They might have some seconds that are priced cheaper.
    I cut an 8' curb in half and used the 4' section as a front tread and cut a 6' into a 3' for the sides.
    I then stacked the next tread on top of the sides, drove rebar down through the pre made holes and packed the inside with 1/2" minus gravel.
    Last time I saw my work, they were holding up real well.
     
    DuneHopper likes this.
  8. teflon97239

    teflon97239 Portland, OR Well-Known Member

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    My dad and I thought they were termites when our railroad ties were totally infested after just a season or two. If the interweb was around then, we'd have probably learned they were carpenter ants instead. Bad scene either way.

    Consider, too, anything you might be growing to eat or smoke downhill from there will be drinking water runoff from the soil - tainted with creosote.
     
  9. The Heretic

    The Heretic Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I have creosoted RR ties that were here when I bought the place. Assuming they were put in about 1980 (shortly after the house was built), that would make them about 35 years old. They are falling apart now and I will remove and replace them with stones. Yes, I do have ants too, but I haven't seen them on the RR ties.
     
  10. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    The thing to remember is that the railroad ties were removed because they were old and decrepit,not because the RR co. was trying to make a buck selling them to you.
    The ones you buy are, what? 25 years old?
    Those ants could be from the east coast. The home and garden store buys at the lowest price
    Then there is the creosote to consider. You really want you son/grandson to get a sliver from one of those while walking around barefoot in the summer?
    OK the bad thought. What if your wife gets a sliver from one:eek:?
     
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  11. Stomper

    Stomper Oceania Rising White Is The New Brown Silver Supporter

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    Creosote saturated slivers help ease menopause symptoms.... LOL!
     
  12. The Heretic

    The Heretic Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Maybe, but they won't help garden plants any.

    I could see them for the use the OP mentioned; a loading/unloading dock. Concrete puts dents in trucks, wood usually doesn't dent your truck as easily.
     
  13. Modeler

    Modeler Molalla, Oregon Soccer Fan

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    One thing to remember: the railroad ties you can buy are already well used and partially deteriorated. If they weren't they'd still be on a bed of gravel under steel rails.
     
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  14. Dyjital

    Dyjital Albany, Ore Flavorite Member Bronze Supporter

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    I wouldn't use those ever. Damn kids and slivers paired with them being ancient when you get them already. If you want something use concrete pavers or retaining wall.

    Like seeing a raised bed made from rr ties. Well then that's safe.
     
  15. kilimanjaro

    kilimanjaro Skagit County Well-Known Member

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    The RR replaces them with concrete ties now, the wooden ones had about a 20-year replacement interval, with several inspections during that time. Then they pulled them and sold them off rather than deal with the creosoting. So the lucky buyers are stuck with the hazardous materials on their property.

    Neighbor down the road thought he would put some ties in on his side of the County drainage ditch alongside the road, make it easier to mow the lawn. The County just told him to remove the ties, he's polluting the storm water, which is true. He's going to install stackstone now.
     
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  16. Bigfoot

    Bigfoot Clack Co. OR Well-Known Member

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    Real good information. Thanks all.

    I didn't know about the ants and RR ties are danged heavy to position anyway.

    The new plan is build strong pressure treated stairs and if I start damaging them I can possibly use tire blocks to keep me from rolling back into them.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  17. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    If you are planning to stay at this house for a while,(or not,selling points) this is a buy once cry once kinda situation.
    You get some nice pressure treated timbers to make the stairs and be done with it.
    They look good and aren't as bad to walk on in the summer time.Creosote isn't something you want kids to get on themselves
    the timbers look nicer,have a professional look to them and will last as long as anything else but concrete . I would guess you could replace the boards a couple time for what concrete would cost plus the work involved
     
  18. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Make sure you retreat the lumbers cut ends, or you might as well just use untreated lumber and save some bucks.
    I soak the cut ends with the retreat solution instead of just painting it on.
     
  19. The Heretic

    The Heretic Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Pressure treated timbers will rot even faster. They don't treat them with the "good stuff" anymore, and if you put them in the ground they will rot even faster.

    I have a whole bunch of pressure treated posts laying around my property, most of them rotted a lot faster than the creosoted ties the PO used. The PO bought a bunch of these treated fence posts and then chained some together, and laid all of them on the ground as a kind of border for the driveway between the driveway and landscaping. All of them are rotting and none of them were buried - they just laid on the ground.

    If you want something that isn't going to rot, use stone.