Walkways and Pathways

Building, Design Considerations

If you want to get somewhere fast, build a straight walkway (image). This one is of brick.
David Beaulieu

Building walkways or pathways is an ideal way to connect point A to point B in a landscape. Is foot traffic across a portion of your lawn causing unsightly wear marks on your grass? Including some sort of walk or path in your landscape design could be just the answer to solve this problem. David Gatti tells us how.

Difference Between a Pathway and a Walkway, Consistency in Design

Q. Mr. Gatti, people treat the terms, "pathways" and "walkways," as synonyms, but do landscape designers draw a distinction between pathways and walkways?

A. Pathways tend to meander and are often used in more natural settings, while walkways are more permanent additions that often serve a particular purpose. Many times, walkways lead to a place, such as a door, while pathways are used for less formal settings as a way to enjoy the atmosphere. Pathways and walkways are commonly constructed using different types of materials. Natural materials such as loose gravel or mulch are common choices in pathways, whereas walkways are usually formed from stable materials like poured concrete, large slabs of stone, or pavers. Our preferred material to build pathways, though, is slate mix. Slate mix lays flat as opposed to pea gravel or small rocks, which are difficult to walk upon. A final foundational difference between walkways and pathways is their width. Walkways, 4 to 6 feet wide, are typically much wider than pathways, 2 to 3 feet wide, to allow for side-by-side walking.

Install walkways for high traffic areas and pathways for areas less used. 

Q. What basic design principles should be implemented when building pathways or walkways?

A. As for structure, try to keep walkway design consistent. If you have a very formal home, symmetric lines may be best. Or, if you have a country-style home, consider using large flagstones for a more natural look.

Homeowners need to keep in mind such details as weather conditions and potential uses for the path when discussing a project with their landscaper, as this may help determine what design principles are best for their spaces.

Trends: Acid-Staining, Dyes, Stamped Concrete

Q. Discuss some of the trends you’ve observed in pathway and walkway installation. For example, what stone colors are currently most popular? How do you decide which colors to use for a pathway or walkway?

A. Recently, I have noticed an increase in acid staining and stamping concrete. These are cost-effective ways to beautify regular poured concrete. However, these methods will not last forever and often require yearly maintenance. Acid stains can be applied to pre-existing concrete, making this a cost-effective option for homeowners. Another trend I have noticed in walkways and pathways is concrete dying. There are roughly 40 to 50 concrete dye colors from which to choose. The dye is added to the concrete mix in the truck to mix thoroughly. I would not recommend large-scale concrete projects for the average DIY'er. These types of projects are very time-consuming and meticulous. For example, when stamping concrete, only one section can be stamped at a time.

To maintain a good appearance when stamping concrete or dying it, use a commercial sealer. You can choose either a glossy or a dry look to enhance the color. Commercial sealer can also prevent mold and mildew buildup and help prevent weather from breaking down materials.

As far as color goes, match the walkway or pathway building materials with the color of the house. Often, earth-tone colors provide a nice complement to the home’s exterior. Currently, Heritage Buff is the most popular color in flagstone. When designing a pathway, make sure the colors are natural and blend with the surroundings.

Materials, Real Estate Value, and the Decision of DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

Q. How would a homeowner decide between the different materials available for pathways and walkways?

A. The budget a homeowner has set aside for the project is the largest factor when selecting a material, as cost can limit what materials are available to use.

The amount of shade is another determining factor when deciding which materials to use in walkways and pathways. Moss and mildew will accumulate on stone and concrete, causing a slippery, hazardous condition. Use trail mix, a natural mixture of aggregates, in shady areas for pathways. For walkways, use pavers.

Look at the house’s colors and siding. Is it brick? Is it stucco? When developing a walkway, try to select a color that complements existing structures, but don’t match them exactly. For example, if your home is brick, select one tint from the brick with which to build. This is why earth tones are so popular, because they often complement traditional building materials. For pathways, this isn’t as difficult because you are often placing the pathway in a very natural setting between trees, a garden, or a short distance throughout the yard. Therefore, products often consist of mulch, etc. that tend to work best in these situations.

Q. How would adding a custom pathway or walkway affect real estate value?

A. If done correctly, a pathway or walkway project is a good investment. Pathways and walkways create an extension of the home by making unusable places usable. But these projects not only increase real estate value, they also provide daily outdoor-living value.

Q. Would you consider installing a pathway or walkway a viable DIY project?

A. Depending on the materials used, installing pathways is a DIY project because they are usually a lot less labor-intensive. Walkways are often much larger than pathways and can entail extensive knowledge of pouring concrete and laying walkway pavers. These projects involve quite a bit more time and effort, and they often require teamwork, so walkways are generally considered a good job for consulting a landscape designer.

Questions to Ask Before Building

Q. What factors should be considered before starting such a project? What is the number one thing homeowners struggle with when making decisions about installing pathways and walkways?

A. Homeowners need to decide the potential uses for the pathway or walkway before starting the project. They need to determine an approximate budget before sitting down with their landscaper or beginning to plan their DIY project. Deciding which materials to use is usually the main struggle for homeowners. This is oftentimes due to budget restrictions, so setting a budget and prioritizing goals are the two best decisions to make prior to starting.

Build with walkway pavers because they are more durable than concrete and have a more authentic look. Walkway pavers are also tumbled, meaning they have natural edges and are easier to replace.

After determining a budget and consulting a landscaper, reconsider once more if the aesthetic value of your project will be beneficial to your home. You do not want to install a low-budget walkway if it could potentially drop the value of your home. Most landscape designers will tell you whether the project is worth the potential cost.

Estimated Cost Ranges

Q. Is there an estimated cost range homeowners should expect for designer-installed pathways and walkways? Describe a low-end pathway or walkway as compared to something at the higher end.

A.

Walkways:

  • A standard walkway size is 4 feet wide by 30 feet long (including base material, polymeric sand, and walkway pavers or concrete or flagstone).
  • Walkway pavers est. $600 (install price $1800)
  • Concrete (with color) est. $350 (install price $1200)
  • Flagstone est. $475 (install price $2100)

Pathways:

  • A standard pathway size is 3 feet wide by 60 feet long (including base materials, edging, and mulch or trail mix).
  • Mulch est. $300 (install price $750)
  • Trail Mix est. $600 (install price $1400)

Typically, a higher-end walkway or pathway will consist of custom cut stones and inserts while a lower-end is less complex, consisting of mulch or gravel. Often flagstones are selected for high-end walkways because they have to be custom fitted. Walkway pavers are also a popular choice among homeowners who are looking for a more formal, patterned walkway.

David Gatti is the president/owner of P.O.P.S. Landscaping, a full-service landscaping company specializing in the creation of attractive, usable outdoor spaces.