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Principles of Hardscaping

Principles of Hardscaping

principles of hardscaping stairs walkway interlocking stoneHardscaping – the art of landscaping with non-living elements – adds structure, functionality, and aesthetic appeal to outdoor spaces. Doing the job right requires an understanding of the principles of hardscaping, careful planning, and attention to detail.

From patios and pathways to retaining walls and driveways, hardscaping can transform a mundane backyard into a beautiful and usable oasis. In this guide, we’ll delve into the principles and steps involved in hardscaping, along with common mistakes that DIYers make.

Principles of Hardscaping

hardscaping walkway driveway cobblestone natural stoneFunctionality

Before diving into the design, we consider the intended use of the hardscaped area. Whether it’s for entertaining guests, relaxing, or enhancing curb appeal, functionality primarily guides the layout and material choices.

Unity and Harmony

Hardscaping elements should complement the existing landscape and architectural features. We aim for a cohesive design that integrates seamlessly with the surroundings.

Balance

hardscaping walkway precast flagstone alternativeOur designs achieve visual balance by distributing hardscape elements evenly throughout the space. Balance is achieved through symmetry, asymmetry, or radial patterns, depending on the desired aesthetic.

Proportion and Scale

We also focus on maintaining proper proportion and scale to ensure that hardscape elements are not overpowering or overshadowed by the surrounding landscape. If there are existing structures, we consider the scale of those other elements and the size of the area overall when selecting materials and designing layouts.

Durability and Maintenance

Our recommendation is to select durable materials that can withstand the local climate and require minimal upkeep. Proper maintenance is essential for preserving the integrity and appearance of hardscape features over time.

Steps Involved in Hardscaping

Site Assessment

hardscaping walkway driveway The first step is an evaluation of the site to identify existing features, such as slopes, drainage patterns, and utility lines, that may impact the hardscaping design. Factors like sun exposure, soil conditions, and access points will impact the layout.

Design Development

Then, we’ll sketch out the desired hardscape elements, taking into account the principles of hardscaping discussed earlier. Our design team then uses purpose-built software to create detailed plans and visualizations.

Material Selection

Keeping a customer’s budget in mind, hardscaping materials – mainly natural stone or precast products – are selected to complement the design aesthetic while meeting practical requirements such as durability, slip resistance, and maintenance needs.

Preparation

natural stone walkway river rock hardscapingWhen the planning is complete, we begin preparing the site by clearing vegetation, grading the terrain, and addressing any drainage issues. Hardscaping projects require a sturdy base, such as crushed stone or gravel, to provide a stable foundation for hardscape features like patios and pathways.

Installation

Adhering to the plan as well as industry best practices, our hardscaping crew begins installation. To ensure proper alignment, spacing, and compaction, the team uses appropriate tools and techniques.

Finishing Touches

Finishing touches such as edging, lighting, and softscaping are added when desired to enhance the visual appeal and functionality of the hardscaped area.

Common DIY Mistakes

Skipping Site Assessment

Neglecting to assess the site can lead to issues like poor drainage, uneven surfaces, and conflicts with utility lines.

Overlooking Design Principles

Failing to consider principles like functionality, unity, and proportion can result in a haphazard or unbalanced hardscape design.

Poor Material Selection

Choosing materials based solely on aesthetics without considering durability, maintenance requirements, and suitability for the site can lead to premature deterioration and costly repairs.

Inadequate Preparation

Rushing through site preparation and base installation can compromise the stability and longevity of hardscape features, leading to issues like settling, cracking, and drainage problems.

Improper Installation Techniques

Incorrect installation techniques, such as improper compaction, inadequate joint spacing, and poor alignment, can result in uneven surfaces, instability, and structural failure.

Neglecting Maintenance

Failing to properly maintain hardscape features, including regular cleaning, sealing, and/or repairs, can diminish their appearance and lifespan.

