Can You Paint Sleepers?

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Sleepers are typically made from hardwood or treated softwood, making them durable and long-lasting. However, their natural wood look may not fit with your desired aesthetic or color scheme. Painting them could be a solution, but can you really paint sleepers?

In this article, we’ll explore the answer to this question and factors to consider before painting sleepers, the materials and tools you’ll need, and the steps to follow to achieve a beautiful and long-lasting finish.


Can You Paint Sleepers?

The short answer is yes, you can use fence paint and masonry paint to paint sleepers. Fence paints are designed to be used on wood, so they will adhere well to the surface of the sleepers. However, it’s essential to consider the type of wood used for the sleepers and whether they have been treated with any chemicals.

If the sleepers are made from treated wood, it’s important to sand them down before painting to ensure that the paint adheres correctly. You should also ensure that the wood is completely dry before painting, as any moisture can cause the paint to bubble and peel.

When To Use Fence Paint For Coating Sleepers?

Before you start painting the sleepers, it’s important to ensure they are completely dry. This is especially important if you have recently installed the sleepers or if they have been exposed to rain or moisture. Moisture can prevent the paint from adhering properly to the surface, causing the paint to peel or flake off over time. So, wait until the sleepers are dry before you start painting them.

If you have recently installed new sleepers, it’s important to wait until they have settled before you start painting them. This can take several weeks or even months depending on the type of sleeper and the soil conditions. If you paint the sleepers before they have settled, the paint may crack or peel as the sleepers shift and settle over time.

When To Use Masonry Paint For Coating Sleepers?

Masonry paint is a water-based coating that is designed to protect and beautify masonry surfaces, such as concrete, brick, and stone. It’s a great option for coating sleepers because it forms a durable barrier against moisture and UV rays, which are major contributors to rotting.

The best time to use masonry paint for coating sleepers is when the sleepers are new or have been recently cleaned. This is because the paint adheres better to clean, dry surfaces. If your sleepers are old and weathered, then it’s important to give them a good clean before applying the paint. This can be done using a stiff brush and a solution of water and bleach.

When it comes to masonry paint, there are several types to choose from. However, for coating sleepers, it’s important to choose a paint that is specifically designed for exterior use and is water-resistant. Look for a paint that is labeled as “masonry and brick paint” or “exterior masonry paint.”

Why Should You Not Use Regular Paint For Sleepers When Growing Plants In Them? 

If you’re planning on using sleepers to create raised garden beds or planters, it’s important to consider the type of paint you choose to use. Regular paint may seem like an easy and cost-effective solution, but it can have significant negative impacts on your plants and potentially your health.

One of the main issues with using regular paint on sleepers is that many exterior paints contain herbicides and fungicides. These chemicals are designed to kill plant growth and prevent the formation of green algae and other growth on walls and other surfaces. While this may be beneficial for certain applications, it can be disastrous for plants.

When plants are exposed to these chemicals, they may struggle to grow and may even die. This can be especially problematic if you’re trying to grow edible plants, as they could potentially absorb these harmful chemicals and be unsafe to consume.

Another issue with using regular paint on sleepers is the potential health impacts. Many paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can be harmful when inhaled. These VOCs can cause respiratory issues, headaches, and dizziness. If you’re working with paint in an enclosed space, such as a shed or garage, the concentration of these chemicals can be even higher and potentially more dangerous.

So, what can you do instead of using regular paint on sleepers? One option is to choose a paint specifically designed for use on wood that is labeled as safe for plants. These paints are typically water-based and contain fewer harmful chemicals than traditional paints.

Another option is to avoid painting your sleepers altogether and instead opt for natural finishes such as stains or oils.

What Chemicals Should You Be Careful Of When Choosing A Paint For Sleepers?

When choosing paint for sleepers, it’s important to avoid certain chemicals that can leech into the soil and potentially harm your plants. Here are a few chemicals to watch out for:


Lead is a toxic metal that can cause serious health problems if ingested. Unfortunately, lead-based paint was commonly used in the past, so it’s important to avoid any paint that contains lead. Look for paint that is labeled “lead-free” or “non-toxic.”


VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are chemicals that are released into the air as the paint dries. These chemicals can cause respiratory problems and other health issues. Look for low or no VOC paint options, which are typically labeled as “low odor” or “low emissions.”

Heavy Metals

Some paints may contain heavy metals, such as cadmium or chromium, which can also leech into the soil and harm your plants. Look for paints that are labeled as “heavy metal-free” or “environmentally friendly.”


Some paints may contain pesticides that are designed to protect the wood from insects and other pests. However, these chemicals can be harmful to both you and your plants. Look for paint that is labeled as “pesticide-free” or “natural.”

When Should You Paint Sleepers?

