Traditionally, hardscapes were defined as brick and stone features, but today’s hardscape options have increased vastly. Lighting, decks, fences, water features, walls, sculptures, fountains and benches are just some of the many elements that fall under the hardscape umbrella.
Kathy Reissig, marketing services manager for Stone Construction Equipment, says, “Landscaping has gotten so that the notion of curb appeal no longer describes just the front of the house.” “Homebuyers are looking for the most up-to-date outdoor living spaces and are putting money into outdoor landscape and hardscape projects,” Reissig says.
Designing effective hardscape requires a thorough understanding of how the homeowner plans to use the space. Formal entertaining needs differ from a casual, natural look, and the hardscape can make all the difference. Uneven stone pathways may make entertaining more difficult whereas fieldstone can enhance a blended, back-to-nature look. Decisions about budget, materials and urgency should be clearly defined before the project begins.
Often, homeowners have a hard time visualizing how the hardscape plays into the overall effect.
Software that provides before and after images is all the rage. Renee Lawson, marketing manager for Pine Hall Brick, says the company’s PaverScape Visualizing Software allows users to apply Pine Hall Brick pavers to their digital photos. “PaverScape uses your own photo to make a realistic rendering of how your project will look when completed,” she says.
Hardscapes can provide landscape solutions for problems such as rocky areas, slopes and too much or too little shade. Using natural rock for a rock garden or planting native plants in rocky outcroppings makes problem rocks part of the solution. You can build retaining walls to prevent erosion, and muddy areas can be improved with a French drain or even a decorative dry creek bed drain. For homeowners who don’t want to put in the time and effort to maintain plants and gardens, hardscape solutions such as stonework, walls and sculpture offer long-lasting beauty that requires neither sun, shade, watering nor pruning.