Top tips for choosing high quality timber fence posts and sleepers

When builders are selecting timber fence posts and sleepers for a job, it’s not surprising they will go for what’s most cost-effective.

But choosing price over quality runs the risk of using timber products that aren’t fit for purpose. As fence posts and sleepers are in contact with the ground – which involves soil and water – the timber needs to meet Class 4 requirements for protection against the environment.

Keith Fryer, Forest Products Development Manager for Huws Gray said: “Too many suppliers focus on price and it’s a real false economy when you are using timber products externally. The cost of disruption when you have to replace faulty products far outweighs any initial saving.”

Keith has seen the problem first hand, with a fence post snapping in his own back garden in under four years! “It’s a classic example of the problem with timber that’s not properly treated.

However, there is a solution to the problem. Sian Moreton, National Sales Manager for BSW Timber Group and Huws Gray supplier, says: “Builders need to use timber that has the appropriate level of treatment for its end use. Without it, there is no life expectancy and could result in the rotting and failure of posts and sleepers at ground level in a short period of time.”



Inspiration from North America

BSW has introduced a British version of what the North Americans have been doing to preserve timber to a higher standard. This involves making fine incisions on all sides of the timber before treatment, which allows the chemical preservative to permeate at a deeper level – to the heartwood of the timber as well as the sapwood – and achieve a longer lifespan. The structural strength of the timber is unaffected as the incisions run along the grain.

The engineering involved – including high pressure treatment – means that it’s possible to guarantee a longer life span. As a result, the fence posts and sleepers offer 15 Years Desired Service Life as stipulated within the Standard BS8417 Preservation of Wood – Code of Practice.

Quality first

Choosing quality over price also saves money in the long-run: estimates show a saving of almost £1,000 over a 15-year period against replacing low-cost timber fence posts every five years.

Sian Moreton added: “A 15-year guarantee is peace of mind that the timber will give the customer longevity and save money in the long term - we haven’t had any products fail since bringing in the new technology!”

Keith Fryer said: “Learning from my bad experience, we moved in less than four years ago and now face disruption in our garden, time spent sorting it all out and, of course, the cost. We probably need to replace all the posts; that’ll be hundreds of pounds.

“And from a Huws Gray perspective, we know that reputation counts far more than a quick sale. So, that means stocking and selling only incised posts and sleepers and we advise our building clients to explain to their customers why that’s important – it’s because you’re looking after them.

“Luckily, all the timber sleepers we fitted in our garden came from Huws Gray – and, of course, they’re incised!”



1.      Buy on quality rather than price to get long-term savings for the customer.

2.      Choose timber with the right type of treatment for the end use.

3.      Incised timber allows treatment to penetrate deeper into the window.

4.      Look for timber products with a long-term guarantee.

5.      Protect your own company reputation and profits by recommending products you know won’t fail. 


For more information about timber fence posts and sleepers visit our landscaping timber section or find your local Huws Gray branch