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Looking to make your outdoor area more livable? Consider adding a hardscape feature to complement your plants and flowers. A decked-out backyard can give a big boost to your property's value, and hardscaping can be a central part of this. So what is hardscaping and how much should you budget to make it into a reality for your home? Read on.

What is hardscaping?

Your home’s outdoor spaces consist of hardscapes and softscapes.

“While softscapes are your plants and living elements, hardscaping encompasses the nonliving elements of landscaping—like a paver patio, stone wall, or a gazebo,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard, which makes residential and commercial products.

Hardscaping can increase the functionality of your outdoor space and can be designed to match your preferred style: traditional, modern, rustic, you name it.

“Using materials such as wood, stone, metal, and concrete, hardscapes can also add physical boundaries and dimension to your yard," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Types of hardscaping

An outdoor kitchen is an increasingly popular type of hardscaping.
Belgard

With a nearly endless list of hardscaping features available, we asked our experts to highlight some of the most popular projects among homeowners.

Many people prefer patios and decks since they can expand a home’s living space, Henriksen says. “Fire features such as fireplaces or fire pits are also among the most common trends in outdoor living as they offer a place to gather and socialize.”

“Garden walls, planting beds, large boulders, stone edging, accent stones, pillars or columns, seat walls, and stepping stones are examples of in-demand features,” says Al Ferrante, owner of Century Building Materials, in Lindenhurst, NY.

In fact, you may even have a hardscape on your property and not even know it! Ferrante says the concrete or stone steps around your doorway could be considered hardscape.

Water hardscape features

Homeowners also like water hardscape features because they offer several advantages.

“In addition to being aesthetically appealing, they are functional for masking traffic noises and for providing additional privacy to your own space,” says Raboine. The sound of running water is also relaxing for most folks.

Some examples of water hardscape features are “waterfalls, fountains, ponds, stream bed,” Ferrante says. These can range from a simple accent to an elaborate focal point.

“The combination of dry and water hardscapes in a yard can improve the livability and beauty, such as adding the classic pairing of a pool and patio,” Henriksen explains.

Hardscaping trends

Photo by Ro | Rockett Design

If you're looking to stay on the cutting edge of design—or are considering selling your home in the near future—consider these hot hardscaping trends.

  • Mix and match: “Mixing materials, textures, and colors in a well-designed space can create eye-popping focal points and designs,” say Raboine. For example, use a different color hardscape for your patio border. This helps define the space.
  • Sleek and modern: Modern, linear designs are increasing in popularity. “Porcelain pavers, for example, are ideal for a contemporary design and are incredibly durable, frost-resistant, skid-resistant, stain-resistant, and easy to clean,” Raboine says.
  • Multipurpose walls: Retaining walls can also be used as benches for seating. Or you can build raised planters or garden beds into the walls to grow herbs and vegetables.

Approximate costs

As with any type of home improvement project, costs vary depending on the size and complexity of the hardscaping, as well as the materials used.

As a general rule, Henricksen says, you can expect to pay $7 to $22 per square foot for hardscaping.

“For example, the installation of a 10-foot flagstone patio with a natural stone gas-burner fire feature will generally cost around $6,000,” she says.

Raboine estimates the following costs for other hardscaping projects:

  • Paving a patio: $900 to $1,000
  • Retaining wall: $3,000 to $8,000
  • Patio/eating area: $1,000 to $2,000
  • Fire pit: $300 to $1,500
  • Pool deck: $3,000 to $12,000
  • Outdoor kitchen: $4,000 to $20,000

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com.

By and photo credit: Realtor.com, Terri Williams

12 Genius Yard and Garden Maintenance Hacks to Simplify Your Summer

by Amy McLeod Group


Having a lush green yard as a retreat is fantastic. But maintaining a yard? Easier said than mowed. So the question then becomes: How can you enjoy your backyard oasis with the minimum of effort on pruning, weeding, and anxiously hovering over every blade of grass?

Look no further than "Home Hacks," our weekly series on simplifying all aspects of home life. Since yard maintenance may be looming large over you right about now, here are some smart shortcuts to make the coming warm-weather months way easier.

1. Get your garden tools in good shape

After months in cold, damp storage, your gardening tools can likely use a spring cleaning. To shine rusty tools without elbow grease, soak them in white vinegar for 24 hours, then scrub with steel wool. Keep tools from rusting again by storing them in a bucket of builder's sand. (It really works!)

