A Look at Common Hardscape Materials
There are different factors that go into choosing the right materials for your next hardscape project. For example, someone on a budget may want to look at concrete or wood for their next project. Someone looking for elegance and a distinct feel may be drawn to natural stone. Maintenance can be a factor in each situation, too. Before we look at each material, it is helpful to understand that a hardscape project is anything built into the landscape (in this case, your yard).
Common Hardscape Projects Include:
- Retaining walls
- Outdoor kitchens
Selecting the right materials is an important step. Below is a guide to help you decide which
hardscape materials are right for your next project.
Wood is commonly used for decks, patios, walkways, retaining walls, pergolas, and other hardscape projects. It brings a heightened level of natural beauty to your outdoor area. Wood can often be used to create a relaxing environment and encourage people to stop and enjoy some time outdoors. It can also be stained to match the other elements of your outdoor living area.
There is an elegant appeal with wood, and it’s often affordable. Pressure treated wood is often cheaper than some of the other hardscape materials listed below. The affordability will be based on the type of wood that you select, however.
Before you rush out to buy supplies, there is one significant drawback. While wood decks may last for a decade or more, they do require routine maintenance. They often need sealing and staining every few years to prevent rot from moisture exposure. From time to time, you may need to replace boards in a deck that become too weathered.
Concrete is a versatile building material that can have a tremendous amount of utility when it comes to hardscape projects. It can easily be used for patios, walkways, stoops, retaining walls, fire pits, and other common hardscaping projects.
A concrete slab patio offers a simple and practical look. Stamped concrete can bring it to life and give it a more elegant appearance. Stamped concrete will cost more than a concrete slab.
While concrete is a more affordable building material, it requires frequent cleaning and sealing to prevent cracks. If cracks do appear, they need to be addressed quickly, or they can become worse over time.
The term “pavers” simply refers to stones made from concrete or clay brick. They offer a durable and long-lasting option for hardscape projects, and they’re most often used in patios and walkways. The pieces tend to interlock and fit tightly, in order to create a strong, durable surface that is less prone to cracking or breaking. This makes them an excellent option for climates with significant temperature swings throughout the year.
One drawback for pavers is that grass or weeds may grow between the cracks over time, so you may need to weed around them. They are also more complex to install because each piece needs to be laid separately. Because of this complexity and their overall durability, they cost more than their concrete counterparts. There is little long-term maintenance however, other than the weeding.
Brick patios and walkways offer an elegant design with a high level of strength and durability. They can also be used for fire pits, retaining walls, or outdoor kitchens. They’re able to withstand heavy usage as well as temperature swings without scratching or cracking.
Bricks are another low-maintenance hardscape material. You can seal them to protect them from being stained. Other than that, if they separate as they settle, they can be reset, or if there is a stain they can be washed with soapy water. They can last for decades with little care needed. Bricks have a pretty universal look and feel to them. Different shades can be used, and they can be laid in unique patterns, but other than that, there isn’t a lot of flexibility to the design.
A natural stone hardscape will offer a distinct and elegant feel to your outdoor area. Because of the nature of the material, no two pieces will be exactly alike, but the goal of the contractor or the supplier will be to find stones that complement each other. They can be used for patios, walkways, firepits, retaining walls, and other common hardscaping projects.
Some common natural stones are slate, flagstone, marble, granite, travertine, and limestone. Because this encompasses so many different types of material, the maintenance requirements may vary depending on your selection.
Natural stone is a durable and elegant option. Any scratches or scuffs can be polished out. They also offer a high perceived value. Natural stone does require consistent resealing to keep a fresh look. It is also limited in its stain resistance. Because of the perceived value and the elegant look, it’s among the most expensive of hardscaping materials.
Loose gravel is often used for walkways, driveways, or even patios. It’s more common in rural environments, and usually consists of a mixture of rocks, sand, and clay. Because of this processed mixture it often compacts into a stable surface that sheds water similar to concrete or other hard surfaces.
Gravel may need to be re-graded frequently, with new gravel applied to keep a fresh look. With proper maintenance, a gravel walkway, driveway, or patio may outlast your ownership of the home. Ranging from roughly $1 to $3 per square foot, the cost can vary, but it’s generally one of the more affordable hardscape materials for your next project.
Choosing the Best Hardscaping Material For Your Next Project
Choosing the right hardscaping material for your next project depends largely on the look, maintenance involved, and the affordability. These factors are highly individual and largely depend on what is important to you and your family. Each of the above materials has distinct advantages and drawbacks.
If you are planning an upcoming hardscape project, a professional from Ringers Landscaping can help you choose the material that is best for you. Contact us today to find out more!