While there are some aspects of landscaping that homeowners can tackle themselves, the labour-intensive and complex nature of hardscaping makes it more difficult for DIYers to get right. Whether you’re planning on a small patio project or a complete backyard makeover, contact us for professional, beautiful, and long-lasting results.

Landscaping with Natural Stone

Landscaping with Natural Stone

Creating a beautiful outdoor space often involves finding the perfect balance between functionality and aesthetic appeal. Landscaping with natural stone helps elevate outdoor spaces in terms of both beauty and practicality.

Whether you’re aiming to build a beautiful pathway, add a captivating focal point, or design an entire landscape, natural stone options such as flagstone, armour stone, and river rock can transform your outdoor environment into a mesmerizing retreat. In this blog post, we’ll explore the diverse uses and characteristics of these three popular natural stones, offering insights into how they can elevate your landscaping projects.

Flagstone: Timeless Beauty and Versatility

stratford landscaping hardscaping flagstone patioFlagstone, characterized by its relatively flat, irregular-shaped slabs, is a timeless choice for adding elegance and functionality to your landscape design. This type of natural stone is available in various colors, including earthy browns, grays, and blues, offering a wide range of options to suit your aesthetic preferences.

Pathways
Flagstone can be used to create visually appealing and durable pathways throughout your garden or yard. By arranging these flat stones in a natural or geometric pattern, you can achieve a unique and inviting path.

Patios
Transforming a bland outdoor area into a captivating patio is effortless with flagstone. Its natural texture and color variations provide a rustic charm, while its durability makes it an excellent choice for outdoor living spaces like patios.

Stepping Stones
Create a whimsical and enchanting garden by strategically placing flagstone stepping stones amidst lush greenery. These irregularly shaped stones add character and functionality, guiding visitors through your landscape while preserving its natural beauty.

Armour Stone: Majestic and Enduring

Hardscaping - walkway with stepping stones and armour stone retaining wallArmour stone is a heavyweight natural stone renowned for its strength and durability. These large, rugged stones bring a sense of grandeur to any landscape and are commonly used for creating retaining walls, borders, and eye-catching focal points.

Retaining Walls
Armour stones are ideal for building sturdy and visually striking retaining walls. Their substantial size and weight provide stability while adding a touch of natural beauty to your landscape. These walls help prevent soil erosion, level uneven terrain, and create distinct planting areas.

Garden Edging
Utilize armour stone to define garden beds, pathways, or driveways. The imposing presence of these stones adds an element of sophistication and serves as a functional barrier, protecting your plantings and preventing soil displacement.

Water Features
Incorporating armour stones into water features, such as cascading waterfalls or natural-looking ponds, can create a captivating oasis in your garden. The rough texture and natural colors of these stones enhance the visual appeal of your water feature, evoking a serene and peaceful atmosphere.

River Rock: Serene Simplicity and Versatile Charm

Pondless stream using natural river rock by A Touch of Dutch LandscapingRiver rock, also known as river stones or pebbles, is a smooth natural stone typically found in riverbeds. Its unique rounded shape and earthy, soothing colors make it an excellent choice for enhancing various aspects of your landscape.

Ground Cover
Use river rock as a ground cover to create a low-maintenance and visually appealing landscape. Its smooth texture and uniformity offer a soothing backdrop for vibrant plants and flowers while preventing weed growth.

Dry Creek Beds
Mimic the beauty of a meandering stream by incorporating river rock into a dry creek bed. This decorative feature adds visual interest and can be used in xeriscaping projects. But they can also be functional, directing rainwater from rain barrels, eavestroughs, or reservoirs into beds, improving drainage in areas prone to flooding.

Waterless Ponds
River rock can be arranged in a layered manner to resemble the bottom of a pond or lake. This creative landscaping idea provides a unique focal point, adding depth and texture to your outdoor space without the need for water.

Pondless Streams and Waterfalls
The soothing sights and sounds of gently flowing water can be achieved in your own backyard. To create a pondless stream or waterfall, river rock is assembled down a slope and recirculating water cascades down the rock into an underground reservoir, where it’s pumped back to the top of the water feature.

