What is the best material for making a raised bed?

There are many different types of materials that can be used to build raised garden beds from wood through to brick, our customers tell us they spend time researching the options to find out which material is best suited for what they want to achieve in their garden. So what is the best material for making a raised bed?

The aim of this blog is to include all of the information you need in one place to save you time searching and to help you make the right choice for your next garden project.

We’ve listed the different materials you could use and included approximate costs based on raised beds of similar sizes, Options listed are in price order.

Brick raised beds

Raised beds can be made from either brand new or reclaimed bricks, you will need to include foundations to build on to create a stable structure. To build it you could set yourself a challenge but you will need to ensure that the bricks are laid straight and level and the mortar mix is correct. If you’re not confident in bricklaying it is best to enlist the help of a skilled tradesperson.

  • Brick raised bed maintenance- Repointing of mortar joints, plus frost-damaged bricks may need to be replaced as and when
  • Materials - Bricks, concrete for the footings, sand, cement and, coping stones
  • Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - approx £500 for materials (if buying directly from a trade counter), plus additional for labour costs if you are not building the wall yourself
Brick raised bed
Railway sleeper raised beds

Railway sleeper raised beds

Building wooden raised beds out railway sleepers is fairly straightforward, you can buy lengths from timber merchants or garden and DIY retailers in hardwood and softwood varieties (pine or oak), the lengths will need to be cut to size, and you will need to drill holes down through the sleepers and insert reinforcing bars to hold them together. Most new railway sleepers are pre-treated with a preservative, older sleepers or reclaimed sleepers tend to be treated with creosote which is harmful and not recommended for using in the garden.

  • Railway sleeper raised bed maintenance - Use an annual wood preservative treatment to prevent rotting, creocote (not creosote mentioned above) is the recommended option for this. The are untreated and treat varieties  option available.
  • Materials - Treated softwood sleepers, reinforcing bars, sleeper brackets / angle brackets. The traditional / standard railway sleeper size is 2400mm x 200mm x 100mm - shorter and thinner versions are available.
  • Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - approx £22 - £28 per sleeper £330 and £100 for screws, brackets, reinforcing bars.

WoodBlocX raised beds

An easy-to-build, waste-free option, no cutting or drilling is required, the pieces are similar to Lego and are built up like brick-work and held together with a series of dowels, these combined with the layers of blocks make a strong structure which will last for 15 years or more. No special skills or tools are needed to build a WoodBlocX raised bed and each kit comes with a set of step by step instructions.

  • WoodBlocX raised bed maintenance - No annual maintenance required, the blocks are pre-drill and then pressure treated making the wood extra strong and durable
  • Materials - (All included in your kit) wooden blocks, capping, dowels and wedges, angle plates, step by step instructions
  • Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - £412.50 - this model can be viewed here
What is the best material for making raised beds

Wooden board or decking board raised beds

By far the cheapest option for building raised beds, however, wooden boards and decking are only really suitable for low-level planting as the boards are not strong enough to hold the weight of large amounts of soil. To build simply cut the boards to size and use 3” 2” timber as stakes and to reinforce the corners and to create a frame to build to. To answer the question; what is the best material for making a raised bed? We'd say that wooden boards or decking boards are a good option for allotments to separate beds.

  • Wooden board raised bed maintenance - Replacing rotten and warped boards, every few years, treating or painting
  • Materials - Lengths of board available in a variety of sizes, 3” 2” timber for securing the boards in place, screws of varying lengths
  • Costs - Based on L 2.25m x W 1.5m x H 0.45m - approx £110 for boards, £10 3” 2” timber and £10 for the screws

What is the best wood for raised beds?

Wood is by far the best material option for making raised beds, in most cases its easy to obtain, comes pre-treated and good value for money. The best wood for building raised beds depends on your preference. The most common varieties for for building raised beds, planters and even garden edging is pine or oak. Oak is generally much more expensive than pine.

Other materials

There are metal raised bed options available, made from galvanised steel, kits are fairly simple to put together using bolts and prices start at around £450. There are also plastic options for low- level planting but these are not built to last.

In conclusion...What is the best material for making a raised bed?

Research is key when buying a raised bed, you need make sure the material you choose is right for you, whether it is wood, metal or even recycled plastic.

You might want something that is long lasting for your forever home, or low budget to keep your allotment beds in check, an accessible planter that is wheelchair friendly or show stopper investment ready for when you put your house on the market.

To browse our wide range of wooden raised beds, planters, railway sleeper style raised beds, ponds, seats, retaining wall kits, or to use our free bespoke design service click the button below.