Living in any type of climate, but especially in locations where the weather gets cold and wet, does not mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors! Many homeowners use hardscaping to create wonderful outdoor space – space to use in all seasons. Hardscaping is the use of any type of non-living material (e.g., rock, pavers, tile, wood, etc.). You can use hardscaping outside your home to enhance landscaping, making natural stone pathways, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, water features – the list is endless!
When deciding what type of outdoor space you want to create, it is a good idea to have basic knowledge of different paver types:
• Bricks: Bricks are the most common type of paver. Each brick can be made from clay or concrete. Either is mixed with an aggregate of a specific color, so you can have almost any color brick you desire.
• Concrete Pavers: Made from concrete and aggregate, concrete pavers can be laid in different patterns, butting up against each other, rather than needing to use sand or another type of grout like you need to use with bricks. Concrete can be stamped to look like more expensive natural stone.
• Natural Stone: Flagstone, fieldstone, sandstone, slate, granite, and limestone are all examples of natural stone. Natural stones are more expensive than bricks or concrete pavers. Typically, these types of stones are used to create a specific pattern for a pathway, patio, or even edging.
• Pebbles and Decomposed Granite: Small pieces of granite or pebbles are an economical way to make a pathway or use as a base for a patio. Many people enjoy the way it “crunches” when you walk on it.
Top Trends in Hardscaped Outdoor Spaces
The days of making a simple 10’ x 12’ patio off of the back of your house are long gone. Today, people are making all kinds of outdoor spaces including kitchens, water features, fire pits, and so much more! Here are the top elements homeowners are adding to their backyard areas:
• Outdoor kitchen: You will need to select hardscape weather-resistant materials, even if the kitchen will be under an awning or pergola. Using appliances (e.g., electric or gas grill, refrigerator, etc.) designed to work outside, you can create a beautiful outdoor cooking space with reclaimed or recycled bricks and stones; topping it off with a granite counter top. You can be as plain or fancy as you like – even making an outdoor pizza grill.
• Bar: Sometimes, nothing is more relaxing than enjoying your favorite beverage outside with friends and family. It is fairly easy to build an outdoor bar by yourself. Using stone pavers as the face and top of the bar, you will need to set a concrete base to use as footing due to the heaviness of the stone. Dry fitting the stone first will ensure you have a solid, well-built bar.
• Fire Pit: Fire pits are becoming so popular you can purchase them for a reasonable price at most big box or home stores. However, why not create one that will last for a long time? Fire pits can be any shape or size – round, rectangular, square, as well as above ground or below ground. The average fire pit is about two feet tall with a three-foot interior and five-foot exterior diameter. Note local area building codes need to be consulted before you build your fire pit. This is to ensure it is far enough away from the house.
• Fireplace: If you are looking for a more elegant option for your backyard, consider building a stone fireplace. The beauty of an outdoor fireplace and fire pit is you can use these year ‘round.
• Seating: Hardscape materials can also be used to create seating options. For example, you can dry stack economically priced concrete blocks and cover it with a long foam pad and pillows.
• Water Feature: A water feature adds a sense of calmness to your outdoor space. There are many DIY water feature projects you can do using hardscape. Softer stone, such as sandstone, is easier to work with. Layering stone up and around a small pond (material you can purchase at most garden stores), then installing a recirculating pump to save on energy, and you have an easy to maintain water feature, enhancing your patio.
Return on Investment
Not only will you and your family be able to enjoy a hardscaped patio with various amenities, such as a bar or kitchen, adding enjoyable space to your home will increase your home’s value.
Here are some tips to ensuring you get the most ROI for your project:
• Use a designer: You want to make sure your outdoor space has a similar look and feel to your home. Your home should flow nicely from interior to your exterior hardscaped area. An experienced designer can assist you in making decisions about what to include in the space, materials to use, and how the space should be laid out.
• Use the best materials you can afford: Homebuyers are able to see if you used substandard materials. Elements (seating, fire pit, etc.) built with hardscaping and patio pavers (if used) should last many, many years and should hold up to all kinds of weather.
• Start small and add on: Even if you design an elaborate outdoor patio with all the bells and whistles not fitting into your budget now, you can always start small. Design and build with the idea you can add on to the base outdoor patio overtime.
Hardscaping and patio pavers can be used to create a beautiful, relaxing outdoor space usable year ‘round, even when it is cold outside. Stone is durable and is available at all price points. Use an expert designer to develop your dream space, so you can add on to your plan over time.