What Is A Hardscape Landscape And How Does It Add Curb Appeal?

Hardscape landscape involves creative, man-made designs for our outdoor space. Landscape design includes building retaining walls, adding foundations, and planting trees. When you add something to your outdoor space, you improve your yard and the curb appeal of your home.

what is hardscape

According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), in 2018, US households were gardening 77 percent more than ever before, and that number is increasing among younger homeowners.


Landscape design has broad applications. Contractors specialize in one type of landscaping. They will either choose hardscaping or softscaping. 

Within the two main categories are multiple sub-categories. 

What Is Hardscape Landscaping? 

According to Oxford hardscape is, “the man-made features used in landscape architecture, e.g. paths or walls, as contrasted with vegetation.” Hardscape is landscape that isn’t natural.  

When designing an outdoor space, minimize the hardscape project and maximize the garden look. Hardscape should be subordinate to the landscape.

Hardscaping is a form of landscaping. While adding vegetation to an outdoor living space is good, man-made structures are also beneficial. 

Raised garden beds or keyhole gardens are hardscape elements of outdoor design. However, they are much better for the environment because you can create an automatic composter to fertilize your  plants. 

Hardscape Vs Softscape

Harscape vs Softscape

Hardscaping and softscaping are easy to identify. They both offer curb appeal. Because hardscape is not natural, it’s not considered living. Softscape is the opposite and therefore natural and alive. 

Hardscape Landscaping

Here are the most common hardscaping features added to homes. 

Easy Hardscape Landscape Design

Here are a few landscape design projects to get you started.

  • Bridges and walkways are hardscaping examples.  Walkways and bridges are man made.
  • Fire Pits are effective hardscaping examples. They are great alternatives to fireplaces or grills.
  • Set Stones are considered hardscaping. Stones are natural but they’re not alive. If moss grows on the stone, the moss is softscaping. 
  • Arches over walkways are hardscape elements. You can add them to gardens or fences. They are a simple and versatile type of architecture that can be considered hardscaping even when vines grow on them. 

Hardscape Landscaping Designs

Deck for Hardscape Landscaping

The following hardscape elements require expert hands. If you’re a beginner, and only you would know, you might want to scale things down a bit. Acquire some experience beforehand and then see if you can tackle one of these projects.  

  • Retaining Wall will transform a backyard. Use repurposed materials like railroad ties for your retaining wall, 
  • Fountains are good DIY projects. There are thousands of fountains out there that are pre-made that can be bought online, in-store, or from a contractor. 
  • Patios are nice additions to your home or landscape if you have the space. 
  • Decks are large structures that extend from the home. Decks are very common over above-ground pools and offer an easy way to enter the pool
  • Swimming pools are considered a form of hardscaping. They are one of the most expensive types of landscaping. 
  • Outdoor kitchen projects are intense. There are many elements to work with and consider. Make sure you have a plan and budget in place before you begin.


Softscaping is less broad than hardscaping. Anything living is considered in the softscaping category. This includes any type of plant but lets us split that up into the three main categories. 

  • Trees are considered softscaping because they are living. But even trees that you plant yourself are softscaping.
  • Plants are living beings. They grow on walls or other types of hardscaping features, the plants themselves are still softscaping features. 
  • Hedges are softscaping because they are living. Build a retaining wall out of hedges alone and it would be softscaping whereas any other type of retaining wall is hardscaping. 
  • Berms are mounds of dirt that can be considered hardscaping but they are used to plant plants so after they are finished, they are considered hardscaping. So this is a hybrid of landscaping types. 

Hardscape Landscaping Design Ideas


If you want to learn how to be a hardscape designer, try one of these projects which can help you achieve a gorgeous yard. These projects take time to master but they can make a huge change in your landscape. 

Most of them have a simple version and a more advanced version. You just need to find out how complicated you want your project to be and how much of the project you want to be pre-made. 

Fire Pit

A fire pit is an easy addition that needs little more than a circle of stone to operate for hardscape. But there are many different types of fire pits you can create. You can build them out of brick, stone, concrete, or something else.

The cheapest type of fire pit that isn’t bought at a store involves digging down just enough for firewood to be placed. Then, a ring of stone or brick is buried slightly and raised above the ground to create the ring.