2. Water less for longer

"Instead of frequently watering your grass lightly, water it only two times per week for longer periods of time," says Barbara Roueche, brand manager for lawn-care equipment manufacturer Troy-Bilt.

The reason: Not only will you save water, but this promotes deeper grass-root growth, thus enabling your lawn to better tolerate drought.


Take a cue from a good rainfall to determine how much water your grass needs. About 20 minutes, twice each week, should do the trick.

3. Use old newspaper and never pull weeds again

Weeds in your flowerbeds are a time-stealing eyesore (plus weeds steal moisture from flowers, causing them to wilt). Banish weeds for the entire summer with this simple trick.

"Pull all the weeds from your beds once, and then add a layer of newspaper beneath mulch," says Roueche.

Newspaper will block new weeds from taking root, as well as help retain moisture. It is also nontoxic and will eventually decompose into the soil.

4. Kill weeds with vinegar

You can also brew up an all-natural vinegar mixture to keep weeds away, says Roueche. Not only is this hack environmentally friendly, it's also a safe option for those with pets sniffing around the yard.

Pour 1 gallon of everyday white vinegar into a bucket and add 1 cup of table salt. Stir the solution until the salt dissolves. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap to help the mixture stick, and you've got a powerful weedkiller. Funnel it into a spray bottle and spray liberally on the weeds on a sunny day. Any weeds hit with this solution will die within several days.

5. Shine outdoor furniture

Clean stains on plastic outdoor furniture by rubbing marks with a dab of white toothpaste. Toothpaste's tiny granules gently clear stains that most other cleaners can't reach.

If you need to revive sun-faded colors on plastic furniture, polish with a small amount of petroleum jelly or mineral oil. Let the jelly or oil sit for an hour, then wipe it off for a refreshed shine.

6. Prevent pests with pantry items

"Instead of using harmful pesticides, repel critters by sprinkling coffee grounds or citrus peels in your garden," says Roueche.

Both are natural repellents for pests, because of their odor and acidity. Bonus: Coffee grounds also serve as a fertilizer and improve a soil's drainage, water retention, and aeration.

7. Protect your garden from animals and pets

Hate how animals (your own, or intruders) tend to munch on your garden's offerings before you can get a taste? Some plastic forks can fix that.

"Stick plastic forks point-side up around delicate plants," says Jennifer Harder, founder and CEO of Jennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers. Most animals will steer clear lest they hurt their delicate feet.

8. Keep your roses healthy with milk

Roses are susceptible to unsightly fungus, in the form of blotches on leaves. The answer is in your fridge. Take half a cup of milk and add it to a cup of water in a spray bottle.

"Then spray the watered-down milk onto your rose leaves to kill spotting fungus," says DIY expert and Liberty Mutual Insurance consultant Chip Wade.

9. Skip watering your plants

Always forgetting to water your plants? A hack using plastic water bottles can save you the trouble. Fill them with water, then use a needle or pin to poke a few holes in the cap. From there, half bury the water bottle upside down in the dirt near the plants you want to water. The holes in the cap allow for a slow trickle to keep plants hydrated for as long as a couple of weeks (depending on the size of your water bottle).

10. Mow easier

While most people mow back and forth across their lawn, turning around once they reach the sides, there is an easier way: Mow in a spiral shape, from the inside out. This reduces the amount of turning, which is tough to wrangle with a push mower and all but impossible with a ride-on mower. Here's more on how to mow a lawn.

11. Don't bother raking up lawn clippings

Hate raking up your lawn clippings? Leave them on your lawn instead. They'll help fertilize your lawn and keep it lush. Your best bet is to keep these clippings short enough that they won't clump on top of your grass, but rather fall to the earth below. A good rule of thumb to make this happen is the one-third rule: Snip just the top third of the blades of grass so they're small enough to fall through.

12. Make your lawnmower nonstick

A great way to keep cut grass from clogging up your lawnmower's cutting blades is to use cooking spray on the blades.

"This saves a lot of time on cleanup and maintenance, by keeping grass from sticking to the blades," says Harder.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 
Lisa Kaplan Gordon contributed to this post

5 Hot Hardscaping Trends Homeowners Should Try Right Now

by Amy McLeod Group


Whether you're putting your place on the market or just looking to give your crib some extra curb appeal, your property's exterior design deserves just as much attention as the interior.

