What is hardscaping?
Every landscape is composed of both softscape and hardscape elements. Softscapes are the living, horticultural aspects of your landscape including your soil and plants. Hardscapes refer to the nonliving built structures of your property including all of your walks, patios, driveways, steps, retaining walls, and pools. Even outdoor fire pits, arbors and fountains to what kind of edging you use are all part of your hardscape. So your garden is a lot more than just the plants you put in it.
Say you want to install a patio and outdoor kitchen, or replace your old cracking driveway. The material you use can greatly affect the aesthetics and functionality of your project. Simply said, there are a lot more options than just using concrete. Since the options could be endless let’s just consider some of the more common material options for your next hardscape project. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons for you to consider.
We all know what concrete looks like. It’s the standard go to option. It’s fairly affordable and the chances of cracking can be reduced if there are enough expansion joints located where they need to be. If you like the affordability of concrete but interested in doing something more unique, consider adding a color pigment or some popular finishing options beyond the broom finish or hard trowel finish we are all familiar with. While stamped or exposed aggregate are no longer as popular as they once were, options such as an acid etched, sandblasted, or even rock salt concrete finishes have started to gain more popularity.
A pricier option but worth the appeal. Stone can be used in various ways by retaining its natural shape and size or cutting them to rectangular or square pavers. Just keep in mind that generally the more you cut and process stone the more expensive the project may be. In the North Texas area limestone, bluestone, and flagstone are some of the more common materials used for patios and walkways. To reduce costs and for a more organic feel, irregular flagstone steppers can be used reducing the overall quantity of stone needed and allowing for a winding path through your garden. Rectangular or square cut stones such as lueders limestone are often used for a cleaner more modern look. And on the higher end of cost lies stone like travertine and cobblestones which require more time and labor for the installation process. Overall, stone is a great and durable option with the natural look need.
Pavers have become popular as a more affordable option over natural stone. We’ve come a long way from the first bulky and unappealing concrete pavers that were first used. Not only are they affordable but they are also easily install due to their uniformity. Pavers like stone are also easily maintained requiring little care if installed correctly. One drawback may be the almost too uniformed look that it begins to lose character and charm. If that’s the case and you like the look of stone but are drawn to pavers due to their affordability, then consider tumbled concrete pavers that are processed to look more rustic and irregular.
Brick is timeless. It can add a very traditional, classical or formal touch to any landscape. They are easy to install because of their uniformity like pavers but bring a bit more charm into your landscape. Being a little more fragile than stone, brick may require a little more maintenance than other hardscape options. Because of this and the fact that too much brick can look very heavy and dark, it is common for people to incorporate less brick into their hardscape by combining it with other hardscape options like concrete or gravel. This can be done by using brick as the banding along the borders or as an inlay. Also, consider all the brick laying patterns possible for you to use.
Using gravel is a great way of adding texture to your landscape. Keep in mind that the options of gravel are vast as there are various kinds. Some of the biggest factors to consider in selecting the right gravel is the size and shape of the aggregate as well as the type of rock it is made from. The type of rock greatly affects the color, look and aesthetics of the gravel whereas the size and shape affect the functionality. Some of the common gravels used in the Plano and surrounding areas are River Rock (color options include CO/TX/NM) and Tejas Black/Silvermist/Basalt which all look very similar. As with all hardscape options consider the walkability and keep in mind that gravel can be loose under your feet and a nightmare in heels. As it is in gravels nature to spread, keep in mind that even with edging, gravel may still find it’s way into lawns and planting beds so plan it’s location accordingly. Also remember that the cost of gravel will greatly vary depending on the type of material you’ve selected. Overall, it can be a very affordable option.
If you are going for something affordable and aesthetic consider the use of decomposed granite, often called DG for short. Think of it as a compactable gravel as it has the look of a fine gravel but is compacted so it does not feel loose under your feet. It lends itself a great option for paths or large patio areas and is commonly used in public spaces such as outdoor restaurants and parks such as Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas. It’s affordability also lends itself as a great option for replacing side utility yards where maintaining grass is more of a hassle than it’s worth. It’s a great material as it seems to work with formal, modern, or nearly any design style you can think of. Like gravel, it requires some type of border or banding and due to the nature of the material it is recommended to topdress every couple years. A stabilizer product can be added that helps the material stick together and be a little less messy and reduce maintenance and topdressing. Using stabilizer will increase the overall price but is always highly recommended.
Wood is your go to material for arbors, fences, raised garden beds and decks. Consider the type of wood you use and how it holds up to weathering over time. The first thing to remember when working with wood, or any material for that matter, is that it has a set lifespan. So consider a naturally rot resistant wood like red cedar, redwood, white oak, cypress, or even black locust, white cedar, chestnut or walnut in more of a rustic use. But to avoid unnecessary weathering and decay always keep wood away from soil and moisture as much as possible. Should you opt to use treated wood remember to avoid using it near vegetable gardens or where children play. Also consider well your options of staining or painting as woods such as cedar do not take paint well and will quickly begin to peel.
Mix and Match!
Consider mixing several hardscape materials together for a more unique and interesting look. Just don’t go overboard! If you have existing brick in your landscape or on your house, consider incorporating brick elsewhere in your landscape maybe as a banding along your concrete patio. Or how about a sandblasted concrete sidewalk with stone banding? A little variety goes a long way in adding a great amount of appeal. So put your thinking cap on and explore your options!
J. Cordell Landscape and Irrigation located in Plano TX has a professional team with years of experience working with hardscapes of all types. As a full service design build landscape company not only can we help install your next hardscape project but guide you through the process with a design oriented approach to create a beautiful landscape. We also can provide financing for projects which contain hardscape elements. Click here to get started. Let us know how we can help! Text or Email us today to schedule a consultation! 469-609-7733