Home
  Monday, September 22, 2014  
   
 

 
Hardscapes
Beautify Your Environment
 

When it comes to the exterior of your home and property, you have numerous oppor­tunities to personalize your space. Landscaping with plants and trees is usually the first step many homeowners choose. In recent years, more have also been adding hardscapes to the equation. Nearly any outdoor feature, besides plants and trees, is considered hardscaping. Homeowners are enjoying more time entertaining outside and are adapting their environment to let the comfort of the indoors flow outdoors. Not only does this an add value to your home, but it allows families to interact with Mother Nature in a positively enjoyable and relaxed way.

Designing for Your Future Needs
There are options for each family’s passions. A beautiful fishpond, water fountain or outdoor fireplace is pure tranquility after a hard day’s work. The popularity of outdoor fire pits, built in BBQs and outdoor kitchens is widespread. Each is a warm addition for entertaining family and friends while enjoying the great outdoors. Winding sidewalks, perfect patios and meandering trails through gardens are always a pleasure to enjoy on a beautiful day. Popular too, are wooden decks, picket fencing and privacy fencing panels that can be added for your outdoor enjoyment. Fashionable retaining walls may be added to separate spaces or for erosion control on sloping land. Even a designated play area for the children is a fine feature to establish for an active family. Keep these possibilities in mind when designing your acreage now and for the future.

If you can dream the idea, it can be created. A family’s options are endless. There is an assortment of landscapers/hardscapers in the area to fulfill your ideal outdoor space. A professional contractor can listen to your ideas and build on them. It is important not to focus on just one project in the beginning. You do not want the first project to hinder future projects. An authority on hardscape installation can walk you through the entire process and customize your outdoor development over time. You should design your outdoor space to your habits and around the natural environment. Envision features you would like to add over the years to your outdoor living area if it is not feasible to complete the entire project in the beginning.
 
Take Into Consideration…
When planning your project, do not choose materials based on price alone. Look at the durability and the architectural design you are creating and find a product suitable for those needs. It is better to downsize your design than to buy inferior materials based on cost efficiency. Another idea when buying materials is to purchase additional quantities. You may need them for replacing broken or chipped pieces in the future. This will also give you the ability to add matching elements to other areas in your yard or landscaping that will enhance the overall look of your property.

There are several reasons to hire an expert contractor. Large, solid outdoor spaces (patios, sidewalks, driveways, etc.) are not green. This means those designs do not allow water to soak into the ground below. It is possible that this will cause drainage issues. The newly created water runoff needs to flow somewhere and you may have to install drainage ditches or underground pipes. It is of utmost importance to have a slight slope built in for draining rainwater to avoid pooling and standing puddles. Another issue that homeowners overlook is proper underlayment. If your base material is not installed properly or not compacted properly, your patio, driveway, sidewalk or retaining wall may start to freeze then crack and crumple in a few years. A professional has experience and will create a design that can avoid these issues. Furthermore, do not attempt to build a retaining wall or massive project without a qualified contractor or engineer. This will not only protect your property and the environment from damage, but also the surrounding property of your neighbors.
 
Choose Materials That Suit Your Space
When designing your project, choose a style and materials that will compliment your outdoor elements and suite your family’s needs. Texture is as important as color. Choose textures that will flatter each other and colors that will blend with the exterior of your home. There is an array of choices with hardscape. Below are some of the more popular that are used in our area.

Wood is a common material used to create a fluid transition into a wooded landscape. Wood is useful for building decks and privacy or picket fencing. Some use wood to create separate levels in flowerbeds and on sloping land. Wood chips or mulch creates a lovely meandering path through flowerbeds or even throughout a thin wooded landscape. They are also a nice base under a playset to absorb falls.

