Whether you’re just trying to spruce up the yard or are looking to “wow” potential buyers, revisiting your typical landscaping choices is an outstanding place to start. If you’re looking around the yard and noticing the same trees and shrubs, try focusing on hardscaping. Here are 10 hardscaping ideas for extra curb appeal to help inspire creativity.
You’re likely more familiar with the elements of hardscape design than you would’ve imagined. Think of pavers, decks, built-in seating, and other mixed material elements carefully planned into an outdoor setting. The addition of hardscaping easily adds curb appeal for homeowners while maximizing the space you have, regardless of size or location.
What is hardscaping?
Hardscapes are human-made features incorporated into traditional landscaping. Features are often made from a plethora of materials and concepts including:
- Pavers or masonry made from stone, cement, and brick
- Decks built from vinyl or wood materials
- Fixtures such as arbors and pergolas
- Water features
- Design elements like patios, fire pits, and seating
We’ll dive into some amazing ways to differentiate your yard from your neighbor’s, add curb appeal, and cultivate an eye-catching outdoor space. Plus, you don’t need a green thumb to install stunning hardscape design.
10 hardscaping ideas
1. Mix up materials
You don’t always have to match things exactly. In fact, adding some contrast to your hardscape creates attention-grabbing textures that make a great first impression. Consider using mixed materials in your hardscape design. A great way to do this is to lay down stone or concrete seating, gravel grounds, and wood fences.
Need some inspiration? Check out popular interior design magazines or peruse the internet for images of mixed material hardscape design. Decide which materials you feel pair well together and which combinations don’t suit your tastes.
2. Pergolas, gazebos, and pavilions
Pergolas, gazebos, and pavilions are an instant way to add curb appeal. They can provide shade, shelter, privacy, and an area for entertainment. They’re also a great home for climbing plants, like ivy or roses, and act as a stunning focal point for the yard.
3. Boulders and rocks
While boulders or rocks on their own might look rough or out of place, this design material can instantly transform your outdoor space when coupled with mulch or drought-tolerant plants.
Also, consider the addition of river rocks. Instead of one or two large accent rocks, river rocks are many small, smooth rocks that come from any body of water and have been smoothed over from erosion.
River rocks have many benefits depending on how you hardscape with them. Some common benefits are:
- River rocks control erosion: Forming a dry creek bed with larger river rocks helps redirect the flow of water runoff, controlling erosion and drainage in your outdoor space.
- River rock xeriscapes save water: This type of landscaping uses rocks instead of turfgrass. You’ll want to use smaller rocks, like pea gravel for optimal results. This type of hardscape accent is a modern twist that happens to be low-maintenance and water-saving as rocks don’t need to be watered!
- Replacing traditional organic mulches with river rock is less maintenance: Mulching in your garden beds requires more work because you need to replace organic mulch at least once a year. When you use rocks instead, you’re saving on water costs and replacement costs year-round. They also maintain a vivid color longer.
Note: River rocks as a replacement for organic mulch is not ideal for high-maintenance gardens that require lots of water and digging. Instead, consider river rocks for dry gardens with plants that can withstand heat, are drought-tolerant, and are low-maintenance.
4. Gravel patios and paths
Not only are gravel features a simple DIY project, but they also serve to add class and curb appeal to an outdoor space in need of a makeover. You can lay out the gravel in a large or small area and top it with comfortable outdoor furniture, warm outdoor lighting, and some potted plants to create a special oasis at home.
Some common gravel for outdoor patios include:
- Pea gravel
- Decomposed granite
- Crushed rock
5. Concrete paths
Concrete pathways tend to be a more tedious installation option for adding extra curb appeal to your home. Laying concrete gets expensive and it’s essential to be as precise as possible so the leveling of the concrete is correct.
However, once the concrete is just perfect, you’ll be amazed at how much a concrete path changes the feel of your home. While the labor is more expensive, concrete itself is one of the cheaper materials to incorporate into your hardscape designs. It’s also very versatile–– it can be stamped to mimic other hardscape materials, such as stones, and stained for a pop of color.
6. Built-in structures
Do you know how built-in closets immediately add value to your home? Built-in structures in your outdoor space do too, and are a great hardscape design that can cultivate the use of your outdoor space. While it’s nice to look at a well-maintained backyard, it’s even nicer to relax in it, on a comfortable bench and with a good book.
Built-in options include:
- Benches made from hard materials like concrete, stone, or wood
- Outdoor kitchen
- Sunken living space with built-in seats
- Play areas for children with steps and seating
- Fire pits that are long-lasting
7. Tranquil water features
A water feature that’s sleek and serene serves as an ideal place to enjoy your property and reflect on the day.
Disclaimer: In the world of real estate, some complex and high-maintenance water features can hurt the value of your property. High-maintenance water features can be expensive to maintain, and some homebuyers aren’t interested in such an investment. Stick to a small and shallow structure that’s easier to maintain but still offers that sense of tranquility and curb appeal.
8. Deck it up
Decks turn an ordinary patch of grass into a natural-looking living room. There are so many options whether you’re looking for specific materials or shapes. Choose from building a deck that covers the majority of your outdoor space to a small accent deck that opens up to a lush and vibrant yard.
Decks are most commonly built with the following materials:
- Hardwood either pressure-treated or stained
- Composite (often made with a mix of materials like resin, vinyl, or fiberglass)
If your yard is at an angle or slant, it might be a good opportunity to incorporate natural or human-made steps into the space. This simple feature adds instant curb appeal to what otherwise would be an ordinary hill.
Human-made step design in hardscaping is anything from concrete steps to wooden stairs built into the group. This style tends to be more modern and contemporary. For a more natural or rustic look, opt for stepping stones made from rock, wood, or rubber.
10. Whimsical design
When we think of hardscaping, we often imagine large structures and big changes. But you don’t need to install a whole deck to distinguish your landscaping.
Don’t be afraid of adding design ideas that act as accents, highlighting what’s already working. Adding a touch of whimsy ties the space together and gives your landscaping an element of uniqueness. Some great options for whimsical design include:
- Statues or sculptures carefully placed in the landscape
- Landscape lighting that’s incorporated into your greenery
- Reflective hanging features like a disco ball or chandelier
- Lower-tone wooden wind chimes (less noise pollution)
- Small ground ornaments that emit or reflect light like orbs. Some orbs are solar-powered and light up at night
- Pillows and cushions for outdoor furniture that include interesting textures and patterns.
When should you hire a pro?
Hardscaping is a surefire way to add that extra oomph to your home. After you determine what you want to incorporate into your outdoor space, you’ll likely need to get organized. From going to your local home improvement store to calling decking companies for quotes, it will take some time.
To save time, consider hiring a professional to take care of your yard before you install hardscape features. After all, you wouldn’t want a scruffy, dying lawn to distract from the new patio. For mowing, weeding, and fertilizing, local lawn care pros can prep your lawn for the new installations.