Landscaping timbers -- life expectancy?

Our railroad-tie retaining walls are collapsing after who-knows-how-many years (here when we bought the house).
Other than buying replacement used railroad ties (most of which look pretty bad already), I see two options:
1. a block wall. Should last a long time, but labor intensive to build.
2. a wall made not of railroad ties but of 6"x6"x8' landscaping timbers (thus almost the same size as the RR ties they are replacing). The ones I see advertised at present are described as "treated for non-structural use" and have a 1-year warranty. Anybody used such things? How well do they last in practice?
Perce
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Percival P. Cassidy wrote:

Don't know for the specific ones you're talking about, but depends on what they're made of (type of timber) and treatment. IME, most of the landscape treatments now are basically worthless and if they're just whitewood the 1-yr "warranty" is telling.
Decent ties will last another 20 years otoh...but they're much more expensive.
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On 07/13/08 07:04 pm dpb wrote:

"Decent" is no doubt the crucial term: the used ties currently advertised here are one-third the price of the landscape timbers -- at Menards (Midwest chain).
Perce
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About 30 years ago my brother in law worked for a company that bought & sold raliroad ties.
"used" ties vary a lot in condition but there is a classification system
this link is a pretty good one
http://www.akrailroad.com/OnlineCatalog/Products/RailroadTies/tabid/61/Default.aspx
the best used ties are "re-lays", that is, ones good enough for railroad reuse. They will be expensive.
If you cut the ties, the cut ends might expose untreated wood. If you want the ties to last you'll have to treat these cut ends. The best way is to stand ties on end in a container such that the end grain will wick up the treatment.
If you're thinking about using ties, go to a supplier that deals in ties as normal part of their business.....buying from a retail outlet would be a poor second choice.
Per DPB comments, "landscape timbers" are prety much worthless. If you're thinking about using treated timber, there are specs for "ground contact" treatment levels & if my memory serves me, the treatment retention levels are 3x or 4x+ the treatment level of the crap that passes for treated timber at Home Depot.
cheers Bob
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The other posters all made good points but the question of tiebacks has not been addressed. Almost all retaining walls need some sort of tieback into the soil being supported to prevent the wall from collapsing outwards. Tiebacks are labour intensive to install. Will this make the project more than you had in mind or change the material being considered?
Perhaps you should Google "retaining walls" to learn more about all of the issues. Material is actually the least of the concerns. If the wall is more than a few feet high or close to expensive things it could also be a safety issue and the building inspection department will get involved.
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the best wall is no wall, slope the grade to the angle of natural repose, and plant ground cover.
every wall fails sooner or later.
except mine that i removed:)
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HB-
Why do you continue to post this nonsense about walls?
"every wall fails sooner or later."
I suppose this might be true if you consider "later" in terms of "geologic time"
or code minimum designed walls subjected to high ground accelerations (earthquakes) or high winds
but going beyond the code minimums will give you a pretty high probably of the wall outlasting the owner or builder.
I personally have been involved in the design & construction of a few walls (some even before I knew how to design them)
none of them have "failed".....yeah I've seen a lot of walls that have failed but probably 100x as many that have not.
My "seat of pants walls" are over 40 years old & still standing (one is a retaining wall)
my designed walls will last much longer,
The "wall / fence" that I took down & replaced did indeed "fail" at least according to my standards ... Poor design, stucco over wood frame on a heavy concrete foundation, termites destroyed the wood framing but the stucco held up.
When I finally had torn down it was 78 years old and I really could have probably repaired / rebuilt it to last another 50. But instead I chose to replace it with this wall
8" block with #5's @24" on a 14" x 34" deep footing, #5's top & bottom; all cells grouted with 3000psi min
so I guess this wall will fail, but I doubt anyone on this newsgroup will live to see it happen maybe my grandchildren might but I doubt it
So please stop this "every wall fails sooner or later" nonsense, it just isn't true.
cheers Bob
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everyone I know who has a wall is either rebuilding it, just rebuilt it, or its looking bad. perhaps its pittsburghs freezing weather?
currently i have 2 walls, the longer rock wall has been rebuilt 3 times since 1972. its starting to move again, its next move is hauled out of here.
few will be willing to spend the bucks for a proper footer, and heavy construction necessary for a long lasting wall. any wall with wood is a waste of effort, heck even creosote timbers fail eventually.
I helped tear out a really well constucted 50 year old wall, with 5 foot deep footers it still failed.
we chipped the top of the footer off and let grass cover it.
I stand by all walls fail.
as a test how many older walls in your neighborhood still look good?
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Well, not in my neighborhood exactly...
* The "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem is a little over 2,000 years old. * The Great Wall of China is even older.
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wrote:

