Can You Paint Sleepers With Fence Paint?

Can You Paint Sleepers With Fence Paint?

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Wanting to tidy up some sleepers in your garden and add a splash of colour but not sure what paint to use? Take fence paint for example, can you paint sleepers with fence paint? Let’s find out.

Can You Paint Sleepers With Fence Paint?

Yes, you can paint sleepers with fence paint, but whether you should or not comes down to a few different factors that I will discuss below.

In essence, there is no difference between new softwood sleepers and a fence panel. They are both made from similar, if not the same, wood and have also been treated in the exact same way.

So fence paint will go on a sleeper just fine and will stay on it and look good for just as long as you would expect it to on a fence.

The real question though is what are you trying to achieve by painting your sleepers with fence paint?

Are you looking to preserve the wood? Or is it simply decorative?

If you are doing it just for decorative reasons then that is fine and you can go ahead and paint your sleepers with fence paint.

If it is to try and preserve the wood then I would suggest something else. There are a few problems with fence paint and preserving sleepers which I will mention below.

To start with fence paint is not designed to be used on wood that is constantly in touch with the floor, it won’t do much to help protect a sleeper that is sitting on the floor.

This is one of the main areas where your sleepers will rot from, and if the paint is not going to help here then what is the point?

Another thing to consider is that fence paint isn’t that great of a preservative anyway, there are much better paints and treatments you can use if your sole intention is to improve the life span of your sleepers.

What To Use Instead?


If you are looking for a lot of protection then creocote is a great choice. It is the modern replacement for creosote which is only available for industrial applications these days.

Creocote is a safer formula than creosote but still protects wood well. it is not as good at preserving wood as the old stuff but it is safer and also more environmentally friendly.

Bartoline Creocote 4 Litre
£14.50 £12.38 (£3.10 / l)
  • Bartoline Creocote Oil Based Timber Treatment Wood Preserve Fence 4L Light Brown
  • Bartoline Creocote is an oil-based wood treatment, effective when applied to exterior timbers. Its oil-based properties provide excellent surface water repellence, improve grain definition and restrict weather damage.
  • Application: Rough cut exterior timbers such as garden sheds, fences and trellis work.
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03/01/2024 07:24 pm GMT

Bitumen Paint

Bitumen paint is really good for preserving wood but it is not decorative at all. It can be applied to the underside of sleepers that are going to be sat on the ground and then coupled with the creocote above for a more decorative finish on the front.

Everbuild Black Jack Bitumen Paint
£10.99 £10.45 (£10.45 / l)
  • Fast drying, dries in 2 - 4 hours depending on weather conditions
  • When dry, forms an odourless and taint free black film that is resistant to most salt solutions, dilute acids and alkalis, water and alcohol
  • Suitable for use on a wide variety of materials including iron and steel, lead, zinc, aluminium, asbestos, cement, concrete, stone, wood, felt and brick to provide a waterproof, weatherproof and corrosion-resistant protective coating
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03/01/2024 07:48 pm GMT

Cuprinol Garden Shades

If you want lots of colour options but a bit more protection than fence paint can provide then I recommend something like Cuprinol garden shades.

This paint is available in a huge range of colours and also helps protect the wood more than fence paint would.

Works Great on Furniture
Cuprinol 2.5 Litre Garden Shades Standard Colours Coastal Mist
£23.99 (£9.60 / l)

Cuprinol Garden Shades gives beautiful long-lasting colour and weatherproof protection to all garden wood (including garden furniture and decking)

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03/01/2024 06:50 pm GMT

Growing Veg

All paints contain a lot of chemicals, sometimes these chemicals are far from healthy.

While some, maybe even most paints might be completely safe I would say why take the risk?

We like to grow our own fruit and veg to get better produce than we can from the supermarket. It takes more effort but you get better stuff.

Why potentially risk this by letting dangerous chemicals leech into your food? I say just leave the sleepers and let them rot naturally. They will still last 10 or even 20 years this way!

Reclaimed Railway Sleepers

If you are looking to paint reclaimed railway sleepers then fence paint isn’t a good idea.

Reclaimed sleepers have lots of oil and tar in them along with tonnes of other preservatives, some of which can be quite nasty, that’s why they last so long.

This can make them tough to paint, but on the other hand, the only reason to paint them is decorative. You don’t need to paint them to make them last longer.

No paint is really going to protect them any more than the industrial preservatives that have already been applied to them other the years.

If you do want to paint them for decorative reasons then my advice would be to use oil-based paint, but I still don’t know how well this would work, but it is your best bet.

Fencing paint tends to be waterproof and it won’t adhere at all well to the oily surface or a railway sleeper.

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  1. I have jarrah tropical hardwood sleepers in the garden as a retaining wall all sides are bitumen coated except the front facing. I am waiting to paint the front of them in a black high gloss. Was looking to bitumen the front and apply a clear gloss. Is this advised and if so/not what would you recommend

    1. Paint doesn’t tend to stick to bitumen too well because of how glossy it is, so it might be best to just leave the bitumen as your finish

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