Concrete can be used in numerous projects and is very durable and versatile. Many homeowners do not realize that existing concrete may not necessarily need to be removed. Concrete can be stained to match colors you are blending and it can be textured or stamped to match any style you desire. New concrete can also be poured into just about any shape, not just a square slab. Concrete has a multitude of uses as well, such as building retaining walls, goldfish ponds, sidewalks and patios. It is also widely used in our area for driveways.

Brick is a popular hardscape in the south. Homeowners design sidewalks, patios, and landscape borders to harmonize with the existing brick of their home. Another trendy use of brick is for constructing outdoor fire pits and BBQs. This long lasting material is also available in a variety of colors. Mortar used to place the brick can be matched to a color of your choosing if you are looking to personalize your space.

Stone can create a beautiful retreat in your outdoor space while providing a visually natural hardscape. The different types of stone are as plentiful as their uses. There is flagstone, sandstone, limestone, slate and quartzite. Homeowners that choose a type of stone for a walkway or patio have different options. Installation can be on concrete and grouted, or on properly prepared ground using sand, small pebbles or grass between the joints. Stone is also an excellent material for the exterior of outdoor fireplaces and hearths, retaining walls, even edging a goldfish pond.

Rock is a natural addition to any outdoor space. It comes in all shapes and sizes, from large boulders to gravel. Depending on your project you may like to use several sizes in your design— no two are alike. Rock can be used to build retaining walls, steps in a hillside, waterfalls or borders for your gardening, fishponds or pathways. Gravel is an excellent hardscape also. There is a variety of colors and shapes and the uses are endless. Many homeowners use gravel in the driveway, as well as outdoor projects. Gravel gives natural beauty to your surroundings and can be used alone as a groundcover or incorporated into your flowerbeds and meandering trails.

Tile can create instant appeal to your outdoor living space. This is the easiest material to customize your design because of the vast quantity of shapes, colors and textures available. Outdoor tile can be installed with different colors to create a design or border or you can add decorative tile as an accent. Tile is widely popular in outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, hearths, and patios to enhance your outdoor living area. Be sure to choose a tile that can withstand the elements of our climate.

Pavers in our area are made with brick, concrete or stone and are common in hardscaping designs. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. There are interlocking pavers that are made to support a lot of weight. These are preferred for driveways and large patios. Permeable pavers are environmentally friendly because they aid in rain/snow runoff. Properly installed pavers have a base that consists of sand and/or crushed stone. The joints are filled with sand, small gravel or grass. This allows the water to absorb into the ground instead of standing on top or flowing off into drainage ditches, roadways or turf. When the water is absorbed through the joints into the underlayment, pollutants are filtered out as the ground absorbs the water. Many homeowners choose pavers because of their versatility and beauty. Pavers can also be installed around your swimming pool and your outdoor kitchen to enhance you individuality.
 
Experts Aplenty

Consulting with a professional land­scaper/hardscaper in this area is easy; there are several experienced companies to design your perfect paradise. Choose an expert that specializes in the type of project you want to install. Ask for references and inspect previous jobs yourself. Get specifics up front, such as how they will prep the area, exact materials to be used and the estimated cost. Ask if drainage is going to be an issue and the different options to handle that properly. If you are open to a range of design options, call or visit different contractors for consultations. Finding the right contractor that can see the long-range possibilities for your outdoor living area will provide your family years of pleasure and relaxation.

In our area, especially in waterfront communities, more and more people are inspired by the warm sunshine and beautiful views to spend additional time outdoors. Homeowners are now designing hardscapes to enhance their outdoor living areas for the entire family’s enjoyment. Nothing is more tranquil than listening to a waterfall in a fishpond, or wood crackling in an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, all surrounded by the beauty of nature. It is also nice to enjoy a fine meal with family and friends that was just grilled in an outdoor BBQ pit or in a state of the art outdoor kitchen, while on a lovely new patio. If necessary, start small and add to your outdoor living area a little at a time, soon you will be the envy of the neighborhood and everyone will want to gather in your yard. You are only limited by your imagination.