Freeze/thaw cycles?
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On Jul 16, 8:09am, snipped-for-privacy@dog.com wrote:

Freeze / thaw cycles are challenging to deal with but it is done all the time. I am not a freeze / thaw design expert but they do exist.
cheers Bob
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as a test how many older walls in your neighborhood still look good? <<<<
I guess we should just close all the engineering schools (at least the CE depts) & give up?
The side yard walls at my parent's home (1959) iare still fine... built with rebar per my dad's spec. Very minimal by today's standards but enough to kept it working.
The back yard wall "failed" after only a year....oops! The builder graded 3' of dirt up against a simple 6" slump stone bock wall. It was replaced by an 8" fully grouted proper retaining wall & the slump stone wall rebuilt as a facade......both still standing (1960)
As for other walls in the area, they're doing pretty good.

sounds like an oxymoron .... a "really well constructed 50 year old wall" should not fail
It may have been constructed well but was it designed well?
but otoh what was the design life? If your car wears out after 15 years do you consider it a POS or did you get 5 more years than expected?
It's all about design life & life cycle cost
Properly designed & constructed walls should easily serve out their design life.
cheers Bob I
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On Sun, 13 Jul 2008 18:57:54 -0400, "Percival P. Cassidy"

My landscaping timbers are 18 years old and still holding. I didn't expect them to last this long. The rug juniper has spread and its roots are holding the hillside from erosion, so the timbers are not all that important.
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Phisherman wrote: ...

That's old enough they were undoubtedly creosote or similarly treated and a suitable species.
Most that is sold at the box stores and such these days isn't either...
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In my experience, you can get 10 to 20 years with treated lumber used for landscape applications. But that was with the old treatment. With the new environmentally friendlier ones, I haven't seen any indicators of how long they will last.
But, I would not use lumber for a retaining wall. Go to a supplier of pavers and similar material. They have interlocking blocks that will not only last many times longer than wood, but are also more attractive. They come in a variety of shapes, colors, etc. Anchor is one company here in NJ that you can probably find online to look at.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote: ...

...
The new treated line posts here even in a dry area w/o much insect problem aren't lasting even 10 years often where untreated bodark (osage orange) or black locust are often 50 or more--I've a pasture that just now is starting to need significant numbers of them replaced that was last fenced in the late 20s or early 30s...
Ties in the feedlot which is a very hostile usage are about 40 now and only replaced a dozen or so out of at least a couple hundred...
New treatments of any sort I've seen available at BORGS, etc., are simply ineffective imo. We can still get creosote-treated line posts at local farm supply, but they're being shipped in from Canada. I've not seen them at any retail outlet; whether there's some restriction for consumer use or relaxation for farm use I don't know...
--
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dpb wrote: ...

I should add that most stuff like these posts I see at the Tractor Supply or similar are various unspecified pine/larch/whatever where the species is basically trash wood for anything else and generally unfit for the purpose. That's as important as the treatment, probably and combined makes for a product that's simply not worth taking home and the effort to put it in the ground even if it were given away...
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...

IIRC, a large percentage of landscape timbers come from residue from the plywood industry. Pine logs are peeled for veneer and the remaining core is then sold as a landscape timber. As you said, trash.
Red
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Red wrote: ...

Probably right although I hadn't made that connection...makes sense from the supplier end economics even though it's an essentially worthless product for the end user.
Only thing that would make me wonder is that absolutely no fir shows up in these but perhaps there's a better market for those particular cores that would be better post material as well. There's not even any yellow pine; it's all just the really soft "white wood" spruce/larch/etc. that has virtually no natural rot resistance so of course the first thought is "let's make fence posts/landscape timbers out of it". :(
The Canadian imported creosote-treated is, otoh, actual small stuff that still shows the branch, etc., (that is, they're not turned and therefore totally symmetrically round, etc.) and are mostly fir. I'm pretty sure they are salvage "twigs" that used to be simply left.
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