What is Hardscaping?

The PropertyClub Team
Nov 18th 2020
Most people are familiar with landscaping, but fewer are aware that there is a related concept called hardscaping. Many different elements impact the exterior of a property, and there are several techniques used to maintain it. Here is a look at hardscaping and how it differs from similar concepts like landscaping and softscaping.

What is Hardscape?

Hardscape refers to physical structures used in a landscape for decorative or practical purposes. Hardscape includes driveways, patios, benches, walls, tiles, and any non-living structure found on a property that is separate from the building or domicile. Hardscaping is vital to the appearance and maintenance of the landscaping. It can be used to organize and contain organic material found in the landscaping. It can also be used for practical purposes - to give visitors to the property somewhere to walk or sit. Hardscape can also be used for decorative purposes to give the property a particular look or design. Hardscaping is often integral to the landscaping process because of its practical, aesthetic, and utilitarian elements.

What is the Difference Between Hardscaping and Landscaping?

Landscaping is an umbrella term that refers to the designing and sculpting of a yard using various living and non-living objects. Hardscaping refers specifically to the non-living structures that are used in a landscape. Landscaping not only refers to the organisms and objects found in a yard, but it’s also a process that involves transforming the exterior of a property into a space that is more aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable to visitors. Hardscaping also refers to both the structures and process of improving a yard, but only about the inanimate objects used in the landscape. Thus, hardscaping and landscaping are both parts of the same process, but the former is more of a general term. In contrast, the latter refers specifically to the construction or inclusion of inanimate objects and structures.

What is the Difference Between Hardscaping and Softscaping?

So, if hardscaping refers to the inanimate objects that make up a landscape, you may be wondering what to call the living plants and foliage that are also part of the process. Plant life used in landscaping is called soft scaping, the opposite of hardscaping. Softscaping refers to the bushes, plants grass, trees, flower, and other flora that is used to decorate and organize a lawn. Soft scaping is an integral part of the landscape because it’s what adds life and color to an area. The hardscaping is important for structural and utilitarian purposes, but soft scaping is the centerpiece. That doesn’t mean hardscaping can’t be decorative as well – but the hard elements of the landscape are there to contain and accentuate the soft scaping.

Soft scaping can also refer to duties and processes related to maintaining the plants and foliage. Some of these duties include:

  • Weeding
  • Lawn mowing
  • Grading
  • Planting
  • Trimming
  • Watering
  • Spraying pesticides
  • Digging beds

Like hardscaping, soft scaping is a term that can be used as a noun to refer to the living elements in a landscape, or it can refer to the process of designing, sculpting, and maintaining those elements. Landscaping is an intricate art and requires extensive planning, execution, and maintenance of an area. Soft scaping is a vital part of that process and is equally as important as hardscaping.

What are Hardscape Elements?

Hardscaping elements refer to any object used in the hardscaping of a yard. Some common hardscaping elements include:

  • Driveways
  • Walkways
  • Fences
  • Walls
  • Decks
  • Patios
  • Outdoor stairs
  • Permeant Outdoor furniture (opposed to moveable chairs and benches that can be taken apart or put inside)
  • Pergolas and Gazebos
  • Lawn statues

Hardscaping elements can be used to help break up space, provide a function, or simply add to the design of the landscape. For instance, walkways, walls, and fences have a practical function, but they can also be stylized to fit the overall aesthetic. Likewise, gazebos and pergolas are structures that can be used for recreation and relaxation purposes; however, they also add something to the appearance of the lawn. 

A good landscape architect will arrange both the hardscaping and soft scaping to optimize the space and divide it in a way that is functional and aesthetically pleasing. Hardscaping elements are important to the overall layout of the landscape. They are vital to the function and appearance of the yard. Strategic planning and a skilled hardscape contractor are needed to successfully organize and construct hardscape elements.  

What is a Hardscape Contractor?

A hardscape contractor is a contractor who specializes in building and installing hardscape elements. Landscape architects mostly stick to designing the environments, and therefore a construction professional is needed to create the physical structures that make up the hardscape. 

Some general contractors can suffice as hardscape contractors for simple tasks like erecting fences, laying pathways, and building walls. But in scenarios where the landscape design is more complex, you may need a professional who specializes in hardscaping. For example, if you need a gazebo built, that may be beyond the average general contractor’s abilities.  

Hardscape contractors are vital to bringing a landscape to life. No matter how well you place and design the flora, without essential hardscaping elements – like walls and pathways – the area will become overgrown or lose its intended function. A hardscape contractor can help create the structures that make sure the landscape maintains its appearance and functionality for the long term.

There are several ways you can locate a good hardscape contractor if you need one. The first and most obvious is to ask for a referral from the landscape architect or other professional who is helping you design the yard. If it’s a DIY project, you can ask a local general contractor to do the work or provide a referral. Or you can go online and use sites like Home Advisor or Yelp to find a well-reviewed hardscape contractor.

Proper hardscaping is vital to both the appearance of a landscape and its function. Having a reliable hardscape contractor can be a huge help if you are thinking of redesigning your yard or you’re building a home from scratch.