How to install landscaping timbers

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Landscape timbers are widely used for edging for gardens and flower beds.  Compared to other options such as concrete blocks and stone, timbers are far less expensive and much quicker to install.  The average project can be done in a day, but if you are also replacing an existing installation, you may want to allow more time.

Landscape timbers are usually 8ft long and purchase the pressure-treated timbers to prevent rot due to ground contact.

Equipment and tools that you will need for this project:

  • Work Gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • Sledge or heavy-duty hammer
  • Shovel and garden hoe for easier leveling
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Miter saw, circular saw, or hand saw
  • Pencil or marker
  • Drill and drill bits
  • 6”-10” Stakes

Materials

  • Landscape timbers
  • #3 Rebar (3/8-inch-diameter) at least 2 foot long
  • Galvanized corner braces (optional)
  • Galvanized mending plates (optional)
  • Landscape fabric (optional)
  • 3.5 to 4-inch decking screws (optional)
  • Gravel (optional)

If you are starting from scratch, plan your layout by using string and stakes.  Once you have your layout, grab your gloves and dig a trench at least 2-4 inches deep. After you have your trench dug, make sure you level it.  A garden hoe works great for leveling the ground once you have the topsoil removed. 

Optionally you can place a light layer of gravel underneath the first layer of timbers.  This will help with water drainage and prevent premature wood rot.  Optionally you can also use landscaping fabric to prevent weed and grass growth.

Make sure that the soil is firmly packed down to prevent as much settling as possible.

Place the first layer of timbers in your trench, joining the ends together as tightly as possible.  Cut the timbers to fit within your layout with a circular, miter, or hand saw.  You can join them together with galvanized mending plates or even decking screws.  You can join the corner timbers by using galvanized corner braces and decking screws.

Since leveling is very important, make sure that you recheck to make sure that the first layer of timbers is level before adding more layers.  Adjustments will most likely be required and you can do that by adding or removing dirt or gravel as needed.

You can now start adding your second layer.  For better stability, and a better appearance, offset the joints from the layer below.

Once you have the second layer installed, drill a hole slightly smaller than the diameter of a 6-10-inch spike.  You will also need a 6-10 inch drill bit.  Do not try to hammer in the stake in without predrilling the holes. If you do, you will most likely damage the timber and have to replace it.  Once you have the timber predrilled, drive the spike into each hole with a sledgehammer or heavy-duty hammer.

For two layers, you use can use 6-inch spikes.  The 10-inch spike will secure 3 layers.  The more layers you have, the more spikes you will need.

Optionally you can secure your row or rows of timbers with #3 Rebar for more strength and stability.  Before beginning make sure that there are no water, electrical, or utility lines below the surface where you are working.  If you are unsure, contact your locality or Ms. Utility to verify.

Once you know it’s safe, drill 3/8-inch holes through the timbers where you want more stability.  Hammer the rebar through the timber, leaving it flush with the surface of the top timber.  The length of the rebar is your preference, but you will need at least a 2ft piece to add some stability.

Once done, add your garden soil or mulch depending on your project.  Optionally you can add a layer of gravel on the inside of the timbers.  This will also help with water drainage and prevent premature wood rot.

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