What is Hardscaping?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 13 June 2019
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Hardscaping is the term used to describe the creative design applied to paved areas. This type of landscaping is typically found in sites of urban and commercial development. Elements may include driveways, sidewalks, roads, and retaining walls. These may be constructed of concrete or brick, or any type of durable, non-plant material.

Water, though found naturally, is also considered an element of hardscaping design. This is due to the fact that water is typically absorbed quickly by natural materials. Fountains and ponds generally require concrete basins and electric pumps to maintain them.

Hardscaping may be interwoven with elements of softscaping, which is the term used to describe landscaping with natural substances, like plants and dirt. Many city streets are lined with trees planted in small patches of dirt surrounded by bricks. Downtown courtyards may include gardens in raised beds enclosed in retaining walls. Conversely, some gardens may include brick paths and stone patios.

Homeowners may be able to create an additional living space outside their homes by hardscaping the exterior. This can be accomplished through the installation of a patio, deck, stone stairways, and gazebos. Furniture may be placed in these newly designed areas, beneath constructed awnings and trellises, to prevent damage from the weather. Shrubs and flowers may also be included through the use of potted plants and trellis climbing greens. Occasionally designs are planned around existing trees.


Desert climates generally feature a large amount of hardscaping. This type of weather typically receives a low amount of annual rainfall and is subjected to high temperatures. The natural soil is often stripped of nutrients, making it difficult for plants to flourish. Hardscaping provides an attractive alternative to dirt back yards and empty gardens.

Designers who create this type of landscaping must contend with the issue of drainage when installing their work. A piece of land that is largely covered with sidewalks and streets does not allow for the passage of water back into the soil located beneath the concrete. This affects the natural water table of the area. Urban landscapers must plan for the runoff of rainwater to allow it to drain back into the soil. Gutters and grates along streets and sidewalks are common features that accomplish this.

Hardscaping may be planned and installed by professional contractors or city developers. Certifications in landscaping are often obtained through online courses or at local colleges. These classes typically focus on combining both hard and soft landscaping to achieve balance and symmetry within a planned area, such as a city park or a privately-owned estate.



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