How to Create a Successful Hardscape
Landscape designers offer tips on creating and installing a successful hardscape design.
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Call In the Experts
Hire a designer or landscape consultant who knows your style. If you do opt for a hired designer or contractor, get recommendations and check portfolios and references, says Samuel.
Samuel insists that anyone embarking on a project that involves a structural wall or a hill with stability issues first contact — or have their builder contact — a geotechnical engineer to discuss the implications.
"They can prevent really serious damage, or you get the best case scenario, which is when they come out and say, 'I don't see an issue.'"
Buy More Than You Need
"Whether you're working with brick, stone or another material, buy a little more than you need for the project," Barbara says. "Later on, you can use the extra materials to accent pretty beds with temporary edgings, or to add steppingstones or landings, knowing these little features will match the dominant hardscape."
"It's rarely a cost-effective strategy just to purchase the least expensive materials or services for a hardscape design — too often you get what you pay for," says Sabrena. "There are a lot of considerations besides price, including how long a material will last and whether it will suit the architecture of your site. It makes more sense to economize by scaling back a project or the number of design elements, with the help of a cost-conscious professional, then to always buy the least expensive materials."
Properly Prepare the Site
"The most common mistake I see people make is putting in a hardscape element without preparing the site appropriately, which is a sure formula for future failure," says Susan. "If you don't put the correct amount of base material down, or compact it well enough, you risk having a wall sink or settle or a patio settle and heave in frost."
Not everyone needs the 4-foot frost footing that's required to withstand Wisconsin winters, but you can determine the specifications in your area by talking to an inspector at your local building authority or contacting the American Landscape and Nursery Association (ALNA) or your state landscaping association.
Samuel says, "People who aren't skilled tradespeople think, 'If I can't see it, it's not worth spending the money,' but a level surface to build on and the proper depth for the freeze line are everything in hardscaping. If you don't have them, five years out, your project will be breaking up."
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