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Old June 5, 2018   #1
b54red
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Default Rebuilding old raised beds

After nearly forty years using the same timbers for my raised beds they are getting to the point where some of the beds have to be redone. I rebuilt the worst bed in February and it wasn't a lot of trouble as I got very straight treated 2 X 10s and built it immediately. The one I finished about 30 minutes ago was a real bear. I got the lumber 3 weeks ago and laid those nice straight boards out just before the two weeks of rain started. Well by the time everything dried out enough for me to start working on it a couple of days ago some of those boards warped like crazy. When I set them up end to end it looked like a snake so I had a hard time bracing and prying the boards into a semblance of straight. So some good advice for anyone building any long raised beds would be to start with straight timbers and build it quickly bracing every 5 to 6 feet and then fill it as soon as possible to help keep it straight and limit the amount of warping. Over the next year or so I will have to redo all my other beds as the wood is really starting to breakdown. That is six more beds to rebuild but at least I have the longest one done and it doesn't look too bad. This would have been much easier to do when I was younger.

Bill
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Old June 5, 2018   #2
bower
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Forty years is pretty amazing. I must say we are using untreated and unpainted lumber to whack together a few raised beds around the place, and they last surprisingly long. More than ten years, at my Mom's - which now need replacing, it's true. But it isn't by any means a waste of money or material to use wood in the garden. It holds up surprisingly well.
TBH I am doing everything with scrap around my own garden. Old lumber that's been lying around in the elements winter and summer. If it's a bit rotten I'll use it to frame out a compost pile, and let it rot away until it's gone. The really rotten stuff, I am putting the pieces down in the rocky woods, let the moss cover them and after awhile, a nice flat path to walk on.
Really surprising to hear how much your plank warped!! That treated wood must have been kept very dry all along, to react like that to a bit of rain is... not good!! Better luck with the next lot.
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Old June 5, 2018   #3
nbardo
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A good practice if you have to store lumber for any significant length of time: Keep boards off the ground if possible, stack them high, and put a few narrow 1/2” strips of wood between boards to allow airflow. Add weight to the top. Cover with a tarp. The weight of the stack keeps everything flat as the wood fibers expand and contract. The spacers (called stickers) allow air to flow between boards and keep the moisture content even. If one side of the board has more moisture than the other side it will expand and warp the board badly.

Treated lumber is usually very wet when it comes from the lumber yard. Thats why it is so heavy and feels cool to the touch.


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Old June 5, 2018   #4
HudsonValley
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Do you know which grade of lumber you used? When I needed to rebuild a rotted bed with 2x10 boards last month, the nice folks at my local lumber yard encouraged me to avoid the "above ground"-grade boards typically used for decks and to get the kind intended for "ground contact." I was also encouraged to purchase galvanized hardware. The project was slightly expensive than expected, so I hope it will be worth it in the long run...
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Old June 6, 2018   #5
b54red
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Originally Posted by HudsonValley View Post
Do you know which grade of lumber you used? When I needed to rebuild a rotted bed with 2x10 boards last month, the nice folks at my local lumber yard encouraged me to avoid the "above ground"-grade boards typically used for decks and to get the kind intended for "ground contact." I was also encouraged to purchase galvanized hardware. The project was slightly expensive than expected, so I hope it will be worth it in the long run...
Down here in termite country if you don't use ground contact boards the termites eat them up in no time. I used deck screws and connected the 2X10s with two foot pieces of treated 1X6. I then used 2 ft pieces of galvanized 3/4 inch conduit hammered in every 5 or 6 ft and connected with clamps to the 2X10s to hold them in place and reduce warping. It is really rather neat and sturdy; but I wish they still used the lumber treatment they used on my original treated lumber. That stuff lasted 40 years and this new stuff can only be expected to last 10 or so years.

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Old June 6, 2018   #6
Worth1
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It lasted too long so they had it banned.
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Old June 6, 2018   #7
b54red
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It lasted too long so they had it banned.
Worth
You can't make much money selling it if it lasts that long.

Bill
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Old June 6, 2018   #8
SteveP
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I used very old but still solid railroad ties (double stacked and offset). They show no signs of remaining creosote and they don't show any deterioration during the 7 years I have had them. I bought 20 of them for $5/ea delivered. I had to hire a couple of young guys to carry and stack them as they are heavy and I'm not young anymore.
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Old June 6, 2018   #9
b54red
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I used very old but still solid railroad ties (double stacked and offset). They show no signs of remaining creosote and they don't show any deterioration during the 7 years I have had them. I bought 20 of them for $5/ea delivered. I had to hire a couple of young guys to carry and stack them as they are heavy and I'm not young anymore.
I built my first raised beds with railroad ties that I got when they redid one of the railroad lines a mile or so from my home. I just drove my pickup along the access lane and picked them up. The biggest problem I had with them was the way that slugs were attracted to them and then they would come out at night and feed on my veggies. I have a relatively small area for my garden and they also took up too much space. I still have some of them from over 40 years ago that I stack conduit on for building my racks.

Bill
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Old June 6, 2018   #10
Gardeneer
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Warping is due to uneven drying or moisure absorption. It can happen to any lumber.
You want to get them back in shape ? Clamp them together and leave in direct sun for a couple of days.

I have made quite a few RB with cheap 5 1/2" x 6ft x 5/8" cedar boards. those are the ones used for making fence around the yard. Right here, right now they are sold at $1.56 a piece. With 6 of them you can make a 3ft by 6ft bed that is 11" high. Counting tax, corner lumber and screws it costs about $14 per bed. That is 75 cents per square foot of raised bed.
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