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Close up of brick pavers.

Hardscaping vs Landscaping: What’s the Difference?

If I mention the words grinder, jimmies, and bubbla, do you know what I’m talking about?

Well, you most definitely would if you were from Massachusetts, where I spent my childhood.

Now, as a Chicagoan, I’d say: subway sandwich, chocolate sprinkles, and water fountain. (Massachusetts is kind of weird, right?)

Words can be quite entertaining and sometimes confusing if they mean different things to each of us. Add a whole other layer of confusion if the words are part of a brand new vocabulary, as you will find in landscaping!

While everyone’s heard of landscaping, some people throw around the phrase ‘hardscaping’ – is that just difficult landscaping? It turns out that hardscaping is a type of landscaping, but it involves only certain types of materials. Here’s our guide to all things hardscaping – and how to know the difference between it and landscaping.

What is Hardscaping?

Hardscaping refers to any inorganic, ‘hard’ material in your landscaping efforts. This refers to everything that isn’t alive, from pavers and gravel to stone elements and decks, patios, and more. 

Hardscaping is a vital part of any outdoor design process as it not only creates useful surfaces like decks and patios but also can better create a stage for plant placement while ensuring drainage is in place, protecting the integrity of your land. Retaining walls and stone paths can adjust drainage in a visually appealing way while ensuring that nothing floods, erodes, or rots roots. 

When it comes to sculpting your outdoor space, there’s a lot that goes into it. Whether it’s plants to pavers, creating your own oasis has many moving parts. As such, it’s advisable not to outsource hardscaping and instead consider it an integral part of your landscape design process. Be sure to find a company that can do both!

Common Hardscape Features

Hardscaping has to do with a large number of features for your land. Here are 10  of the primary hardscaping elements we use: 

  • Patios – Using stone or wood to create an outdoor space for you and your family to enjoy without treading on grass can open up a world of possibilities for outdoor enjoyment: comfy chairs, tables, dare I say….a grill?
  • Pools – Speaking of outdoor enjoyment, it doesn’t get better than a pool.
  • Decks – Decks, particularly elevated decks, will have you surveying your green outdoor kingdom with ease.
  • Pergolas/Trellises – Have you ever wanted a secret garden of your own? Pergolas and trellises, or pieces of architecture are designed to foster vine growth and add an element of height to your landscape design, and can transform a yard into a wonderland.
  • Paths – Paths break up the flow of water and help adjust drainage while also creating an obvious path for feet to tread without messing up a single plant in the process. Win-win! 
  • Retaining Walls – If you have a yard that is anything but flat AND you have concerns about flooding, water erosion, or even rotting out the roots of your precious flowers, a retaining wall can be your best friend. Often made of stone or concrete, these walls add a bit of structure and texture to your terrain while ensuring that rain stays an inconvenience and not a massive bill due to water damage.
  • Stairs – Whether you’re going up or down, stairs will help get you there. 
  • Fences – Besides making better neighbors, fences are a great way to zone off your property, keep critters out, and pets in
  • Fire pits – What better way to spend an evening than around a fire? 

Hardscaping Pros and Cons

Professional hardscaping – especially as part of your overall landscaping – can be expensive yet often worth the price. When it comes to setting a patio or deck, there’s safety to consider in addition to ensuring proper placement, drainage mechanisms, and more. Patios require strategy and solid installation to ensure that nothing erodes over time, for example.

Benefits of professional hardscaping:

  • Expertise and knowledge of installation
  • Long lasting outdoor elements
  • Increases home value
  • Improves yard infrastructure and drainage

Negatives of professional hardscaping:

  • Cost
  • Difficult to find the right professional
  • Poorly done work can lead to problems in time

What you don’t want is to cut corners and cost initially, only to find a year later half your deck is sagging due to shoddy construction: this is why it’s important to find professionals for hardscaping. 

What is Landscaping?

