What Is A Hardscape Anyway?

I’ve learned to explain this term as  soon as I start working with a homeowner.

In the landscape business we refer to “the hardscape” all the time, but to the everyday customer the term is pretty much unknown.

The simplest explanation is to describe the hardscape as “everything else in the landscape besides the plantings”.  And then logically we refer to the plantings as the softscape.

Knowing these 2 basic terms and their fundamental differences really helps with my discussions with the homeowner.

More accurately the term hardscape is referring to the construction type elements in the landscape.  These would be things you build and develop using natural and man-made materials.

In Terms Of Design, What Role Should The Hardscape Play?

I always talk about the importance of becoming familiar with the property during the design process.  The site’s characteristics play a critical role in your design’s direction – both in terms of style and “functional” design.

This renovation project demonstrates how an existing style of hardscape was not the best choice for this style home.

The Project

In this “before” photo you see a wood deck by the back door.

In addition to being a rather awkward space for any use, I felt it did not go with the classic Tudor style of the home. Long story, short – In the final renovation design the deck would be removed.

Also in the “before” picture are long timber steps leading down off the existing patio. Yes, they got you down from one level to the next, but they also didn’t seem in sync with the style of home.


In this “after” picture you see a more inviting and usable space. The wood deck is gone that clumsily occupied the space.

The new stone stoop and stairs off the back door bring you directly down onto the bluestone patio.

The stone curvilinear steps leading down to the lawn give a comfortable transition from one area to the next. One visitor commented the new work “just feels right“.

This should be the outcome when you spend enough design time becoming familiar with the house and property.

The hardscape style and materials work well with the Tudor home. Fifty years from now this look will still by appropriate and stylish.

Here’s the previous post for this project. And the next.

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