Fountains are easier to buy than build. However, you won’t get that unique fountain that merges with the hardscape landscape if you don’t build your own. 

A DIY fountain involves buying a fountain frame and building around it. You can bury it where you can reach to repair it then decorate the outside with garden figures, pitchers, and stone. 

Retaining Wall

There are different types of retaining walls you can build. These are something you can’t buy outright. Most retaining walls are a little shorter than a half-wall but the size can vary greatly as long as it isn’t a full wall.

Build a retaining wall out of stone, brick, concrete, or CMU blocks. Wood or durable repurposed material will work fine. 


Gazebos are small structures that allow you to enjoy outdoor spaces. Usually octagon-shaped, but you can one with any shape you desire. However, you may wind up building a pergola or pavilion instead.

A traditional octagon gazebo isn’t easy to build. When building one, don’t give it a concrete foundation. One option is to bury the pillars in concrete and don’t install a roof. You can have the frame without the shade and enjoy the space just the same.  


A patio is a home extension and man-made structure that offers protection from direct sunlight. Patios are popular because they can be poured in one day and are cheap compared to other outdoor structures.

Build a patio with concrete or gravel. Just be sure you order the right amount of gravel for your project so you don’t waste money. Gravel is more affordable.


A gravel or concrete driveway is built is the same fashion as a patio. Either material is fine. However, gravel is more versatile than concrete. It’s like the understanding mother to the strict father you always avoid.

The material is easier to repair. When tackling a hardscape project alone or with a team, start with gravel. If you hire a contractor, decide together which would be best. 

Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen involves heavy planning and construction. If you want to include a gas oven, you’ll need to hire a professional contractor. The same would is true if you wanted to add a sink or refrigerator. Plumbing, electricity, and gas connections should be handled by licensed professionals. 

Pool Deck

A pool deck is a man-made structure built alongside a pool. The structure can also surround the entire pool. Pool decks are made of wood, soft concrete, or with vinyl planks.

The surfaces are non-slippery and usually absorb water. The foundation of a pool deck.

Hardscape Landscaping With Your Vision

Hardscape pathway
Earthtones Hardscape LLC

While it’s easy to visualize a dream landscape, it’s difficult to see it come to fruition. Instead of embarrassing yourself in front of your wife and children, hire a professional contractor to help you plan and build your hardscape landscape. You don’t want to be “that guy” in your neighborhood. 

While softscaping projects are easy to start, they require maintenance to keep up and running. The opposite is true of hardscaping. In comparison, think of softscaping as a girl and hardscaping as a boy. 

After you finish your hardscaping project, don’t touch it. It may need to be cleaned, but outside of minimal repairs, you shouldn’t have to perform heavy maintenance. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What Is Tropiscaping?

An advanced form of hardscaping, tropiscaping is the art of turning a backyard space into a tropical setting. Already popular in Florida, tropiscape environments are small tropical settings featuring small waterfalls, fruit trees, and tropical gardens. Tropiscaping is ideal for those who want to recreate a tropical rainforest in their backyard.

What Is Waterscaping?

Those who want water elements in their backyard, waterscaping offers that and much more. The sounds of a small river or waterfall  are just two characteristics of waterscaping design. Lush fountainscapes, smooth river pebbles, and crystal clear natural water are popular waterscaping features. 

What Happens A Hardscape Project Disrupts Too Much Soil?

With hardscaping, you don’t want to overdo it. If you disrupt too much of your backyard soil, erosion issues will arise. Soil erosion will kill your plants and trees. If your soil is completely rotten, you’ll need to replace it before you can grow healthy plant life.

What Are Some Organic Ways To Keep Soil Healthy?

Earthworms are effective in maintaining healthy soil. Hydroseeding is another method that helps maintain a healthy backyard. It’s a combination of organic mulch and seed. 

Hardscape Landscape: Wrap Up

A hardscape landscape project adds curb appeal to your home. With landscape design, anything is possible. If you can imagine it, then it’s possible. 

Most hardscape materials are affordable. Before you begin a hardscape project, make sure you establish your property line. There’s nothing worse than building a project and only later to find out that half of it is on your neighbor’s property. 

You’ll need to be aware of how your hardscape project will affect the surrounding land. If water runoff will be an issue, find a different outdoor design to create. To prevent water issues, build a project that has water absorption features. This will prevent problems arising with your neighbors.