The term for using elements not found in nature within your landscape is hardscaping. When you introduce stone or brick walls, concrete patios, gravel paths and wooden decks into either your back or front yard, you’ve developed a hardscape. Conversely, softscaping means adding horticultural or natural items like plants, flowers, trees and shrubs to your landscape. We’ve gathered seven pointers to help you decide on how to proceed with your chosen hardscape design.


Hardscape With Azaleas


1. Choose a Theme

Focus on any theme you want, but it’s a good idea to have a style in mind that matches the exterior of your home. You also don’t want to include a random mixture of elements that make your yard look like an outdoor museum. A farm design can encompass fish ponds and wooden fences, while a more colonial style uses stone walls, gravel paths and fountains. Maybe a courtyard is more what you have in mind or a modern concept with stepping stones and sculptures.

Hardscape With Pond

2. Look at the Big Picture

Even if you can’t do all the yard work at one time, develop a plan for the entire area. Otherwise, one of your elements might be in the way of a walkway or pond you’ve decided you want later on. You want a completed project that you love and that will last for years.

Landscape Plan

3. Deal with Drainage

Hardscape elements like a wall or patio can alter how water drains. By including permeable components, water still seeps down into the ground. Also, a very flat, level patio can quickly become a small swimming pool when it rains so you should slope the patio a little. Don’t forget to save that runoff in a rain barrel.

Hardscape With Bridge

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4. Professionals Know Best

When drastically changing your yard, you need to prepare the site correctly. You’ll need a level surface to build upon and you should know where the freeze line is or the depth that frost penetrates the soil. Building codes say footings must be placed below this line. To get this information, talk to an inspector at your local building authority or someone at your state landscaping association.

Professional Hardscaper

5. Follow Nature’s Curves

All straight lines in a yard make it look unnatural. You want to match your landscaping to the shapes of Mother Nature so not all sidewalks and paths need to be linear. Allow some of your hardscape items to bend, sweep and arc gracefully. Ninety degree angles have no place in nature.

Landscape Path

6.  Save Some Greenery

Frame your hardscape with shrubs and flowerbeds to balance the amount of vegetation to hard surfaces. Even a small patch of lawn can work as it’s a much safer place for kids to play than concrete. By using green rocks or gravel you tone down the transition from the hard elements to your plantings.

Hardscape and Landscape Mix

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7. Go From Grass to Gravel

Those who prefer to conserve water and eliminate chemical use in their yards can opt for gravel and stone instead of a lawn. Once you’ve laid a bed of river rock, crushed granite or pea gravel, you can say goodbye to maintenance and use that time for fun activities.

Gravel Landscaping


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About the Author: is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, and San Jose area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.