How to Stain Railroad Ties

Hubert Oresco

Repurposed wooden railroad ties are environment-friendly materials that can be used for a variety of projects. They are popular for landscaping projects, often used to create retaining walls or raised-bed gardens. They also make attractive and useful steps on your land.

It is a good idea to stain wooden railroad ties before using them in your project, as the finish will seal the wood and protect it from the elements.


Sand and stain with the grain.


Work in an area that's ventilated. Wear hand protection when working with chemicals.

  1. Sand the railroad ties with 120-grit sandpaper. A smooth wood surface ensures the new stain will absorb evenly into the wood.

  2. Wipe the surface of the railroad ties clean of dust with a tack cloth. Dust will create imperfections in your finish.

  3. Apply a coat of wood conditioner with a brush to ensure the wood absorbs the stain evenly. Allow the wood conditioner to dry.

  4. Wipe on a coat of stain with a clean cloth. Allow several minutes for the initial coat to absorb into the wood, then wipe off any excess stain with another cloth. Apply more coats until the finish is the desired darkness.

  5. After the stain has dried, buff the railroad ties with a clean cloth. This will smooth any grain that has been raised by the finishing process and give the final finish a shine.