Landscaping with natural stone opens up a world of possibilities for creating a captivating outdoor space that harmonizes with nature. Its timeless beauty, versatility, and durability make natural stone an ideal choice for pathways, patios, retaining walls, and other landscaping elements.

Natural stone is a permeable option that can benefit the environment by preventing runoff or pooling standing water. With increasing frequency and amounts of rain, permeable solutions work by allowing water to pass through joints and filter it back into the ground alleviating pressure on rivers and storm sewers. Permeable options can also reduce heat by counteracting how they absorb and emit the sun’s heat over traditional paving.

Whether you prefer a formal garden or a rustic retreat, natural stone can be adapted to suit your style and preferences, breathing life into your outdoor oasis. Planning a landscaping upgrade? Visit our Project Gallery for ideas and inspiration. And if you’d prefer to have a professional design and/or installation, contact us.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting can have a dramatic impact on the overall look and feel of the areas around your home. Not only does it add visual appeal, but it also increases safety and security, allowing you to enjoy your garden and patio any time of day or night. Good lighting design can help you create a welcoming atmosphere that enhances the natural beauty of your landscape.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types and benefits of landscape lighting available and how to choose the right lighting for your specific needs. Whether you’re looking to highlight specific features or create ambiance, there are lighting types and strategies that can help you achieve your goals.

Store-Bought vs. Custom Landscape Lighting

Backyard lighting around pool gazebo pathways

There are myriad landscape lighting solutions available online and at major retail outlets these days. Many of them are solar-powered or battery-operated. Although these options are easy to install, they do have a few drawbacks:

  1. Low quality/intensity of light – This is especially true with the battery- and solar-powered lights. These can make a tree or structure look nice, but they’re generally not strong enough to adequately light walkways or outdoor living areas.
  2. Durability – With landscape lighting, you generally get what you pay for. If you want something quick and inexpensive, just be prepared to replace your lighting every year or two. If you’d prefer something that is going to last for years, you may want to invest in proper lighting and installation.
  3. Insufficient coverage – Because these retail lighting options are off the shelf, you may get a light set that doesn’t offer the exact length or number of lights you need for the area you want to illuminate. So, you must choose to either have a dark gap in the area covered or purchase an extra set to get the desired coverage.

The first step to creating a beautiful, illuminated landscape is to decide on the right type of lighting. There are many different types of lighting available, and your choice will depend largely on the look you’re trying to achieve. Some popular choices include accent lighting, path lights, floodlights, patio lighting, and water feature lighting.

Types of Lighting for Your Outdoor Areas

  1. illuminating backyard pathways with landscaping lightingPath Lighting: Path lighting is typically used to illuminate walkways, driveways, and other paths throughout your property. It can be used to create a subtle, welcoming ambiance or to guide visitors safely to your home.
  2. Accent Lighting: Accent lighting is used to highlight specific features of your landscaping, such as trees, shrubs, and statues. It can be used to create a dramatic effect by casting shadows and creating depth.
  3. Flood Lighting: Flood lighting is used to illuminate large areas, such as a backyard or a garden. It can be used to create a bright, welcoming ambiance or to highlight specific features of your landscaping.
  4. Deck and Patio Lighting: Deck and patio lighting can extend the use of outdoor living spaces by providing illumination for dining, entertaining, and other activities. It can also create a cozy atmosphere for nighttime relaxation.
  5. Water Feature Lighting: Water feature lighting can enhance the beauty of your pool, pond, or fountain by creating a stunning visual effect. It can also provide safety by illuminating potentially hazardous areas around the water feature.

