Hardscape consists of the non-living elements of landscaping, such as a brick patio, a stone wall, or a wood arbor. It is one of the two major subcategories of landscaping, the other being softscape. Common examples of hardscape materials include concrete, brick, stone, wood, and metal. Hardscape, or hardscaping, can also include water features, like ponds and fountains.
Examples of Hardscape Projects
Hardscaping can include almost any type of decorative or practical structure in a landscape, from driveways to fences to benches.
Hardscape is a critical part of landscape design, providing definition and a sense of organization to the natural areas and features. Hardscape elements can also define the use of a space, such as with a driveway, or it can lead visitors through different zones of softscaping, as with a gravel path that winds through a grassy area and into a secluded garden. There are so many ways to use hardscape elements to enhance your property:
- Stone retaining wall—to create planting areas or covert a slope to flat yard space
- Concrete patio—the classic, low-maintenance and versatile patio option
- Brick patios—for a more upscale and natural look than concrete
- Flagstone patio—the low-cost option for natural stone outdoor flooring
- Tile patio—a great way to dress up a concrete patio slab
- Stone walkway—ideal for garden paths
- Gravel paths—a "softer" alternative to brick, concrete, or solid stone
- Stone landscape steps—heavy stone slabs make beautiful outdoor steps
- Metal fence—coated steel is the modern standard, but iron is still an option
- Wooden fence—wood is the most versatile fence (and hardscaping) material
- Wooden deck—decks are hardscaping, too, just like patios
- Wooden arbor or gazebo—nothing enhances a landscape like a decorative wooden shade structure
- Pergola—an arbor-like structure that is attached to the house or other building
Water Features as Hardscape
It may be somewhat counterintuitive, but even water features used in your yard count as hardscape. These structures assume a variety of forms, both with and without fountains:
With small water features containing a pool, the pool portion is often made with a preformed rigid plastic liner. With larger features, a nice alternative is a flexible rubber liner that allows you make pools or ponds of almost any size or shape. Growing plants in and around a water feature is a great way to integrate hardscape with softscape in the same element.
Working on Hardscape Projects
Installing hardscaping can be very hard work. Even under the best climate conditions, these projects can be downright grueling. That is why most homeowners choose to get these jobs done during favorable weather—in spring or fall, or during moderate times of summer.
Some hardscape projects are too physically demanding to complete with manual labor alone, and some require heavy equipment. Before you give up on a project because you can't afford the heavy equipment required, look into the option of rentals. Rental stores can be lifesavers for do-it-yourselfers.
Using a rental rather than owning your own heavy equipment is often a prudent option for the homeowner. If you're going to use a $1,000 piece of equipment only a couple of times, why own it? Heavy equipment is not only expensive, it also consumes a lot of storage space.