Over the past several weeks, I’ve highlighted many of the choices and options that need to be made in conjunction with planning your hardscaping projects. And to wrap things up on my hardscaping series this week, I’d like to summarize the basic choices that need to be made in an easy reference list format.
Are these all the choices that need to be made? Of course not – there are always plenty of options on any home improvement project. But this will serve as a quick overview of the basics and will hopefully get you thinking in the right mindframe.
So here goes: Five basic things to consider when planning your hardscaping project:
1. Size. So if you’ve made it to the point where you’re surfing the web looking for ideas, then you most likely have a rough idea of what you want, or at least why you need something done. The first question I always ask my clients is how do you intend on using your new outdoor living space? Are you simply looking for a nice quiet spot to read the Sunday paper and drink some coffee? Maybe a table for two and a couple of chairs? Then a small 100 to 150 square foot area will do the trick. Family dinners and small get-togethers? Then you probably want something in the 300 to 400 square foot range. Larger blow-out parties? Then you’re probably looking for something in the 600 square foot range or even bigger.
2. Location. If grilling and entertaining are on your to-do list, then you’ll probably want that patio to be in close proximity to the house/kitchen. If a shady refuge is your goal, then you’ll probably want the new space in the shade (duh?). If it’s a walkway you’re looking for, then just what are you looking to access. Don’t fight the natural traffic patterns. If you find yourself always walking in the same spot, then why build a walkway in another spot where it won’t get used much.
3. Materials. This is where things can get tricky. First, there’s the deck vs. patio question. Assuming you go the patio route, then there’s flagstone, pavers, brick, or concrete to consider. For a deck there’s wood vs. composite vs. PVC to consider. If you go the flagstone route, there’s irregular vs linear patterns to consider. There’s also dryset vs. wetset to consider. Or natural cleft vs. thermal finish. And for pavers, which style, color or pattern are you considering? Does the man-made paver option look kind of out of place next to your natural stone home? Does the introduction of bricks to the design clash with the stucco and wood design of the house? Does the bluestone patio look out of place next to a Mica Schist foundation? Perhaps these aren’t issues for you, but it’s at least worth looking into.
4. Drainage and Grading. While the water runoff, stormwater management, and grading alone shouldn’t dictate your decision on some of the earlier choices listed above, the grading plan should at least be taken into consideration, as it could affect costs. Make sure the new space doesn’t create new problems with your existing drainage plan. If accommodations need to be made for drain lines, downspout pipes, or French drains, now’s the time to make sure your whole hardscaping plan will work together.
5. Softscaping. The installation of your outdoor living space should take place at least with you having a rough idea of what you want when it comes to plantings. If you’re thinking about planting some trees with the intention of them growing into nice size shade trees, then the hardscaping layout should account for root growth. If you want to soften the appearance of your hardscaping, then make sure your hardscaping design allows for some bedding areas up against the house. If your prize rose or holly collection is important to you, then leave enough space off of walkways and traffic areas where people won’t be continuously snagging their nice clothes on rose thorns. The plantings don’t necessarily need to happen in conjunction with the hardscaping install, but at the very least a plan should be in place.
These are just a few of the many decisions that you’ll need to think about before you start that hardscaping project. Indeed, there are a number of other more detailed choices that will need to be made based on some of the basic choices listed above.
For a free consultation (it never costs anything just to talk), give us a call and we can started. And honestly, once the conversation begins the choices usually become pretty straight-forward.