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Fungus on oak sleepers

A client has just emailed me with photos of fungus that has appeared on her raised beds made of new oak sleeprs (built spring 2018).   Has anyone any idea what it is - and more importantly, what can be done about it?....

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  • PRO

    Why does the customer consider it a problem?

    Brush it off and apply a coat or two of wood preservative, it will stop it coming back for a few months, then it will need doing again.

    Or leave it alone and let nature take its course.


    • The concern is that the fungus will cause the oak to rot - and as this has happened in such short a time, she would consider it my problem.  I was hoping to find a way of killing it  before it progresssed further (brushing off won't do anything about the fungus inside the timber) without killing the nearby plants.

  • PRO

    I’ll rephrase that.

    The customer can brush it off and apply some wood preservative if they want to, I don’t consider it your problem.


  • PRO

    Without trying to sound glib, it’s a natural product in a natural environment and nature is doing what it does.

    The only way to stop it is a chemical treatment that will stop nature in its tracks.


  • PRO

    Anna, maybe worth going back to "source" to confirm product description and specification of what was purchased?

    Any reputable supplier should be able to clarify suitability, help identify issues and stand by their product/the way they've been used.

    We've had terrible problems previously with (cheaper) treated softwood sleepers ;(

    • PRO

      I have inherited tannalised timber projects which have only being in situ less than Two years and gone the same way rapidly rotting away , nature will just break the timber down . 

      One thing i always notice is that often where a length of timber has being cut to fit during installation ( even with treated timber ) the cut ends have not been re sealed using a preservative which makes the timber vulnerable to damp . 

      The best method i have found is to treat the cut / sawn ends , allow the timber to dry first before placing iin situ . 

      • PRO

        You can also 'pin' thick black polythene or similar behind the wood to protect the area that gets the most contact with soil and moisture. This does help slow the rot on the most likely areas. 

  • PRO

    Old railway sleepers are considered a danger to health, which is why clean new timber is now used, apart from the fact that you could end up with black tar on you if you come into contact with them.

    New clean oak is a good choice, but it won’t last forever.
  • Did you put a membrane behind the sleepers ? I always pin a DPM membrane from builders merchants behind sleepers when in contact with soil

    The fungus is possiable soil specific

    If no membrane dig out soil and install one and backfill with some gravel then soil

    Clean sleepers with a sutiable fungaside allow to dry then treat with an oil or preserver 

    Best of luck 



    • Thanks everyone!

      Yes - we always put membrane behind any timber  - this is the first time this has happened and was unexpected (especially as it's oak, and has been down less that a year).  I had just been wondering if anyone had recommendations of what would be a good fungicide and wood treatment - which wouldn't be toxic to nearby plants (we'd obviously cover them up duing treatment), and would't affect the appearance of the oak. 

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