No matter if you are working with a landscape contractor to bring beauty and order to the site of new home construction or to breathe life and elegance into a bland and boring established yard, the term “hardscape” is likely to come up in the conversation.

“Hardscape” is the backbone of any landscape project and simply refers to any non-organic design element that is already in place or is deliberately introduced or constructed. The name is derived from the “hard” materials used in landscape design to create durable, long-lasting and functional elements of beauty and esthetic impact. When applied correctly, distinctive hardscape features showcase the natural beauty of the home while adding instant “curb appeal” and significant value to your property.

The Lawn and Landscape Association advises, “Overall visual quality and composition of landscapes are greatly affected by their hardscape designs. Hardscape layout and material selection should reflect both the architecture and function of the space. Detail and material combinations should have strong relationships to themselves as well as the site.”

There are many diverse types of hardscape elements used in residential landscaping including paved driveways and sidewalks, brick walkways, stone walls, cinder pathways, bricked terraces, custom fountains, ponds, decks, stairways and outdoor fireplaces. Explore the design possibilities of paving options, steps, ramps and site amenities that add safety, security, comfort and usability to your home’s landscape.

Your landscaping contractor, working with masonry experts, can create a unique outdoor oasis to fit your personal preferences and family needs.

Timeless and esthetically pleasing, hardscapes add rich natural ambiance to your outdoor space while enhancing the quality of outdoor living in your yard. Virtually any material that provides a solid, durable and weatherproof surface can be used in hardscape design.


Since the beginning of time, stone has been one of man’s most valued and often used building materials. Stone is natural, durable and readily available. The uses for stone in the home landscape are only limited by lack of imagination.

You may wish to consider custom stone planters, retaining walls or gate pillars to add vertical interest to an otherwise flat landscape or a single massive boulder placed as a backdrop to an ornamental tree planting.

If you are considering fencing your property, stone fences last for decades and become more beautiful with time. Your masonry contractor can custom-build any type of stone hardscape designed to fit your unique needs. Stone fences or retaining walls add decorative beauty as well as serving a functional purpose such as holding back different elevations of earth, control drainage and erosion or can be used to block an unsightly view or define property boundaries.

Stone is an ideal and attractive material to use to create an intimate courtyard spa setting for solitude and privacy. Perhaps you would like to add a pond, pool, water fountain or outdoor fireplace; stone is the perfect medium. Stone can be mortar set or dry laid.
Expand the time outdoors by creating a three-season outdoor recreational retreat; get outside and enjoy nature. Your masonry contractor can employ stone to craft a functional, all-weather outdoor kitchen and entertainment area complete with fireplace, seating benches, counter space, built in refrigerator, sink, griddle and grill.

When incorporating stone into your landscape and home improvement projects, depend on your masonry contractor to recommend stone of a size and with characteristics that will complement your home’s architectural style and design. Local sources for stone offer materials that are beautiful and blend seamlessly with the local rock outcroppings. Selecting locally quarried stone also reduces material cost, as there is less transportation to the installation location.


Durable, natural and attractive, brick has been used to craft structures, roads and walkways for centuries. Brick doesn’t dent, rot or ever require painting. Landscape designers and masonry contractors like to work with brick as it readily blends with existing building materials and offers limitless sculptural capacities and intricate detailing. Today brick is far from boring, available in a broad palette of colors, sizes, and textures. If your home is built of brick, consider adding a matching grand arch over the entry way or covering a stained and worn concrete driveway with brick pavers.

Ceramic Tile

If the decking around your pool or the surface of the patio is buckled, discolored or otherwise unattractive, installation of a ceramic tile surface will brighten and restore the area to its original beauty. Like brick, ceramic tile is a tried and tested material for outdoor applications. Ceramic tile is normally set in a prepared bed of mortar on top of a concrete slab. Visit your tile contractor’s showroom for inspiration. Brilliantly colored tiles made of recycled materials are an eco-friendly choice.

Like stone, ceramic tile lends its self to all kinds of applications in an outdoor entertainment area. Waterproof ceramic tile never fades flakes or peels. It is easy to maintain and works well in a moist area subject to mold and mildew.

Glazed tiles can become slippery when wet. Your tile contractor can recommend a type with a non-slip surface that is rated for your climate zone.

Composition Building Materials

An eco-conscious hardscape material made from recycled plastic and wood fibers; composite decking is built to withstand the rigors of cold winters. It doesn’t warp, weather, splinter or rot. It is mold and insect resistant and doesn’t require sanding or sealing. Available in a variety of colors, widths and lengths, composition decking is a bit more costly than other material options. However, the initial higher cost is more than offset by durability, ease of maintenance and a non-slip surface that helps prevent falls and accidents. Talk to your building or home improvement contractor to design the deck of your dreams.


In the landscape, concrete curbing can be used to define roadways or flowerbeds. Concrete pillars are often used as gateposts, structure supports or pilings for a dock or pier. Concrete is frequently used in pool construction as well as poured for home driveways, walkways, and patios. Concrete doesn’t have to be gray, plain and ugly: it can be texturized, tinted, stained, stamped or embedded with decorative tiles, pebbles or glass. The National Ready Mix Concrete Association provides a wealth of information for homeowners to answer all your questions about concrete and its many diverse applications in residential construction.

Residential Uses for Concrete

Residential applications for ready mixed concrete go beyond a solid foundation. Long lasting and low maintenance concrete enhances the value and performance of our most important investment, our home.

Learn more about these applications:

Architectural Flatwork
Basement Walls
Concrete Homes
Want More Information? Contact NRMCA’s Marketing Department, Glenn Ochsenreiter.

Choosing A Hardscape Contractor

The homeowner is faced with having to make several decisions when planning a hardscape project. The first and foremost is selecting a contractor to the job right, within budget and on time. Be sure to require documentation of Industry qualifications, licensing and insurance and get all agreements in writing. Ask questions and seek clarification of any concerns and a firm understanding of a start and expected finish date.