What is Hardscape Design?

Susan Grindstaff

In landscaping terms, hardscape design typically refers to outdoor landscaping other than plants and greenery. These elements commonly include retaining walls, stone pathways, and fountains. More elaborate designs typically consist of summer kitchens, eating pavilions and garden furniture. Hardscape design is becoming more and more popular, and many landscaping companies offer hardscaping as part of a complete landscaping package.

Although difficult to build, a retaining wall can be made in various attractive designs.
Although difficult to build, a retaining wall can be made in various attractive designs.

Landscaping was once considered a very narrow field, typically involving the planting and maintenance of lawns and gardens. For those who can afford the price tag, modern landscapers offer much more in the way of outdoor living. A growing number of consumers are looking for hardscape design as part of a total landscaping contract. This is especially true with new home construction, where extras such as barbecue pits and summer kitchens can add a great deal of value to the price of a home.

Hardscape design is useful for creating patios.
Hardscape design is useful for creating patios.

Hardscape design is usually less expensive and can be achieved more quickly in new home construction. This is due to the fact that the entire design can be implemented without the need to remove or transplant existing landscaping. Implementing hardscape design in pre-existing gardens can result in a great deal of money being spent to save existing landscaping.

Some of the more affordable elements offered in hardscaping include stone pathways, garden walls, and benches. In addition, steps, fountains, and simple stone benches are considered common components of hardscape design. Some homeowners may be able to install these elements on their own, without the need of a landscaping consultant.

More difficult types of hardscape design include retaining walls and outdoor pavilions. Retaining walls that are not properly constructed often may not hold up over time. Problems from badly constructed retaining walls can include water runoff and soil erosion. Eating pavilions such as summer kitchens and outdoor porches are jobs that most homeowners cannot accomplish on their own. Landscaping companies that install these structures typically employ contractors with the background and experience necessary for the job.

Hardscape design is also commonly used to create outdoor pools and ponds. This type of landscaping normally includes installations of rocks and boulders designed to make the installations look like part of the natural landscape. Waterfalls made of stacked stone are another popular component of hardscaping. These waterfalls are often installed at pool edges or as a backdrop for garden ponds.

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