Thoughts on mounting a railroad tie to a wall?

glitter&guns

Well-known member
Jan 25, 2013
243
The Great State of Texas
#1
I want to mount a 60 year old (ie - no more creosote) rail road tie to a wall - think barn beam mantle except on a wall rather than over a fireplace. It is an interior wall and I should have no impediments to the studs along all 8.5 foot length of the rail road tie. Initially I thought of drilling into the studs to put in large lag bolts allowing them to stick out several inches (with a slight upward tilt), then drill into the tie to slip the lag bolts into the tie. While that sounded good in my head for a bit, I began to think about the realities of trying to get that whole thing to come out level and I am doubting my skills. It is a long run on a very visible wall and I can't afford to be off. So I have been thinking French cleat but I have never worked with those. It seems that I would have an easier time getting it straight and I should be able to order them designed to hold this kind of weight. I really don't want this thing falling off the wall after I put it up there.

I am absolutely no expert at hanging heavy things and am willing to take any guidance. Thoughts? I really want a "floating beam" look, so would prefer not to have corbels.

Thanks y'all!
 

JasonLion

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
May 7, 2007
37,879
Silver Spring, MD
#2
There are several ways to approach this.

If you create temporary supports for the railroad tie, and position it just as you want it, you can then drill through from the back and affix it in place.

A French cleat is also a good approach, though more complex. In that case you affix the wall side of the cleat with light nails in exactly the position you desire it, and then affix it more firmly once it is in position. Assuming you want it flush to the wall you will need to rout out the back of the railroad tie to make room for the cleat.

In either case you will probably want to scribe the railroad tie to the wall, i.e. adjust the profile of the back surface so it rests flat against the wall despite any imperfections in the railroad tie and wall.
 

JVTrain

TFP Expert
Feb 3, 2014
5,080
Central Minnesota
#3
Lag bolts is usually what is done. How many depends on the actual weight of the piece. The density of ties can vary wildly by the wood they are made of, where they have been for 60 years and the climate they will be installed in. I'd say 1/2" lags/rebar for a lighter piece, 3/4" for a heavy piece. You can either run the lags all the way through and thread nuts on the ends and counter sink into the piece or drill 2/3 to 3/4 through the back of the piece and just hang the piece on the lag bolts with construction adhesive in the holes on the back of the mantle. Rebar or even 1" pipe can be used as well for the anchors. But if you're going to be using large anchors for a large and heavy piece, you should really install a header in the wall behind the mantle location or double up the studs in that location.

A cleat would work if you were able to hollow out a rectangle in the back of the piece and lag bolt a cleat to the wall. Then I'd recommend anchoring screws that go down through the top, back of the mantle and into the cleat. It wouldn't even have to have the taper of a french cleat if you used countersunk top screws to hold it to say a 2x4 or 2x6 anchored to the wall.
 

glitter&guns

Well-known member
Jan 25, 2013
243
The Great State of Texas
#4
Thank you both very much. I really do appreciate all the help. I wonder what weight would constitute heavy enough to need to reinforce the wall. I think that I can guess that the tie will be around 130 lbs spread out over 6 studs.... I feel like I need an engineering degree.
 

bdex

LifeTime Supporter
Jul 3, 2014
389
Peoria, IL
#5
130 lbs spread out over 6 studs is fine. When I hung my barn beam on the wall I used 1/2" threaded rod and 2 part epoxy that came out of a large caulking type tube. One in every stud and oversize you holes by 1/4" to make room for epoxy. After you do that it is not going anywhere, likely even if you want it to. I like Jason's idea of hollowing a 3 1/2" x 1 1/2" deep channel out of the back of the timber. Use a 2x4 cleat that is lagged to the studs and screws they the top of the beam into the 2x4.


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