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What is Hard Landscaping and The Difference Between Hard vs Soft Landscaping?

What is Hard Landscaping and The Difference Between Hard vs Soft Landscaping?

Successful landscaping comprises a balance of all elements of design, not just the greenery. The structural elements of hard landscaping work together with soft landscaping to create our surroundings. Although hard landscaping tends to be overlooked, it is essential for managing land maintenance including drainage, security, erosion and light.

Besides its significant practical benefits, hardscaping also enhances the immediate environment. When installed and well-managed, it maintains the integrity of the natural environment and works in harmony with the soft landscape.  The experts at Axtell Surfacing & Groundworks help explain what hard landscaping is, how it is different from soft landscaping and how to plan the perfect hardscape.

What is Hard Landscaping?

Hard landscaping (also known as hardscaping) refers to the non-plant material in landscape design, such as driveways, steps, walkways, fencing, patios and drainage systems. This usually encompasses materials placed by human design that enhance or protect the immediate environment.

Hard landscaping involves constructing man-made features that would otherwise be subject to wear and erosion due to heavy use. For example, raised wooden walkways or stone paths make walking trails possible where there would otherwise be mud. Hardscaping also allows for the construction of vertical structures and impervious surfaces that require artificial drainage. For example, retaining walls can level out slopes, restrain soil and help with drainage. Groundworks can often be referred to as hard landscaping.

Materials Used for Hard Landscaping

The materials used in hard landscaping each come with specific advantages, and if chosen correctly they can significantly improve the value of your property.

Concrete, asphalt, glass, wood, brick, stone, metal and gravel are popular types of hardscaping materials. The vast range of materials used in hard landscaping is the key to their stunning visual impact. A wooden decked walkway lined with a rock-filled water channel on either side looks decorative while providing a practical drainage solution.

Some combinations of materials contrast well together for maximum aesthetic and functional impact. Paired with artificial turf, a concrete patio and matching paving is attractive and easy to maintain. This combination avoids the need for mowing, watering, fertilising and pesticides.

The Different Types of Materials Used for Hard Landscaping

Concrete is one of the most versatile and affordable materials for hardscaping projects. It is ideal for patios, paving, steps, driveways and fence posts. Patios and other concrete features don’t have to be dull grey since a simple concrete slab can be coloured, either by dry or liquid pigments or by staining a finished slab. Building concrete structures is also a popular method for preventing soil erosion around your home’s foundation.

Alternatively, stone and bricks are used for paving. Tiles are an attractive decorative feature for vertical and horizontal surfaces. Wood and bamboo are commonly used for fencing, seating, arbours and gazebos. Various types of metal, including corrosion-resistant steel and aluminium, are used for landscape edging of all heights.

Asphalt (more commonly known as tarmac) is a cost-effective and long-lasting material used for driveways. The cheapest type of driveway is made from gravel, a truly diverse material that looks good next to most architectural styles. Gravel comes in different sizes, textures and colours, including variations like charcoal granite, crushed stone and pea gravel. It is easy to install and maintain in everything from flower beds to ponds.

What is Soft Landscaping?

Soft landscaping (or softscaping) relates to the horticultural or living elements of the landscape, including vegetation and soil. The softscape comprises grass, trees, turf, flowers and shrubs, which are managed by activities such as planting, weeding, grading, digging, trimming and spraying. These fluid elements change with the seasons and add colour and texture to your garden.

What Are the Main Differences Between Hard vs Soft Landscaping?

If you’re trying to understand hard vs soft landscaping it’s easier to think of the former involving inanimate objects and the latter representing living things. There is some crossover; for example, the water in ponds is considered part of the soft landscape though the structure is constructed with hardscape materials. Most water features are classed as hardscapes as they require a barrier to retain the water, rather than letting it drain into the soil naturally. Stone, gravel and wood features are technically ‘hard’ materials but can have a soft and attractive effect.

In the modern world, issues such as climate change, overcrowding and busy lifestyles have caused landscape architects to reassess the hardscape. Landscapers are putting more effort into blending it with the natural environment to provide functional green spaces that relieve stress and contribute to better health. Landscaping requires a delicate balance between hardscaping and softscaping to avoid creating a bleak or sterile appearance. Equally, if a landscape solely relies on softscaping without some man-made features to add contrast, it risks looking messy and haphazard.

Why Planning is Essential to Hard Landscaping Projects

It’s important to plan your projects carefully because constructing as hard landscapes can be extremely labour intensive. Sometimes landscaping projects require heavy equipment, which can either be rented or contracted to hardscaping specialists.

There are certain limitations with some hard landscaping projects, including size restrictions. On some occasions, you may need planning permission for work such as driveways, sheds, fences and patios. It depends on the size and scale of the construction, but you should be aware that the rules occasionally change so it’s best to get advice from experts. Reputable landscape architects keep up to date on the regulations and will help you avoid any potential issues. Axtell Surfacing & Groundworks understand the current local regulations for hard landscaping in Guildford and the surrounding areas. Call us on 01483 203177 to speak to a member of the team for guidance on your hardscaping project.

Before installation of pavers, patios and steps you’ll need to compact and level the earth. When constructing a stone floor, make sure you have a few bags of sand available to keep the stonework level and act as a buffer. More sand is poured between the stones or bricks after construction to prevent them from moving. It’s important to consult specialists about your requirements so they can offer their expert advice

Trusted Hard Landscaping Contractors – Axtell Surfacing & Groundworks

At Axtell Surfacing & Groundworks, we understand the importance of getting the right balance of hardscape and softscape. We have over 20 years’ experience in hard landscaping and provide solutions that are both sustainable and cost-efficient. We provide hard landscaping in Guildford and the wider Surrey area using a range of materials and applications.

Our hard landscaping design and architecture services include garden landscaping, fencing, patios, paving and bespoke landscaping. Whether you’re planning a driveway or draining system, our competitively priced hardscaping is ideal for both big commercial jobs and small projects. We offer practical, long-lasting solutions that protect and add value to your property.

Explore our full range of commercial hard landscaping services and get a quote today. Alternatively, call us on 01483 203177 or contact us for a free site survey or to hire a paver.