Benefits of Landscape Lighting

  1. water feature landscape lighting ambient backyard lighting ornamental grassesSecurity – Landscape lighting can enhance security by illuminating entryways, driveways, and pathways. It can also deter potential intruders by illuminating dark areas around your property.
  2. Safety – Properly placed landscape lighting can prevent accidents by illuminating stairs, pathways, and uneven terrain.
  3. Aesthetic appeal – Landscape lighting can enhance the beauty of your property by highlighting architectural features, trees, and other landscaping elements.
  4. Functionality – Landscape lighting can extend the use of outdoor spaces by providing illumination for outdoor dining, entertaining, and other activities, as natural light begins to wane.
  5. Increased property value: Well-designed landscape lighting can add value to your property by enhancing its curb appeal and creating a more inviting atmosphere.

No matter which type of landscape lighting you choose, it’s important to make sure that the fixtures are properly installed and wired for safety. This will help ensure optimum performance and reduce energy consumption. Additionally, be sure to position your lights strategically so that they don’t create shadows or glare—this will also help keep your outdoor space safe and inviting.

By choosing the right type of landscape lighting for your home, you can transform your outdoor area into a beautiful oasis that provides security while enhancing its natural beauty both day and night. With careful consideration and expert installation techniques, you’ll be well on your way to creating a stunning outdoor space that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Improve drainage in your lawn and garden

Improve drainage in your lawn and garden

At one time or another, many homeowners will encounter issues with poor draining soil. This can lead to flooding of patios, gardens, and low-lying or high-traffic grassy areas.

Stratford and area, in particular, has predominantly clay-based soils, making drainage problematic from the outset.

But not to fear, there are various solutions – some simple, some more complex – to your drainage woes.

Improving drainage in garden flowerbed rototiller sandy soil

Improve Drainage

Gardens

Mix in compost or sand. These materials have larger particles than clay, so incorporating them into the soil will create space for drainage. Just ensure that you mix the added materials in well – ideally by rototilling – to prevent layers from forming.

Lawns

If water pools in one or more areas of your lawn, the best strategy is to add drain tile. It’s a bit laborious (and potentially something you’ll want to outsource), but will be effective in eliminating standing water from your yard.

Improving drainage in lawn with drain tile dig trench

Use a 4” perforated drain tile, either (with or without a sock) and lay it in an 8 to 10-inch deep and 12-inch wide trench in the ground. Backfill around tile with a sandy loam soil that will help facilitate drainage of excess water into the tile.

If possible, extend the tile to an area where the water can run off your property. If that’s not possible, create a 3’ x3’ x3’ pit filled with ¾ clear stone where the tile can drain into and the water can disperse into the lower soil levels.

The top 4 to 6 inches of the trench should be filled with good quality top soil to ensure some water is retained to nourish grass, preventing the lawn from drying out during dry periods.

Patios

Patio areas, especially older ones or those that were poorly constructed, may fall prey to standing water. This can make the patio unusable until the surface either drains by itself or is cleared with a broom or squeegee.

Improving drainage on patio standing water elevate patio

Standing water on stone surfaces can also lead to mossy growth, which is both slippery and unsightly. Prolonged pooling water can also negatively affect your home’s foundation and may even seep inside your basement.

The best solution to an ill-draining patio is to remove all stones and increase the level of the patio’s foundation by adding several inches of well-draining aggregate. In addition, it’s important to ensure that the patio has a slight slope away from the house, so that the water can drain freely and without risk of harming adjacent structures.

High-Traffic Areas

Some grassy areas serve as throughways (from the front to the back yard, for example). Many homeowners, especially owners of newer homes find that their side property lines shared with neighbours become tough to navigate due to standing water in wet conditions.

Improving drainage in high-traffic areas pea stone gravel pavers low maintenance walkway

With houses being built closer together these days, new home owners may also find that plants and grass grow unpredictably or inconsistently due to lack of sufficient sunlight. When you add that to the fact that side yards are generally not used or seen by many, it’s not surprising that many look to a low-maintenance option to address all of these issues at once.

The most common solution is the installation of perforated drain tile, keeping with the original slope/grade of the property (typically back-to-front). Once the drain tile is installed and the trench backfilled, the area is finished with a combination of river rock and slabs to achieve a result that is navigable, well-draining, nice-looking, and low-maintenance.

