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Hardscape Landscaping 101

Sean Bryant5-minute read
April 21, 2022

When most people think of landscaping, they think of soft grass and blooming flowers. But there's a whole other world of landscaping that doesn't involve growing plants at all — hardscape landscaping.

If you're curious about what hardscape landscaping is, or if you're thinking about adding some hardscapes to your own yard, read on for more information and ideas. Hardscape landscaping can add beauty and functionality to your yard while also increasing its value.

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What Is Hardscape Landscaping?

While softscape includes grass, floral and plant design on your property, hardscape landscaping refers to any non-garden design elements around the exterior of your home. Pavers, fences, patios, water features, and rocks are just a few items that are included under the umbrella of hardscaping.

 

These elements can provide fluidity from your home’s interior to your yard and the surrounding environment. While the vegetation around your property may change with the seasons, hardscape accents provide a permanent design to your landscape.

Hardscaping Vs. Softscaping

Depending on where in the United States you live, hardscaping might be a popular way to landscape the outdoor areas of your property. In the Southwest, the summers can be extremely hot and very dry. This combination makes it difficult to keep the grass looking nice.

However, the climate isn’t the only reason why people choose to hardscape their lawns. Many don’t enjoy the maintenance that comes along with softscape. So instead of having a lawn full of lush green grass that needs to be mowed every week, they choose maintenance-free materials instead.

You might be wondering what qualifies as hardscaping vs. softscape landscaping. Let’s dig into each.

When it comes to hardscaping, the right materials, whether concrete, stone or brick pavers, add strength and durability to your design. Contractors will consider how certain materials endure your particular climate, their durability lifespan, and the cost to achieve your vision.

Here are a handful of common materials that are popular among homeowners:

  • Concrete: It’s durable and can take on any shape – textured or smooth. It can be used for outdoor flooring, walkways, retaining walls and more.
  • Brick: While more costly than concrete, brick adds color and creates a timeless look around your home.
  • Stone: Another alternative is to use long-lasting stones such as slate, limestone and flagstone, which can be added to multiple areas, creating a harmonious look.
  • Pavers: Typically made of concrete, natural stone or clay brick. Pavers are a durable material that many people like using for walkways, patios, and other gathering spaces.

While hardscape materials are durable and non-living, softscape is the exact opposite. Softscape materials are living things and require maintenance to make sure they stay healthy and look nice.

Some common materials that you’ll find in a typical softscape lawn include:

  • Grass: Depending on what part of the country you live in, there are many different types of grass. Each will thrive in different types of climates. However, they all require water and fertilizer to survive.
  • Bushes/shrubs/trees: A great way to create curb appeal for your home is to use bushes, shrubs, and trees. As an added benefit some shrubs and bushes absorb water quickly which can be great for keeping water away from the foundation of your home.
  • Flowers: One sign of spring is colorful flowers starting to appear. There are thousands of different types of flowers, each requires maintenance to keep them looking healthy, but they can add a great pop of color to a softscape yard.

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Benefits Of Hardscaping

A lot of people decide to hardscape their property because they would prefer a maintenance-free space; however, there are actually other benefits of hardscaping as well.

  • Level sloping land: f you have a relatively steep slope on your property, you may need a retaining wall. This will help prevent erosion from causing an uneven, unusable space. By installing a retaining wall, you can build your lawn up to create a flatter surface. Just make sure there is an adequate amount of drainage so water doesn’t accumulate behind the wall.
  • Privacy: While fences and walls offer safety for children and pets, they also provide privacy from your neighbors and can help define property lines.
  • Curb appeal: It’s no secret that a green lawn with a lot of flowers and shrubs offers a lot of curb appeal. However, the same is true about a hardscaped property. By creating defined spaces you’re making it inviting to not only yourself but others that are around.
  • Increase property value: 82% of home buyers want a patio when buying their next house. By creating this outdoor extension of your home, you’re helping to increase the property value as well.
  • Reduce lawn maintenance: Not a fan of spending so much time with your lawnmower? Paved walkways, decks and patios can drastically reduce the amount of grass you have to maintain, giving you hours of your life back each week.
  • Entertainment: Building a gazebo or covered patio has a dual purpose. Not only can you provide outdoor shelter to your family and guests, you can also provide a charming and welcoming feature to your backyard, making gatherings even more enjoyable.

Hardscape Ideas For Your Home

Have you made the decision to hardscape the outside of your home? Here are a few hardscape ideas to help your landscape designs.

Fire Pits

Adding a fire pit to your design plans can be a great centerpiece for any gathering space. Depending on your budget you can go with a free-standing firepit that you purchase or you can go the route of building your own firepit. And the great thing about firepits is that they can be used almost year-round depending on the area of the country you live in.

Walkways

If you’re looking to add a defined way for people to get from one area of your property to another, a walkway is the way to go. These can be made with several different types of material, but crushed gravel and flagstone are two of the most popular.

Retaining Walls

As we mentioned earlier, retaining walls are primarily used on properties that have a significant slope. These help to flatten out areas of the property to make usable spaces. But they can also be used within the overall design aspect.

Gazebos And Pergolas 

If you’re looking to add a focal point, consider adding either a gazebo or a pergola. Both are great ways to add a little cover to a sitting area. These structures can be constructed using several different types of materials including wood, steel and vinyl.

Decks And Patios

Decks and patios are two of the more popular things to add to a backyard landscape. They help provide a space for you to relax by yourself or with your friends and family. Decks tend to come at a greater cost compared to patios, but they also have a higher return on investment. Decks can be constructed out many different types of materials, but wood and composite are the most popular. Patios are typically designed using concrete or pavers.

Water Features

If you want to take your landscaping to another level, you can add a water feature. Many people add water features because they help add a sense of tranquility to the space. The sound of water can be a great way to relax. By adding plants around your water feature you can incorporate softscape design with your hardscape.

The Bottom Line

Hardscape landscaping is a great way to add a maintenance-free design to the outside of your home without using living things. Typically this includes items like a deck or patio, walkways, water features and more. You can even take things a step further and include an outdoor kitchen into your design.

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant is a Denver based freelance writer specializing in travel, credit cards, and personal finance. With more than 10 years of writing experience, his work has appeared in many of the industries’ top publications.