Hardscaping is a growing trend in outdoor landscaping. As homeowners consider the environment and global climate change, low-water landscaping is increasingly popular. One of the primary ways to achieve low-water landscaping is with a mix of native greenery (softscaping) and beautiful hardscaping. Hardscaping also has benefits like low-maintenance and year-round usability. If you’re ready to make the shift to hardscaping or just want to upgrade your existing hardscaping, these TrustDALE certified hardscaping companies can help.
What is Hardscaping
Hardscaping is a critical component of landscaping and stands in opposition to softscaping. While many homeowners think of landscaping as grassy lawns, trees, and shrubs, landscaping actually incorporates all of your designed outdoor spaces. The general term landscaping can be divided into two categories: softscaping and hardscaping. Softscaping is greenery—living plants and trees that help define your outdoor spaces. But hardscaping is just as essential and includes anything that isn’t alive. Hardscaping may consist of decks, patios, walls, fire pits, outdoor kitchens and living rooms, walkways, and even your driveway. If it isn’t alive, it is considered hardscaping.
While a good landscape design incorporates hardscaping and softscaping, hardscaping is a specialty service requiring its own expertise. A typical landscaping company employs mostly gardeners who can keep your grass green and your plants in good condition. But when it comes to installing pavers, stone walls, and outdoor living spaces, the guys with the truck full of gardening equipment won’t cut it.
Hardscaping and Water Efficiency
Water use is a growing concern among homeowners and landscape designers. As much of the country becomes more arid, efficient water use is necessary. One of the most significant shifts in landscape design over the past few years has been a move away from large grassy lawns. While the classic suburban lawn isn’t going away anytime soon, there is a clear trend toward increased reliance on hardscaping.
You’ve probably seen a low-water landscape design before and haven’t realized it. Picture a yard with extensive walkways, patios, terracing, a fire pit, and sitting areas. There may still be grass, but it is less of the focal point. The softscaping may include zen-garden-style shrubbery and native plants that use less water than plants poorly-suited to the local climate.
Other Benefits of Hardscaping
In addition to water-efficiency, extensive hardscaping has many other benefits to offer. For one thing, it requires far less maintenance than softscaping. Caring for grass, flowers, bushes, and trees is expensive and time-consuming. It requires year-round service on a regular basis. If you hire a professional landscaping company to care for your greenery, you can expect to pay a significant monthly bill for the services. If you do it yourself, you’ll find that you spend hours every week caring for your plants, not to mention the investment in tools, fertilizers, and pesticides. However you look at it, plants take dedication.
Hardscaping, however, takes very little maintenance. A patio, paved walkway, or even an outdoor kitchen is mostly resistant to the elements. Ongoing maintenance may include occasional cleaning, sealing, or staining, but those services are rare. For the most part, you don’t have to do anything to keep your hardscape looking as beautiful as the day it was installed.
Unlike softscaping, hardscaping isn’t seasonal. You can use your outdoor spaces year-round, so long as the weather isn’t too severe. Extreme weather, such as early frosts, late snows, and extended droughts, have no effect on your patio or fire pit. Even severe storms that can rip up plants and topple trees do not typically affect your hardscape.
Types of Hardscape
Hardscape is a very broad category since it really encompasses any part of your outdoor space that is not living. However, some types of hardscaping are particularly common or popular.
A good patio can make a backyard. A patio is the most basic outdoor living space. Unlike dirt and grass, a patio is an ideal surface for outdoor furnishings and tools, such as lawn chairs, picnic tables, and grills. A well-appointed patio can extend your home’s living space for most or even all of the year, depending on your local climate. While some patios are simple concrete, there are many ways to dress up a patio for dramatic effect.
Stamped concrete creates the look of stone pavers without the cost of installation. Concrete can be designed and stained to look like stone and other materials. Of course, real pavers are always an option, too. Some patios are build of wood (or wood-look materials) similar to a deck but just a few inches off the ground. Alternatively, a patio can have several steps down to a backyard at a lower level than the house.
One of the most popular trends in outdoor living is the outdoor kitchen. While many homeowners are familiar with an outdoor grill, an outdoor kitchen is a huge step up from that simple cooking tool. An outdoor kitchen may be as simple as a high-quality grill surrounded by some counter space for more effective outdoor cooking. Or it may include a kitchen to rival anything indoors, including the requisite grille and ample counter space, a fridge, oven, sink, and other appliances. Many outdoor kitchens are covered to allow for comfortable cooking even in the heat or rain. If you want to get fancy, you could even install an all-weather television.
Walls, Terraces, and Walkways
Quality hardscaping isn’t just for standout features like patios and kitchens. Walls, terraces, and walkways provide interest and variety to a well-designed landscape. And they shouldn’t be an afterthought.
TrustDALE certified hardscape installers can create walkways with intricate geometric patterns to create a focal point where you might not expect it. They can also install pavers, stone, and other materials for a natural look that blends in with the surrounding softscaping.
Terraces are a great way to get the most out of a sloped yard. They have been used for millennia to hold water that might otherwise run down a slope and provide planting space where there was none. In your backyard, they can provide planting space for ornamental plants, a vegetable garden, or even small trees. To create the terraces, you’ll want an attractive retaining wall. Stone and brick are the most popular materials for retaining walls. With expert masonry, experienced hardscapers can make your terraces stand out for their beauty and visual appeal.
Finding the Right Hardscape Company
Hardscaping is definitely a specialty field that requires specific experience and expertise. Unlike gardening or softscaping, it’s not enough to have a green thumb. Hardscape installers are trained tradespeople with skills in masonry, concrete work, and other technical work. So before you hire a hardscape installation company, you want to be sure that you are dealing with experts. Unfortunately, construction contracting, of which hardscape installation is a subset, is a field rife with fly-by-night amateurs and outright scammers. So if you are ready to jump into hardscaping, make sure you can trust your contractors. The best way to do that is to work with a TrustDALE certified hardscape installation company. Every hardscape company—as well as every TrustDALE certified company—is backed by Dale’s trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right™ Guarantee.