Work with Wet Conditions

Of course, instead of fighting standing water, and assuming the issue isn’t too pervasive, there is a way you can work with the situation.

Choose moisture-loving plants and trees

Add moisture tolerant perennials to wet areas cardinal flower lobelium cardinalisJust as some plants and trees flourish with more or less light than others, they all have varying tolerances of moisture. Choosing varieties that can tolerate slower-draining conditions will relieve you of what could otherwise be a ongoing battle. Ideally, you’ll still want to add some well-draining material to the soil to avoid plants having perpetually wet “feet”.

Some of these solutions are easier to implement on your own than others. If or when you reach the end of your capabilities and want the job done quickly and properly, give us a call. We regularly included drainage improvement measures in our landscaping projects and would be happy to help.

Choosing Materials for Your Patio Project

Choosing Materials for Your Patio Project

A patio is a quintessential part of a proper backyard and, more often than not these days, homeowners are opting for stone patios rather than poured concrete. This blog post aims to make choosing materials for your patio project easier.

But there are so many products available to choose from these days that selecting the right one(s) for your project might seem a bit daunting.

Below we’ve outlined some key considerations to help you get a result that looks great and lasts a long time.

Some things to consider when choosing materials for your patio project


Size and Intended Usage

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick retaining wall boarder neutral beige traditionalFlagstone is often one of the first products people think of when they start planning a patio. It’s beautiful and natural, coming in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colours. While it can be cut into geometric shapes, many like the rustic appearance of a patio created using various sizes that are pieced together to create a walkway and/or patio.

However, if you’re planning a larger patio – one that is going to have a lot of seating and see a lot of traffic, the naturally uneven surface of flagstone may be an issue.

Pavers with a smoother, more consistent surface will be easier to walk on, and keep patio furniture from wobbling back and forth. And if you’re planning a pool surround, not only do you want a safe traffic area, but one that doesn’t collect water in its nooks and crannies.

If you like the look of flagstone, but want a smoother surface, there are precast pavers designed to emulate flagstone that would work nicely.

Style

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick charcoal grey blue green brown square rectangle traditional modernAbove, we mentioned the rustic style, which is a subset of traditional and informal styles. The main styles to consider include traditional, modern, formal, and informal.

Traditional design is defined by curved lines and uses multiple colours. There tends to be more texture and detail in the stone choices.

Modern or Contemporary design emphasizes clean, straight lines, 90-degree angles, and ethereal colour choices with minimal variation.

Informal design tends to share traits with traditional design. The layout has a more natural, less structured flow, whereas formal design tends toward a more ordered, geometric appearance with repeated patterns.

When you’re selecting pavers for your patio project, you want to consider both your personal style as well as the style of your home. If your home’s design is more traditional, but you would like a more contemporary design for your patio, you might consider adding a bit of colour and texture to your patio that ties in with your home’s exterior coverings.

Colours

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick grey blue brown flagstone traditional modernThere have never been more colour options for engineered stone products than there are today. And even natural stone is available in a wide array of colours and shades.

Generally, we recommend working with your existing environment – your home’s exterior cladding, other structures, and existing hardscaping – when selecting a colour(s) for your patio.

And consider adding visual interest to your patio’s appearance by selecting a contrasting border or inlay products. The options really are endless.

Budget

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick red brick traditional designThe budget factor needn’t take the fun out of your material selection process. There are lots of great options at every price point. If your budget is limited, consider selecting a cost-effective product as your primary material and then splurging on something a bit more expensive for a border, inlay, stairs, or other accent.

You might also look for discontinued or older stock, as these products can tend to be priced to sell quickly. Just keep in mind that there may be limited quantities of your chosen materials, so double check with the retailer about total available product in square feet, and compare that to what you’ll need to complete your project.

Regardless of what type of patio you’re planning, you want to be sure you’re happy with the choices you make both short- and long-term. We work with clients to help them select the best options for their needs, resulting in a patio that they love to spend time on, year after year. Contact us today to get started.