At Topiarius, we use landscaping to refer to all things outdoor design– including hardscaping. Landscaping typically also refers to the organic elements of outdoor design, including plants, earth, and grass. Think of landscaping as the umbrella term, and hardscaping as just one type of landscaping.

Common Landscape Features

Landscape features are often what we most frequently associate with the art of landscape design, and what we commonly think of when we think of ‘landscaping.’ Here are some examples:

  • Grass/Lawn – Often greener on the other side, grass is one of the foundational plants used in landscaping.
  • Mulch – Mulch protects growing plants, helps diminish soil moisture, and adds a finished look and texture to your visual field.
  • Dirt/Soil – It is under all our feet, if you dig deep enough.
  • Trees – The largest plants we work with, trees provide shade, dig deep into the landscape with roots, and can provide food. 
  • Shrubs – Shrubs and/or bushes can be used to interpolate with more delicate plants.
  • Flower Beds – Flower beds are pretty and great for pollinators.
  • Food Plants – Who doesn’t love a garden-fresh tomato? Food plants and gardening beds are a big part of landscaping that can give back to you all year long.

Landscaping Benefits

Professional landscaping can provide a huge difference in the longevity and practicality of your vision for your space. Unless you have a strong background in landscape design or horticulture, landscapers will help you choose the right plants for your land, plant them in a way that fosters flourishing, and ensure maximal protection and minimal erosion due to strategic placement of beds and plants. 

There are a lot of moving parts to the outside world: soil pH, climate zone, terrain, local wildlife, local pollinators, elevation, and more. Landscapers think about these variables. Rather than try and save a little money upfront, wouldn’t you rather have landscaping that stays vibrant year after year?


Here are examples of work we’ve completed:

DSC_0545_edited copy

Bluestone patio.

DSC_0520_edited copy

Bluestone stairs.

Pick_DSC_0260_edited_resizedThe above photo features two types of hardscape: Flagstone steppers (along the right side) and porcelain pavers (under the pergola and around the pool). Colmar_MI_2Three types of hardscape, above: Stone curbing (top), bluestone path (right),
and gravel driveway (left)
 Blinderman Courtyard Two types of hardscape, above: Concrete pavers (sidewalk) and
bluestone chip (landscape bed).
 After_6Two types of hardscape, above: Reddish/brown clay pavers and
bluestone paving (under the pergola).


 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you hardscape or landscape first?

When it comes to landscaping vs hardscaping, we recommend hardscaping first, so you better know where to place your plants. Not only that, but since plants are delicate when first put in the ground, this ensures they have the best chance to thrive without risk of displacement or damage due to construction. 

Does hardscaping add value to your home?

Hardscaping is a tangible value add to any home- who wouldn’t want a home with a gorgeous patio? Fire pits, pools, and more can add tremendous curb appeal and value to your home. 

Does landscaping improve your home value?

Absolutely, yes. Landscaping adds overall visual appeal and can increase home value by 10% and boost curb appeal, according to the National Association of Realtors.  

What are the most popular types of hardscaping?

The most popular types of hardscaping are in-ground patios/walkways, rooftops (using pedestal pavers), and retaining walls.

How long does hardscaping last?

As one might expect, hardscaping can last much longer than landscaping, if– and big if– it the correct products are used, they are properly installed, and if they are maintained over time. Depending on the application, most hardscaping will last indefinitely. (Think of the Greeks and Romans!)

How much does hardscaping cost?

Costs vary depending on the size, scope of your project, and materials: putting a trellis in your garden will cost considerably less than installing an entire inground pool.

Conclusion

As you can see, hardscaping is just as vital to making your great outdoors great as landscaping is. Though it might often be lumped into the umbrella term of “landscaping,” it deals with the hard stuff- just like the name says. Any way you look at it it’s a huge part of making your outdoor dreams come true and a great way to add value to your home. Let us transform your outdoor space into something truly unique. Connect with us today!

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