But while you might've spent hours contemplating new window shutters, light fixtures, and foliage, there's a good chance one exterior improvement has fallen toward the bottom of your priority list: your hardscaping. After all, how much can you possibly change a pathway or sidewalk?

Well, a lot, apparently.

The truth is, hardscaping is one of the first—if not the first—things to consider when sprucing up your outdoor space. We're talking about the structures or materials that divide sections and provide places to walk and sit.

"Hardscaping should be the first component considered [because] it’s really the structure of the landscaping," explains Frederico Azevedo, founder and CEO of Unlimited Earth Care. "If hardscaping is left as an afterthought to the overall design, it will disrupt the flow of any property."

And, just like the plants you choose to grow in your backyard or the color you use to paint your front door, there are plenty of hardscaping trends that will help your property shine. Below are five expert-approved ways to improve your property’s walkways, sidewalks, and pathways.

1. Grass
Photo by Westover Landscape Design
 

Once upon a time, having grass sprout between your slabs of stone was considered sloppy and distasteful. Today, however, it's actually encouraged to integrate greenery into your hardscaping.

"Grass-jointed paving paths combine structured geometry, lush natural textures, and vibrant color," says landscape architect Janice Parker. "They provide an overlapping of formal and informal elements. Thoughtful stone selection, based on the architectural aesthetic of the home, ensures that the style works equally well for contemporary or traditional landscapes."

While a symmetrical and evenly spaced pathway will pair nicely with a manicured yard, it doesn't have to be perfect. Mixing different-sized and -shaped slabs will create the illusion of a naturally made pathway, which is also trending.

2. Crushed stone
Photo by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC 

Want to create a beautiful walkway but don't have the time for a big project? Consider using the ever-so-trendy crushed stone.

"It's loose, has lots of texture, and produces great sound when traversing," explains Michael McGown, senior landscape architect at KAA Design Group. "It speaks to casual informality, and lets the plantings define the path."

Not only does crushed stone look nice, it's also easy on your wallet andMother Nature. The total cost will vary based on the pathway, but a 50-pound bag of crushed stones can cost less than $40.

"It's very inexpensive, so replacing existing hardscape is probably within the means of a typical homeowner or home buyer," McGown says.

And it's eco-friendly: Crushed stones are more permeable than, say, a slab of concrete, so the water and grass underneath your pathway will still be watered and nourished, McGowan adds.

3. Reclaimed brick
Photo by The Design Build Co.

As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure—and the world of hardscaping is no exception. Specifically, McGowan says, reclaimed brick is having a moment.

"Reclaimed brick [has] color and texture," he explains. "It’s got a natural patina and looks authentic and timeless. [Bricks] blur the line between contemporary and traditional."

Don't get us wrong, we love a freshly paved sidewalk as much as the next person; however, there's something cozy and inviting about reclaimed materials.

4. Sustainable sidewalks
Hailshadow/iStock

Installing solar panels and planting trees are two obvious steps toward sustainability, but did you know you can apply the same eco-friendly ethos to your hardscaping?

“I’ve always been engaged in working sustainably, so seeing more options and materials coming forward in the past few years is really exciting,” Azevedo says. “Sustainable hardscaping materials are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate the ground.”

While Azevedo points to urbanite (aka repurposed concrete) and recycled granite as suitable alternatives, he encourages homeowners to think outside the cinder block.

“Crushed seashells, particularly mollusk shells, which have been a burden on landfills in recent years, make an excellent ground cover for paths, or as acidity-controlling mulch for flower beds,” he says.

5. Luxurious limestone
Photo by Hutker Architects 

All of the architectural greats feature limestone: the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and, now, your walkway. While crushed stone and brick are suitable materials for your hardscape, they give your property a very specific look and feel. Limestone, on the other hand, is versatile enough to be a blank canvas so you can let your yard's foliage take center stage.

It "can provide elegance to either" contemporary or traditional style, McGowan explains.

And unlike brick, which has a predetermined shape, you can cut limestone any way you'd like. So whether you want a straight sidewalk or something with more curve, this is one material that can get the job done.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Kelsey Mulvey

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Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.