What are Hardscape Materials and What Types are There?

hardscape materials

You’ve probably heard of landscaping. You might even have heard of softscaping. But there’s another type of scaping you might not have come across yet… hardscaping. Even if you’ve not come across the term, however, there’s a very good chance you’ve come across the practice. In basic terms, hardscaping involves any element of a landscape that’s non-organic, or, in other words, that’s man-made. This can include steps, walls, patios, and driveways. Hardscape features might be structural or they might be decorative. Either way, they all have one thing in common- the materials they’re made from. So what exactly are hardscape materials and what types are there?

What Is Hardscape?

As zimmermanslandscapeandlawncare.com notes, when it comes to landscaping, there are two different aspects to be aware of: hardscape and softscape. Everything soft, growing, and alive (trees, plants, flowers, grass, etc) is the softscape. The hard stuff, as the name implies, is the hardscape. Hardscape features can be big or small, decorative or functional, and, when used wisely, can balance the areas of softscape to create a more pleasing aesthetic.

Some of the most common types of hardscape include:

  • Decks
  • Pergolas
  • Retaining and Freestanding Walls
  • Fire Pits
  • Fireplaces
  • Driveways
  • Fences
  • Steps
  • Walkways
  • BBQ Islands
  • Outdoor Kitchens
  • Patios
  • Water Features

What Types of Hardscape Materials Are There?

As per landscapingasheville.com, there are many different varieties of materials that are used to construct hardscapes. As the different materials all have different styles, maintenance requirements, and costs, it’s worth being aware of the qualities of each before deciding which is the best for your garden. The most common types of hardscape materials include:

Wood

Wood is unquestionably the most popular type of hardscape material. And no wonder. A well-maintained wooden deck or patio looks like a dream, and can easily be customized with a range of paints and stains. That’s not to say it’s perfect, though. Wood is subject to the elements to a far greater extent than solid stone or composite hardscapes. It will also need regular treatments and plenty of maintenance to keep it in peak condition.

Faux Wood

As Hunker notes, faux-wood or composite hardscape material offers the same aesthetic appeal as real wood, but comes without its tendency to splinter, fade or warp over time. The initial outlay is higher, but if you’re looking for a long-lasting hardscape material that requires minimal upkeep, it’s a sound option.

Asphalt

If you’ve got a drive, there’s a good chance you’ve already got some asphalt hardscaping going on around your property. It’s not the best choice in extreme climates, but providing it never gets too hot or too cold, it can survive for around 15 years or more. Although it’s durable, it needs to be resealed periodically (which can be costly) and patched where needed to keep it in good shape.

Brick

Brick comes with a number of advantages. It’s available in a wide variety of sizes and colors, works in almost any climate, and looks lovely in the right setting. It’s not, however, the most durable of materials, with a natural porosity that makes it vulnerable to weather erosion. It’s also labor-intensive, both at the point of installation and over the life of the hardscape feature. If you lay a brick drive, expect to pressure wash it several times a year. Other brick features will need to be periodically re-sealed to prevent peeling and erosion.

Concrete

Concrete is affordable, durable, and generally requires a lot less maintenance than many other hardscape materials. Although some people find it unattractive, it pairs nicely with the modern industrial look and can be left either polished or unpolished, depending on preference. Although the initial outlay is relatively low, costs can quickly mount up if a crack develops, which will usually require professional assistance to repair.

Tile

Tiling has been used inside the home for years, but it can look equally attractive outside. Not all types of tile are suitable for outdoor use, so you’ll need to look for options that have been certified as fit for external use. Usually, these will be made of natural stone or concrete. It’s not cheap, either at installation or in the long term, as you’ll need to call in the professionals if any repairs or replacements are needed.

Natural Stone

Natural stone has been used for eons, and for good reason. It’s wonderfully attractive, blends into a landscape seamlessly, looks natural, and comes in a wide variety of options, including limestone, granite, marble, sandstone, and slate. If you choose a stone natural to your region, it will be well suited to the climate, ensuring a long life and excellent durability. Its one downfall is the high cost. However, even though the initial outlay will be higher than with other materials, maintenance needs and ongoing costs are minimal. If the versatility and aesthetic appeal of natural stone have won you over, you’ve got one of two options to chose between – solid stone and loose stone. Loose stone tends to be used primarily for paths and driveways, but its potential extends much further, making it an excellent option for garden borders or even patios. Solid stone is equally versatile and is available in a wide selection of differently sized and colored slabs that can be grouped together to create a dynamic talking point.

Decomposed Granite

If you’re looking for a natural, affordable, and incredibly versatile hardscape material, decomposed granite makes an excellent choice. Widely used for walkways and flower beds, it also makes a sound option for patios. It’s available in a wide selection of hues, including various shades of red, green, gray, and brown, with the result that it blends well with a wide range of other hardscape materials.

Pavers

Pavers are often confused with tiles, but whereas tiles are designed for tiling, pavers are intended for pavement. In other words, tiles are designed primarily for decorative features, whereas pavers are designed to be walked on. Pavers are stronger and more robust than tiles, and are more capable of standing up to heavy traffic. They’re offered as pre-cut slaps that can be fitted together like interlocking puzzle pieces to create a paved area. They’re readily available in a good selection of hues and sizes, letting you customize the finished article to blend seamlessly with the rest of the landscape.

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