First Impressions

By Chelle Cordero

December 31, 2009 5 min read

First impressions make for lasting impressions. The entryway to your home is no different. The first thing visitors see when approaching your home is the entrance. The condition of the walk, the landscaping around it, the doorway and even the often-overlooked doorbell are important.

Lance Walheim, Bayer Advanced garden expert and co-author of "Landscaping for Dummies," stresses that "the front walkway is the welcome mat to your home. It should be inviting and comfortable, and it should complement your house and landscape. It should be well-lit, wide enough for two people to walk on easily and not too steep. Plantings along the walkway can soften the edges, provide color or framing and help smooth the transition from street to house. Consider using the same materials or design elements in your driveway and walkway." He adds: "It's critical that the home style influence the walkway and landscaping. Otherwise, the walk ends up looking like a last-minute add-on."

"I could go on for hours about the importance of the front entrance, including the front walkway and front steps, all the way up to the door and past the threshold; it's so important, and it really doesn't need to cost a lot of money to spruce up," says Paige Rien, an interior designer with HGTV's "Hidden Potential." "Stone pavers are one of the simplest treatments for a front walk. You can use slate or bluestone, which can be purchased in remnant shapes -- the more organic the better. Putting in a concrete or brick walk can be more expensive because of the additional labor."

For a quick refresh for your walkway, Rien suggests "a good power washing, if you do have concrete or older grouted stone, makes a world of difference. You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can buy a power washer at Home Depot for less than $100 and do it yourself. I suggest this yearly, if not twice a year." She also adds: "In terms of making the walk neat and clean, always allow 4 to 8 inches of space, ideally filled with mulch, between your walk and grass or any other plantings. This will keep the walk clearly defined and easier to maintain."

"Certain materials are hard enough that they become resistant to freeze-thaw and weathering because water is not able to penetrate the material," says Miles Chaffee, president and founder of Milestone Imports, in Santa Fe, N.M. "Natural stones, such as the igneous rock porphyry, are able to stand the test of time compared with asphalt and concrete, which will degrade more quickly. Porphyry is an excellent choice for paving outdoor surfaces, as it is unaffected by harsh weather conditions and highly resistant to chemicals, and its natural texture is slip-resistant," Chaffee says. "It is ideal for residential use, and its durability, 'green' attributes and long-term affordability are making this material a major player in the multibillion-dollar stone-paving industry." Imported from Mexico, porphyry is a type of volcanic rock and is recognized for its beautiful rusty red and gold colors.

In addition to the materials used, the basic layout and width of a walkway is important. Walheim notes some common oversights: "Creating improper scale by making a walk too narrow or too wide is a common mistake, as is adding too many curves or creating unusable narrow planting areas between the walk and foundation. Walkways don't have to be straight. In fact, some of the most beautiful are staggered, have sitting areas or merge into or through courtyards. They can be do-it-yourself projects, as long as you read up on proper building techniques, code requirements and foundations. These aren't afternoon projects."

DirectBuy staff writer Sara Butler adds the following tips: "Select materials that will blend or contrast with the colors of your home and backyard. When choosing stone, your best bet is to select the flattest, largest surface material you can find and easily move. The larger the pieces the more stable they will be holding up under the demands of a high-traffic zone."

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