Landscape timbers give every homeowner the ability to turn their eyesore exterior into a landscaping masterpiece. Landscape timbers present a challenging DIY project, but one any determined landscaper can handle.
To simplify, landscape timbers are used to build planter boxes and raised beds for gardening. They are also used to separate plants from other common areas of the yard, to build a retaining wall, reinforce a slope, make garden steps or build a picnic table and landscape paths.
The possibilities are endless, but before you go and purchase landscape timbers, make sure you read all there is to know about this highly attractive landscaping feature.
Landscape Timber Basics
There are certain landscape timber basics all must know before embarking on such a landscaping project. Like many other home materials, landscape timbers come in a variety of colors and materials. They are similar to wood planks in that many of them come in 4-foot or 8-foot lengths. However, the primary difference is that landscape timbers are flat on the bottom and top. As you can imagine, this makes landscape timbers ideal for building or stacking.
There are two main types of landscape timbers; natural and synthetic. For natural, the timber can be treated or untreated. Treated, while more expensive, can last up to seven years before being replaced. Synthetic, the most popular of which is recycled plastic, will last much longer and is cheaper.
Landscape Timber Prices
According to our landscape timbers cost estimator, all types of landscape timbers vary in price.
- Natural Treated: Most pay $400 on average for 50 linear feet of treated landscape timbers.
- Natural Untreated: Most pay $300 for untreated landscape timbers that covers 50 linear feet.
- Synthetic: The cost for 50 linear feet of synthetic landscape timbers is $150 on average.
Just like a home’s flooring, the natural wood always costs more. Most agree that natural wood looks better as well.
Besides the timber costs, there are there are other factors one must consider:
- Some companies may charge a delivery fee.
- Having a landscaping crew build your structure will increase costs.
- If your yard is not level or has drainage issues, the timbers may deteriorate, rot or shift out of place. Landscape pros will have to address and thus, increase your overall project cost.
Natural timbers are made of wood, the most common of which are redwood and cedar. Treated wood is the most common type of landscape timber in the U.S. The logs are treated with oil-based preservatives that help stave off mold, fungi and damage from exposure to moisture, sun and air.
Untreated timbers have some natural resistance to fungal growth, moisture and temperature extremes. These woods have a pleasing color, but they can also be painted to match other landscaping features.
When a natural landscaping timber begins to deteriorate, one must replace the decaying log right away. If not, carpenter ants and termites will be headed your way.
Recycled plastic timbers are the most common type of synthetic log. They are much easier to lift and install if you plan on completing this project yourself. Finally, synthetics do not include any chemicals, providing a safer environment for your plants and family.
Which Landscape Timber to Choose
As I said above, there are numerous applications for landscape timbers such as landscape curbing, building a garden bed or separating a walkway. Your specific project should always affect the type of landscape timber chosen.
For garden timbers, most homeowners go with synthetic or untreated natural timbers. Wood treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol results in oils that coat the roots, stems and leaves of nearby plants. Creosote and pentachlorophenol may also release an odor that is offensive to sensitive individuals. Landscaping timbers that were treated with copper, chromium and arsenic mixtures should not be used around plants for human consumption.
On the other hand, as you read above, treated wood still tends to be the timber of choice. That’s because most homeowners use treated timbers to build benches, retaining walls or tables. Treated wood is easy to cut and looks great for paths or edging closer to the home.
If you are looking to quickly improve your curb appeal, treated wood is the way to go. Just remember, that updated look does not come without a price.
Landscape Timber Benefits
Besides a huge bump in curb appeal, there are various benefits to installing landscape timbers. Those benefits include:
- Durability: Treated timbers can last up to seven years and plastic can last several decades.
- Accessibility: Raised beds made of landscape timbers reduce the amount of weeding that needs to be done while allowing for an extended growing season and easier access to the plants.
- Green: Landscape timbers are an economical choice.
- Inexpensive: Compared to brick or concrete, landscape timbers cost less.
How to Install Landscape Timbers
As indicated with our landscaping cost estimators, it’s almost always cheaper to handle your own landscaping project as opposed to hiring a pro. Fortunately, installing landscape timbers is no different.
To start off, one should always wear gloves when it comes to landscaping projects, especially those involved with treated landscape timbers. If you plan on working in the yard, do yourself a favor and invest in a good pair of gardening gloves.
The first step to installing landscape timbers it to measure. Before you head to your nearest Home Depot, you have to know how much timber to buy. Using edging stakes and yarn, measure out your flower bed, gardening path, etc. Make sure you hammer the stakes in the ground and tie the yard as tight as possible. Once all set up, measure the length (and width if you want to go wider than one timber).
Next, we have to dig the soil out of the ground. Since it’s such a small space, most homeowners use a hand edger versus a shovel. Try to keep the yard in tact to make sure you stick to the line.
At this point, if you are building a garden bed, most install the plants. Others keep going with the edging. According to David Beaulieu, landscaping expert, installing the edging first will make your life much easier. After removing some sod, level the ground using a steel rake or garden rope.
With the correct landscape timbers (based on your measurements above), you are ready to install.
First, lay out all pieces of your landscape timbers. It’s always nice to see the project before it’s fully connected. Then, take your corners and connect them using corner braces. A drill will greatly come in handy at this point. Make sure the corner pieces line up with the remaining timbers. Then, connect the length pieces using mending plates. Put in place and voila!
For a more detailed description, please see David’s 10 easy tips to timber installation.
It’s the details that count and when it comes to upgrading your curb appeal, few projects do it better than landscape timbers.
If you are interested in installing your own landscape timbers, but want an expert eye on the project, click here to connect with up to four landscaping pros near you!