Lyon Financial

How to Hardscape Your Backyard

hardscaping pergola

Unless your backyard pool is surrounded by palm trees, you are likely looking at a lot of bare branches. They may even be clad in snow.

However, because you can see more clearly what’s where and even notice spaces you’d like to highlight, this is a good time to think about some redesign solutions.

Besides your pool (which likely takes up the most space) and all your furniture, textiles, and umbrellas, you’ve got two categories of outdoor décor that will make a terrific impact: hardscape and softscape.

The Yin and Yang of Yards

These two methods both oppose and complement each other. “Softscape comprises the animate (living), horticultural elements of landscape design.” So, every flowering shrub or evergreen bush, every perennial and annual, and all types of grass are counted. As paint transforms a room with color, you already know the value which plants can bring to set the stage.

Hardscape is the other zone where you can get creative. Picture:

  • Graceful gazebos
  • Arbor-like pergolas
  • Fieldstone retaining walls
  • Landscape steps
  • Wooden decks
  • Flagstone paths
  • Tile patios
  • Ceramic fountains

Put these two aesthetic elements together, and you’ll add the “wow” factor to your outdoor space.

The perfect example of how hardscape and softscape complete each other is with a patio. According to The Spruce, “Most people also prefer to make their lives easier rather than harder when undertaking a project. And building a brick patio with rounded edges is more difficult than building one with straight edges, because you are working with a material (brick) that is rectangular. So you may have to make a choice between what looks better and what is easier to build.”

They call on “softscape to the rescue” to soften and beautify the straight edges of what could look like a boring patio. Planting low maintenance shrubbery to soften those straight lines is an inspired idea. For even lower maintenance with flexibility, border the patio with planters bursting with blooms. You can then always move them about the yard as you wish.

Defining Backyard Spaces


We like how hardscaping makes distinctions, like pathways. A fairly easy to DIY feature, they can define for example the trail from the pool to the patio while keeping your grass pristine. Flagstone is a wonderful option. They are easy enough to handle as they run 2 to 3 inches thick. Their irregular shapes allow you to “puzzle piece” them together in a variety of patterns. By using a sand set path (instead of mortar) you’ll be able to finesse the stones in place with assurance of their stability.

If flagstone is too rustic for your tastes, at least be certain that your choice is a natural one as opposed to a polished stone. Polished stonework is beautiful, but when it gets wet, it will be slippery. Not the ideal material for a pathway.

Landscape Steps

This is another idea that not only adds visual interest but offers a practical solution. If you have a pronounced slope in your yard, this feature is the perfect answer for integrating your deck that’s attached to the house with a down-the-slope construct like a gazebo. The odds are you will need heavy machinery to remove the soil for the deepest, most secure cut into the earth. You will also require a safe way to lift stone garden steps. They are thick and heavy. You may want to rely on a professional for this project, unless you have the time and the resources to take on the excavation and step placement.

As far as materials, poured concrete is a way to go, but ultimately you are going to see cracks over time – even with the most expert pour. It’s just concrete’s nature. You will get more versatility with stone. It is not only more durable; in the event something happens to one of them, it is easy enough to replace individual stones. Stone steps are also generally a more cost-effective option.

The other consideration is the tools you’ll require. If your project is more extensive in scope like this one, you may want to visit your local home center to see what kinds of tools can be rented. (It’s much cheaper to rent a backhoe than to buy one.) Besides, why invest in tools you’ll use once or twice and then need to find room to store them?

Gazebos and Pergolas

These structures will make a grand statement in your backyard. A gazebo will dress up the space and provide a function while the pergola will draw attention to a space by creating a focal point.

Gazebos create alfresco indoor space. They are no longer just white, gingerbread-looking buildings with a spire on top.

They can be customized to the hilt to include:

  • Wet bars
  • Fireplaces
  • Hammocks
  • Flat screen televisions
  • Ceiling fans
  • Speaker systems
  • Screens and doors to prevent insect intrusion
  • High-end flooring
  • Hot tubs

Little extras like wind chimes, lanterns, lush landscaping, and a firepit will surround the gazebo with light and splendor.

If you install all-weather windows, HVAC, and some window treatments, voila! You have a guest cottage on your grounds!

A pergola on the other hand can be a DIY venture or a custom showpiece. They can be outfitted with a canopy if you want refuge from the sun. Pergolas can frame another assembly like an outdoor bar or be tucked away in a shady niche accented with benches and a sparkling fountain. Their uses are endless. Wood or vinyl pergolas add architectural appeal to blend with your outdoor decor, from clean contemporary to more ornate, Mediterranean-inspired designs.

One Improvement at a Time

Besides loving and living in your Great Outdoors, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your open-air entertainment center. If you let it overwhelm you, it will.

Make your priority list, look at your numbers. If you decide to save money by doing some projects yourself, be certain you have the comfort level, the right tools, all the information you need, as well as any required permits.

Looking out your window and knowing you created something is gratifying indeed. Letting a professional do the work may cost more money, but is typically timesaving and a sure way to achieve safely assembled structures.

Providing pool and home improvement financing solutions since 1979, Lyon Financial loves backyard pools and all the nuances that make each one unique. We also love the difference we can make for your family by providing something that puts years of memories within reach. Call 877-754-5966 for more information about installing your corner of paradise.