Many homeowners discover hardscaping really rocks
By Amy Denney
Copley News Service
Hardscaping is perhaps one of the hottest things going in the landscaping industry these days.
In case you've been living under a rock, hardscaping refers to the practice of using "hard goods" - bricks, stones, pebbles - to create anything from patios to retaining walls, from edging to fountains.
"People are getting into going with the stone walls and brick edging because they last so long," says Wade Velten, president of Buckley's Prairie Landscaping in Springfield, Ill. "They're also accentuating with boulders, putting their names on them or addresses."
Another plus is that bricks and stone look more elegant than black vinyl edging. A brick-paved patio or path is more inviting than one made of concrete. But the No. 1 reason for the trend is because hardscaping is more durable than other options, including timber, according to industry experts.
"If you use stone, it will be there long after we're gone," says Greg Foster, owner of Chapman Stone and Marble.
Another reason for the popularity of hardscaping is that families want to create outdoor living space that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical and functional. That includes outdoor kitchens, patios, fireplaces, fountains and more.
"People are getting into enjoying more of the outdoors and being in the outdoors when they're home," Velten says. "They want an area where they can sit down and something they can be proud of."
Already, Foster is noticing that flagstone is this season's trend. People are using it to create patios and walkways and even for retaining walls and decorative edging.
"They're looking for something that doesn't look like the typical retaining wall brick," Foster says. "They're looking for something that looks more natural."
For patios, flagstone creates more of a challenge since the pieces are asymmetric and require more cutting, shaving and sanding to get the rocks to fit perfectly. But it offers and entirely different look - a bit more rugged - than bricks.
No matter what type of rock is used for patios, paths or edging, Foster says it's important to use substrate, a crushed limestone, to form a solid base. It will prevent shifting come the first frost, he says.
On top of the substrate, he suggests using about a half-inch of sand, which he calls the "forgiveness layer." That will enable you to adjust the bricks or stones so that they are level.
Of course if you don't want to do the labor yourself, you can always hire a professional. A landscape designer can help you blend your hardscaping and "softscaping" - the green goods such as annuals, shrubs, perennials and trees - with your property or create a contrast.
Velten says most homeowners understand the value of landscaping, and they know that walls and stairs created with wood will need replacement in a decade or so. It can be a sticking point when it comes to buying or selling a home, he adds.
"People are learning there's a certain value that can go with a stone wall," Velten says. "It becomes a permanent part of the property. It does become an asset in the way people look at the property when it's for sale."
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