Sleepers are an essential component of many landscaping and garden projects, and painting them can help enhance their visual appeal. But when is the best time to paint sleepers? Here’s what you need to know:

Painting Newly Installed Sleepers

If you have recently installed new sleepers, it’s best to wait a few weeks before painting them. Newly installed sleepers contain moisture, and painting them too soon can lead to peeling and cracking. Allow the sleepers to dry completely, which can take up to six weeks, before painting them.

Painting Older Sleepers

Older sleepers can be painted at any time, but it’s best to do it during the warmer months of the year. This is because the warmer temperatures allow the paint to dry and cure more quickly. Avoid painting sleepers during the winter months, as the cold temperatures can interfere with the paint’s adhesion and cause it to peel.

When Should You Not Paint Sleepers?

Sleepers are wooden beams used in the construction of garden beds, retaining walls, and other outdoor structures. Painting sleepers can add a decorative touch to your outdoor space, but there are times when it’s best to leave them untreated. Here are some situations when you should avoid painting your sleepers:

When They Are Treated

If your sleepers have been treated with chemicals to protect them from rot and insects, it’s best to leave them untreated. The chemicals used in treatment can react with the paint and cause it to peel or fade. Additionally, the chemicals in the treatment can leach into the soil and harm your plants. If you want to add color to your treated sleepers, consider using a wood stain instead of paint.

When They Are New

New sleepers are often wet and have a high moisture content. Painting them before they have had a chance to dry out completely can cause the paint to bubble and peel. It’s best to wait at least six months before painting new sleepers to ensure they are completely dry. If you can’t wait that long, consider using a wood preservative to protect the sleepers until they are dry enough for painting.

When They Are Old and Weathered

Old sleepers that have been exposed to the elements for years can have a weathered, rustic look that many homeowners find attractive.

Painting these sleepers can detract from their natural beauty and make them look artificial. Instead of painting, consider sanding the sleepers to remove any rough spots and applying a clear wood preservative to protect them from further weathering.

When You Want a Natural Look

If you prefer a natural, organic look in your outdoor space, painting sleepers might not be the best option. Instead, leave the sleepers untreated and allow them to weather naturally over time. This will give your outdoor space a rustic, natural feel that is perfect for gardens and other outdoor areas.

How To Paint Railway Sleepers?

Railway sleepers, also known as railroad ties, are an essential part of railway tracks. They are made of wood, concrete, or steel and are used to keep the rails in place. However, they can also be used for landscaping and home decor purposes.

If you are interested in painting railway sleepers for your DIY project, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Step 1: Clean the Railway Sleepers

Before painting the railway sleepers, you need to make sure they are clean and free of any debris. Use a stiff brush or a power washer to remove any dirt, moss, or lichen that may have accumulated on them. Allow the sleepers to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Sand the Railway Sleepers

Once the sleepers are dry, use sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots or splinters. This will ensure that the paint adheres properly to the surface of the sleepers. Be sure to wear gloves and a dust mask while sanding to protect yourself from any dust or debris.

Step 3: Apply a Primer

Before painting, apply a coat of primer to the railway sleepers. This will help the paint adhere better and last longer. Use a paintbrush or a roller to apply the primer evenly to the surface of the sleepers. Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Paint the Railway Sleepers

Now it’s time to paint the railway sleepers. Choose a paint that is suitable for outdoor use and can withstand the elements. Use a paintbrush or a roller to apply the paint evenly to the surface of the sleepers. You may need to apply multiple coats of paint to achieve the desired color and finish.

Allow the paint to dry completely between coats.

Step 5: Seal the Railway Sleepers

Once the paint has dried, apply a sealer to the railway sleepers. This will protect the paint from fading or peeling due to exposure to the sun, rain, or moisture. Use a paintbrush or a roller to apply the sealer evenly to the surface of the sleepers. Allow the sealer to dry completely before using the sleepers for your DIY project.

How To Treat Railway Sleepers?

Here are some tips on how to treat railway sleepers:

Use Oils

Applying oils to railway sleepers can help to protect them from water damage and UV radiation. Oils can also enhance the color and grain of the wood, making it look more attractive. 

There are many different types of oils available, including linseed oil, teak oil, and Danish oil. Before applying any oil, ensure that the sleepers are clean and dry. Apply the oil with a brush or cloth, and allow it to soak into the wood for several hours before wiping away any excess.


Creocote is a type of wood preservative that is commonly used on railway sleepers. It contains creosote, which is a tar-like substance that helps to protect the wood from rot and insect damage. Creocote is easy to apply, and can be brushed or sprayed onto the sleepers. It is important to wear protective gloves and a mask when using creocote, as it can be harmful if ingested or inhaled.

Wood Preserver

There are many different types of wood preserver available, and they can be used to protect railway sleepers from rot, insect damage, and water damage. Some preservers contain chemicals that can be harmful, so it is important to read the label carefully before using them.

Wood preservers are usually applied with a brush, and it is important to allow the preserver to dry completely before using the sleepers.





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