Looking to make your outdoor area more livable? Consider adding a hardscape feature to complement your plants and flowers. A decked-out backyard can give a big boost to your property’s value, and hardscaping can be a central part of this. So what is hardscaping and how much should you budget to make it into a reality for your home? Read on.
What is hardscaping?
Your home’s outdoor spaces consist of hardscapes and softscapes.
“While softscapes are your plants and living elements, hardscaping encompasses the nonliving elements of landscaping—like a paver patio, stone wall, or a gazebo,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard, which makes residential and commercial products.
Hardscaping can increase the functionality of your outdoor space and can be designed to match your preferred style: traditional, modern, rustic, you name it.
“Using materials such as wood, stone, metal, and concrete, hardscapes can also add physical boundaries and dimension to your yard,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Types of hardscaping
With a nearly endless list of hardscaping features available, we asked our experts to highlight some of the most popular projects among homeowners.
Many people prefer patios and decks since they can expand a home’s living space, Henriksen says. “Fire features such as fireplaces or fire pits are also among the most common trends in outdoor living as they offer a place to gather and socialize.”
“Garden walls, planting beds, large boulders, stone edging, accent stones, pillars or columns, seat walls, and stepping stones are examples of in-demand features,” says Al Ferrante, owner of Century Building Materials, in Lindenhurst, NY.
In fact, you may even have a hardscape on your property and not even know it! Ferrante says the concrete or stone steps around your doorway could be considered hardscape.
Water hardscape features
Homeowners also like water hardscape features because they offer several advantages.
“In addition to being aesthetically appealing, they are functional for masking traffic noises and for providing additional privacy to your own space,” says Raboine. The sound of running water is also relaxing for most folks.
Some examples of water hardscape features are “waterfalls, fountains, ponds, stream bed,” Ferrante says. These can range from a simple accent to an elaborate focal point.
“The combination of dry and water hardscapes in a yard can improve the livability and beauty, such as adding the classic pairing of a pool and patio,” Henriksen explains.
If you’re looking to stay on the cutting edge of design—or are considering selling your home in the near future—consider these hot hardscaping trends.
- Mix and match: “Mixing materials, textures, and colors in a well-designed space can create eye-popping focal points and designs,” say Raboine. For example, use a different color hardscape for your patio border. This helps define the space.
- Sleek and modern: Modern, linear designs are increasing in popularity. “Porcelain pavers, for example, are ideal for a contemporary design and are incredibly durable, frost-resistant, skid-resistant, stain-resistant, and easy to clean,” Raboine says.
- Multipurpose walls: Retaining walls can also be used as benches for seating. Or you can build raised planters or garden beds into the walls to grow herbs and vegetables.
As with any type of home improvement project, costs vary depending on the size and complexity of the hardscaping, as well as the materials used.
As a general rule, Henricksen says, you can expect to pay $7 to $22 per square foot for hardscaping.
“For example, the installation of a 10-foot flagstone patio with a natural stone gas-burner fire feature will generally cost around $6,000,” she says.
Raboine estimates the following costs for other hardscaping projects:
- Paving a patio: $900 to $1,000
- Retaining wall: $3,000 to $8,000
- Patio/eating area: $1,000 to $2,000
- Fire pit: $300 to $1,500
- Pool deck: $3,000 to $12,000
- Outdoor kitchen: $4,000 to $20,000