The importance of ‘hardscaping’

Published 7:34 pm Thursday, August 16, 2018

Anybody who’s in the market to buy or to sell a house knows the significance of “curb appeal” — that first impression that makes buyers think to themselves, “Oh, this looks nice. Maybe I could live here.”

Aside from the actual appearance of a house, landscaping is likely the next most important contributor to curb appeal. Nice flower beds, a neatly trimmed lawn, always make a good impression. But there’s another impression-maker that follows, one that doesn’t get mentioned as often because one almost has to experience it to recognize it.

This is called hardscaping. Hardscaping is a term used most often by realtors to describe the non-living features of a landscape, such as decks, walkways, paths, walls, water elements and more. According to the National Association of Realtors, standard lawn care, along with landscape upgrades such as hardscaping will likely to add value to a home and appeal to buyers.

Such upgrades and attention to detail matter.

“One thing that is very common, for some unknown reason, is that many properties in the past were built without a walkway to the front door,” said Century 21 Realtor Scott Campbell. “For some inexplicable reason, people forget to build a walkway to the door. I see that way too often — that’s the main complaint people have: ‘Yeah, there’s no sidewalk; there’s no walkway.’”

OUTDOOR LIVING: This fountain feeds a small stream in the backyard of an East Main Street home where the entire backyard has been recreated with hardscaping: a deck and screened-in porch, combined with a brick path running beside the stream to a paved driveway, set amidst verdant landscaping.

When realtors show a house to a potential buyer, they’re most often taking them in through the front door. However, if a front door has no walkway from the driveway or street, it likely won’t make a great impression.

“It just needs to be a defined pathway that keeps you out of the grass and mud, and it will help you define your landscaping,” Campbell said. “What hardscaping does is set the boundaries and the framing for landscaping. So, you put in your walkway up to several steps or an entryway. That’s defined your yard, right there. To the left of the walkway, you’re going to do landscaping; to the right of the walkway, you’re going to do landscaping.”

Hardscaping also applies to the commonsense aspects of design, including the logistics of outdoor spaces. Many don’t realize until after the fact that while building an outdoor common space is great, access to it is just as important.

“Sometimes the entrance to those areas is off a private room or bedroom, which is fine for Mom and Dad, but not for guests,” Campbell said. “You want to make sure you don’t have to drag your guests through the bedroom to go sit on the front porch.”

Access applies to exterior access as well — a deck or porch entrance is made that much better by a clearly defined path.

“Do you want it to be accessible from the back yard? Then you need a nice set of steps to go out to the yard. Do you want it accessible for guests? Do you want a walkway that leads to the deck or porch where the barbecue is?

“And the natural progression on all of this: if you have a pool, you want to be able to access the pool without walking through a field or mud. Meditation areas, water features — they all need hardscaping,” Campbell said.

The good news is that hardscaping is not just for looks. It can also be the solution to areas in a yard where grass or plant life won’t grow well. In this way, the combination of landscaping and hardscaping can turn the average yard into a cohesive, vibrant design — or, curb appeal.

A GREEN THUMB: This West Main Street backyard is defined by hardscaping in the round brick patio and brick path dissecting the yard beneath a rose trellis.