5 Tips for Incorporating Hardscapes into Your Backyard

5 Tips for Incorporating Hardscapes into Your Backyard

Is your backyard soft, green and possibly boring? If so, incorporating some hardscapes can cure that. Hardscaping involves the addition of non-plant elements that add visual interest and purpose. Some objects that fit well into backyard designs could include:

  • outdoor kitchen
  • patio
  • rock garden
  • paved pathways
  • gazebo
  • fish pond
  • retaining walls
  • large planters
  • Japanese garden
  • fountain
  • fence
  • putt putt golf course

Really, your creativity and budget form the only limits to how you can incorporate hardscapes into your yard. Well, maybe the building codes could, too, but we’ll get to that. The following tips should help you design, plan and install the perfect backyard features to fit your lifestyle.

1. Balance

As you survey your property and imagine how you might transform it, be sure to commit to a balanced design. In other words, everyone in the family may have a different idea of what they would like to see. You might succumb to the temptation to please everyone and add too many hardscape features that end up crowding the turf out of your yard.

An elegant yard will support some hardscaping in the midst of the lawn and other growing things. Too much paving, fencing, digging and building may transform the area into something less appealing than what you already have. So, don’t overdo it. Let the turf enjoy plenty of breathing room.

2. Design

To help create your design, you should take measurements of your yard, then draw it out on several pieces of graph paper, one for each idea. Sketch out the ideas, trying to keep to the scale as best you can. In doing so, you can get a bird’s eye view of how your hardscape features would fit the space.

Depending on the complexity of the project, you may want to hire a professional landscape company with in-house designers for this. They may find your idea perfect as is, or they could spot trouble brewing and prevent you from making a costly mistake. Alternatively, if you plan to do the work yourself, you might spend a few bucks purchasing landscape design software. A good program will also help you estimate the costs.

3. Water Conservation

If you’re hoping to conserve water, naturally you won’t want to install a fish pond or fountain. Since the very nature of a hardscape means you won’t need to water it, you automatically conserve. However, some great ideas include areas surrounded by masonry walls or large rocks, forming islands set aside for plants other than turf grass. Consider filling them with native species of flowers and shrubs that can live off nothing but the rainfall and diligent weeding. If you want more exotic flora, don’t forget to add efficient drip irrigation instead of spray to your design.

4. Drainage

Perhaps the best way to sabotage your hard work and money spent is to have no idea how water will drain once you’ve incorporated your hardscapes. Paving will alter the speed and quantity of run-off, so you need to have this sorted out before you proceed. Also, some Florida jurisdictions impose codes for impervious residential surfaces, so check with your local building department and city codes before building.

For pathways and patio floors, you should consider using porous concrete rather than paving bricks, stones or standard concrete. Porous concrete allows drainage through the surface and can also be very attractive in its own right.

5. Plan

Once you’ve settled on the items you would like to develop, you’ll need to sit down and carefully plan it out. As a word of caution, you should check first with your local utility and cable providers to determine if they have any buried lines under your backyard. Don’t punch a shovel into the ground until you know for sure.

The next step will be to clear your plans with your building department and possibly your homeowner’s association, if you have one. The last thing you need to experience is some bureaucrat insisting you tear up your hard, expensive work.

Then, set about making a list of all the things you need to buy. After that, make a list delineating each step of the work in the order that it must be accomplished. Once you’ve gathered your materials, tools and any helpers, all you need to do is open the can of elbow grease.

A well-designed hardscape feature in your backyard can enhance your outdoor time for years to come.