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

With the current circumstances – stay-at-home orders and a crazy local housing market – many homeowners are opting to invest in their homes. Money that would otherwise be spent on travel, entertainment, consumer goods, etc. is directed instead to home improvement.

Done right, this can potentially increase a home’s value. However, the value of your home isn’t just about what you can get for it when you sell, but also the enjoyment you get out of it while you live there. So, let’s discuss a few ways to enhance both your quality of life and the monetary value of your home.

Curb Appeal

improve curb appeal to increase the value of your homeIf you search online for ways to increase a home’s value, one method that almost invariably tops the list is to increase your home’s curb appeal. After all, the front of your home provides the first impression for potential buyers, whether they’re passing by or viewing your home online.

Improving curb appeal doesn’t have to be complicated. The most important thing to do is keep things tidy by weeding, edging, and mulching your flowerbeds, pruning your trees and shrubs when appropriate, and aerating, fertilizing, and dethatching your lawn.

Minimal Maintenance

Low maintenance perennials with mulch and stone walkwayIf you’re looking to upgrade your home’s exterior – front, sides, or back – consider updates that will enhance livability, functionality, and practicality. Not only will this maximize your enjoyment, but when it comes time to sell, potential buyers will be able to see themselves relaxing in, rather than working on, the yard and gardens.

One way to add low-maintenance beauty to your landscape, is to include native varieties among the trees, shrubs and plants you choose. Native Ontario plant species are well-acclimated to our conditions, so require very little extra care over that which Mother Nature provides. Native species also attract native birds and smaller pollinators, which is an added bonus.

Hardscaping

Hardscaping stone patio and surrounding flowerbeds improve outdoor living area and add valueWalkways, patios, and retaining walls are gratifying additions to a home’s exterior. In keeping with the theme of minimal maintenance, though – a focus of almost every one of our customers – we recommend being mindful of the materials you use.

Wood decking has historically been inexpensive but does have a limited life span and also can require quite a bit of maintenance to keep it looking good and hazard-free. Poured smooth, brushed, or stamped concrete can make a great patio or walkway, but durability can be an issue and maintenance is required in the form of cleaning and sealing.

For optimal durability and ease of maintenance, precast or natural stone pavers are ideal. The range of colours, textures, and styles is virtually limitless and a stone patio or walkway can be straight/square or round/curvy, so you can be sure to find the right look to complement your home’s exterior.

And if you like the look of stone, smaller-sized decorative stone like river rock, lava rock, quartz, peastone, granite, and dolomite can be used in lieu of mulch in flowerbeds, in between large pavers in walkways and patios, and in and around water features.

Visual Impact

Visual impact adds value to your home lush gardens around poolPlants, trees, and shrubs can be used to camouflage imperfections, add privacy, and enhance the existing beauty around your home’s exterior and yard. For example, an exposed foundation can make a home appear old and unkempt. But, planting a balanced selection of plants and shrubs appropriate for the location’s sun exposure can add depth and colour, providing a welcome distraction from your foundation’s drab, grey expanse.

Exposure to winds or neighbouring properties can make backyard living less enjoyable than it should be. Planting a row of trees, shrubs, or ornamental grass can add shelter and/or privacy. Consider mixing shrubs or grasses with fence panels for increased visual interest.

Serenity

Water feature bubbling rock serene serenity peaceful atmosphereAdd unique atmosphere to your outdoor living areas, walkways, and/or front entrance with lighting and water. Ponds, streams, waterfalls, fountains, and bubbling rocks add an audio-visual element that has a universally relaxing effect. And including lighting along walkways, trees, water features, pools, and patios enhances outdoor safety and enjoyment after the sun goes down.

There are a multitude of ways to improve your landscaping for added quality of life and value. Starting with a plan can help you get focused and establish a budget. If you’re planning some upgrades this year, but don’t want to go it alone, we’re here to help. Drop us a note to let us know what your goals are and we’ll help you get there.