Create Backyard Escapes with Hardscapes

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After such a rainy spring, it felt good to soak up some sunshine and summerlike temps this week. The best part? No more Seattle jokes (we hope).

The warm weather inspires many of us to whip our overgrown backyards into shape.

But according to a report by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), homeowners want more than just a neatly trimmed square of turf in their backyard. Outdoor living spaces, specifically kitchens and entertainment areas, received a 94.5 percent popularity rating in the most recent ASLA survey.

Monroe (5)Demand for outdoor living spaces loaded with features and hardscape continues to grow in Northern Colorado. Hardscape is defined as the human-built surfaces and structures that form the solid backbone of your landscaping. These include walkways, stairs, fences, retaining walls, decks, patios, shade structures, garden borders, water features, fire features and more.


As builders, we’re not in the landscaping business, but we work with some of the best landscape architects in the region. There’s often project overlap during a remodel. We’ve installed many of the popular projects described in the detailed ASLA report, including outdoor kitchens, greenhouses and even a swimming pool.

Consider these tips when creating an outdoor living space and installing hardscape:

Create a Plan
Design a master plan for your entire property that includes landscaping and hardscaping, or consult with a professional to design a plan for you. If it’s not realistic to tackle all of your backyard projects at once, develop a plan that can be carried out in phases. Depending on the project, you may need to pull permits and call for utility line locates (and do so well in advance). Thorough preparation and planning reduces errors, which can save you a ton of time, energy and money.

Hardscape Before You Plant
Hardscaping projects usually involve construction and equipment, which can compact soil, tear up your lawn and damage plantings and irrigation systems. Whenever possible, install hardscape first before you plant.

Protect your Foundation
Proper drainage and soil grading is key. Downspouts should extend at least four feet from your exterior walls, and soil should be graded to slope away from the foundation. If you’re tempted to plant shrubs, grasses, flowers and trees next to your home, consult a landscaping professional to determine best practices and the implications of root systems. If your plan involves an unstable wall or slope, work with a structural engineer to identify and resolve issues.

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Consider Sun Exposure
Few people enjoy spending time on a patio that’s a scorching heat sink. The Colorado sun is intense, and our weather can change on a dime, so be sure to consider durable materials and protection from the elements when planning outdoor living areas, such as decks and patios.

Paver walkway with pergola accent

Guide Foot Traffic
Create well defined walkways that welcome guests to your front door, lead them to special features and invite them to explore gardens. Paths provide safe transitions between popular areas of your yard and they can set the mood, formal or informal, for your landscape.


Don’t forget to facilitate foot traffic flow between indoor and outdoor living spaces.

Oversized entries, such as folding glass-panel wall systems, French doors or pocket doors, make it easy to entertain and maximize both living spaces.

Outdoor fireplace and pergola
Take the Heat Outside

A natural gas fireplace or fire pit is the perfect anchor for a seating area, adding ambiance and warmth when the air turns chilly.

Outdoor living space fire pit


Grilling stations and outdoor kitchens allow you to cook full meals without heating up the house on hot summer days and nights.

Outdoor living spaces and hardscape provide year-round enjoyment and boost the value of your property. If you’re not sure where to start with an outdoor building project, contact a professional landscape architect or residential remodeler to help you design your backyard escape.


This content originally appeared in Dwight’s and Bryan’s June 2015 Building Solutions column, “How to plan your outdoor living space.”