Choosing the right materials for your project involves both practical and aesthetic considerations. You may be concerned about reducing maintenance, evoking a particular feeling, or disability access and ADA-compliance.
Simplicity is the key to success. Limit your choice of hardscaping materials to two, or at most, three different types. Use those materials over and over again in your design. Take cues from materials already present on the property, such as a stone foundation, brick steps, or granite ledge.
Bricks instantly age a garden, invoking the romance of the Mediterranean or the grandeur of Colonial America. Paving bricks are used to line borders and lay paths, as well as for patios and driveways.
Wall or face-brick is used to construct formal, uniform walls, steps, pillars, and landings. Because wall brick is mortared in place, correct mortar mix and installation are essential to withstand Massachusetts’ harsh winters without cracking. Proper foundation preparation can also add cost.
Brick is best used in sites that get at least some sunlight. If brick is laid in a completely shady spot, it can become moss-covered over time.
Interlocking Concrete Pavers
Pavers are hardwearing stones that last for years. Made of concrete, they are harder than brick. Pavers come in many sizes and colors to complement the style of your home. They are most often used for paths, patios, and driveways.
Concrete paving stones are durable and are not slippery when wet. Snowplows can easily remove snow without damaging the pavers. Advanced coating and coloring technologies protect premium pavers from weathering, but even classic paver styles can look like new with proper maintenance, cleaning, and sealing.
Permeable concrete pavers have all of the benefits of a standard paver, plus the environmental benefit of preventing run-off. Small offsets on the sides of the paving units create openings where water can reenter the ground. Set on a deep bed of gravel, a properly installed permeable paving system actually treats storm water runoff before it enters aquifers, protecting water supplies from pollution. Combined with a rainwater harvesting system, permeable pavers create more resilient landscapes and can earn points in 5 LEED green building categories.
Segmental Concrete Wall Stone
Segmental Wall Stone is made of dense concrete but made to look like natural stone. Wall stone comes in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, and is most often used for retaining walls, raised planting beds, and steps.
Steps, terraces, and retaining walls created from designer wall stone and pavers are beautiful elements of garden design. Landscapes are rarely level, and accenting the change in elevation makes the garden more interesting. Steps can make a slope more navigable, and should be wide enough that two people can walk side by side, usually four to five feet. Less used paths can be narrower, and impart a more secluded, secret feel to the garden.
Natural stonework gives the feeling that nature created your garden layout. The use of stone adds color, texture, and drama to the garden design, while providing a permanent structure for your paths, walls, and driveway.
Stonework also adds winter interest, a very desirable element in our cold climate. When the trees are bare and flowering plants have withered, the majesty of stonework stands as a testament to the year-round garden, forming beautiful sculptures in ice and snow.
Natural stones can be used on grassy lawn as stepping stones, or can be laid into gravel or peastone to make walking easier. Contrasting rocks and boulders add interest and entice the walker to travel a little farther down the garden path.
Types of Stone
Bluestone provides garden elegance with a distinctive blue-gray color. Bluestone creates a striking statement when laid as a patio, walk, or walls, and complements the colors of bricks and other stonework when used in combination. “Full-color” bluestone shows the material’s full variation, and may include tan, rust, and even lilac tones. “True blue” bluestone must be hand-selected, and is priced accordingly. Similar stones: sandstone, limestone, brownstone
Granite is the hardest stone available for landscape use and the most expensive choice. Many landscape elements can incorporate granite, including walls , steps, benches, bed edging, and decorative accent boulders. While many people imagine salt and pepper granite, the color can vary widely, allowing creative patterns and designs. Similar stones: Quartzite
Cobblestone describes roughly cut stone blocks, once widely used for street paving. Cobbles are rustic in nature, evoking an earlier time in history, and are perfectly suited to cottage style gardens and colonial homes, where they are often used as an edging material or a driveway apron.
Fieldstone generally has an older, less formal look. Obtained from nearby quarries, fieldstone is the quintessential New England look, used for centuries to border farmland and create rough stone walls. Large pieces of fieldstone make a lovely, natural looking path. Regional variations in fieldstone produce a variety of colors from gray to tans, with occasional accents of rose and yellow.
Peastone and crushed stone are informal paving choices that provide a wonderful, crunchy texture underfoot, adding sound to the pleasure of walking a garden path. Peastone is also frequently used in gravel rock gardens, or as natural edging around water features and garden sculptures, or as decorative accents.
Stonedust or decomposed granite is used primarily as a base material, but it can also be used as a low cost patio finish. Stonedust can be found in gray, red, and green colorations. Polymeric binders can be added to create a more durable and ADA-compliant surface.
|Brick (Clay Pavers)||Interlocking Concrete Pavers||Bluestone||Granite and Cobblestone||Dry Laid Fieldstone||Pea Stone or Stone Dust|
|Appearance||Attractive shades of red and brown. Limited shapes.||Wide selection of colors, shapes, and textures, including facsimiles of stone, wood, and brick.||Blue gray color gives a more formal appearance.||Rich and elegant look of classic New England.||Aged, irregularly shaped stones, often with a patina of moss.||Informal rustic look.|
|Cost||High. When set in sand bricks must be individually tapped into place by hand. Reclaimed brick adds installation cost.||Moderate. Pavers fit tightly together over a sand bed and compacted aggregate base.||High.||Moderate to high. Each unit must fit together by hand. Reclaimed cobbles add installation cost.||Moderate to High. Each stone must be selected and fit in place to create a uniform surface.||Low. No base required.|
|Performance||Moderate. May become slippery and mossy. Irregular surface difficult to plow and shovel.||High. Can be restored to original condition if damaged, without unsightly patching. Accommodates heavy loads. Allows easy snow removal.||Moderate. Easy to remove damaged pieces and reset new pieces. May become slippery. Reactive and prone to flaking.||Moderate. Can accommodate heavy loads. Easy to repair. Rough, irregular surface of cobbles may make walking and snow plowing difficult.||Moderate. Irregular surface difficult to plow and shovel. Preferable for areas where winter access is not required.||Low. Rutting likely to develop. Peastone must be replaced and releveled regularly.|
|Durability||Good. Salts can deteriorate some brick. Unaffected by oil and gas spills.||Excellent. Unaffected by oil and gas if sealed. Durable, dense pavers resist freeze-thaw, cracking and de-icing salts.||Good drainage and freeze-thaw resistance.||Excellent. Dense stones last indefinitely. Good drainage and freeze-thaw resistance.||Excellent. Dense stones last indefinitely. Good drainage and freeze-thaw resistance.||Poor. Stones resist freeze-thaw cycles and de-icing salts, but surface breaks down as small stones scatter.|
|Sustainability||Good. Clay is a natural material with low toxicity, and clay bricks are easily and commonly recycled or reused.||Excellent. Concrete has low toxicity, and pavers may be made of recycled materials. Permeable paving can mitigate urban heat island effect and play a valuable role in water management.||Good. Quarrying may have negative impact; preference for local & reclaimed sources.||Good. Quarrying may have negative impact; preference for local & reclaimed sources.||Excellent when sourced within 200 miles. Reclaimed, not quarried.||Excellent. Permeable, widely available locally, can be reused/recycled in some applications.|