How to choose hardscape materials

hard·scape noun (härd ‘skãp ): The part of a building’s grounds consisting of structures, such as patios, retaining walls, and walkways, made with hard materials.

 What do we know about hardscapes?  They’re expensive?  They’re difficult to install?  Both of these thoughts can be correct at times, however if you approach a hardscape properly it can be a pain-free experience.  Adding hardscape(s) to your outdoor space is one of the most important things you can do to change the aesthetics and functionality of your area.  Also, if done correctly, you may have a great return on the investment which is always an added bonus.

Unless you’re quite handy in a variety of trades it may be a good idea to consult a professional to assist with all phases of adding or replacing a hardscape in your outdoor space.  The next step would be to decide what you want to install and where.

Materials:  Choosing the appropriate material can be an overwhelming task.  There are many different brands of hardscape materials and each brand has many different products within them.  There are a lot of good quality manufacturers out there and unfortunately many lesser quality manufacturers.  I won’t voice my opinions on any brands, as to not cloud your judgment.

It’s not always easy to “throw cost out the window”, but often times with these situations you really do get what you pay for.  Some of these material options can be fairly expensive and some are quite inexpensive.  This differentiation is mainly to do the manufacturing process, the tolerances, and quality standards that it entails.  The cheaper materials have looser manufacturing standards and thus less dimensional consistency.  Of course this then means that the more expensive materials have much tighter manufacturing tolerances, thus much greater dimensional consistency.

It might not seem like dimensional consistency is all that important.  After all it is just a bunch of pieces of concrete or stone, right?  Let’s take a deeper look.  How many of these pieces must work together to complete the structure?  Consider a patio, driveway, retaining wall, etc.  There could be hundreds, or thousands or more pieces working in conjunction with each other to complete said structure.  So now that we know that, things start to make more sense.  The looser the consistency the more gaps there can be in the finished structure.  The more gaps you allow in your finished project the less structural integrity you will have, and vice-versa.  Aside from the structural aspect of all of this you will also have looser lines in your project.  This too may seem irrelevant, but the straighter the lines, the better the flow, the better the end result.

A few samples of hardscape projects installed by Barrett Lawn Care:

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~ Suggestion by Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care.  Derek has years of experience installing many different types of hardscape materials. For more information, Derek can be reached at 612-866-7522 or


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