Why You Need a Hardscaping Professional
Stop for a second. Close your eyes. In your mind, picture your perfect yard—the way you’d want your own outdoor space to look if you had the chance to remake it. What does it look like? Everybody, of course, has different aesthetic tastes. But chances are, whatever your style, you pictured something with a seamless blend of both natural and man-made elements. In other words, you’d be incorporating both softscape and hardscape features.
What Is Hardscape?Within the context of landscape design, “hardscape” can refer to any hard, inanimate materials used in your landscaping. Most obviously, that includes all manmade elements like patios, walkways, fire pits, planters, retaining walls, and the like. But it could also include more “natural” elements like gravel, woodchips, or stone arrangements. By contrast, “softscape” is more or less synonymous with “alive and growing.” Flowers, shrubs, trees, etc.
Hardscaping ChallengesFor those of you hardcore DIYers out there, designing and building your own patio, pathway, or other hardscape feature seems like the ultimate summer project. We’re not trying to spoil your fun, but there are some significant reasons you might want to pump the brakes a bit and reconsider. The main reason is that, unlike flowerbeds or other softscape features, hardscaping is meant to be much more permanent—and therefore the risks are much greater if things don’t work out quite the way you expect them to. You can put in a lot of effort—and a lot of money—into making your dream yard, only to have your design or materials collapse within a few years. Here are just a few of the challenges and questions that arise any time you’re thinking of adding hardscaping to your outdoor space:
- Have I achieved the right balance? The best landscape designs feature a pleasing mix of hard and soft, manmade and natural. Too much concrete with few plants or grass will look bland and lifeless, or like a commercial property. Too many different colors, textures, or styles can look messy; too few may look boring. If you don’t do your homework and plan carefully, you won’t get the soothing, relaxing feeling you’re going for. It takes a lot of forethought to achieve the right blend.
- What about the rest of the space? Most people improve their yard slowly—one project at a time, element by element, over many years. If you want to put down a patio or decorative pond today, you don’t want it blocking your way and limiting your options a year or two down the road. You need to consider not just the scope of one project, but the entire space—including long-term goals.
- Will it hold up? Nothing will cause a homeowner’s heart to sink faster than shoddy craftsmanship and deteriorating materials leading to expensive repairs or renovations. These aren’t flowerbeds that can simply be moved or be replanted. You need your hardscaping to last, to ensure the long-term beauty (and safety!) of your property. Retaining walls that aren’t strong enough will buckle and collapse. Sinking patios and structures not supported beneath the frost line will settle and fracture. These are headaches you definitely don’t need.
- What about the drainage? Drainage is an absolutely critical concern in most hardscape projects. Where the water goes after it hits the patio or a wall makes a huge difference. The best designs can actually direct the runoff to specific locations so it can be captured and used on site. Poor drainage, however, creates slick and swampy conditions on lawns, patios, and pathways. In the worst case scenario, water being held against the side of your house can cause significant structural damage to interior finishes, floors, or even the foundation.