What’s The Difference Between Hardscaping and Softscaping?

Proper landscape design balances two essential elements that result in beautiful outdoor living spaces. These two essential elements are hardscaping and softscaping. So what’s the difference between these two parts of the landscaping equation? The simplest way to remember the difference is that hardscape and softscape elements complement each other, with hardscape serving hard functions and softscaping softening up the hard lines with soft natural plant and organic materials. Together, these elements create a balanced design that pleases the eye while delivering functionality for years to come.

Hardscaping helps owners get around their property and provides a firm footing for items like outdoor furniture, firepits, grills, and patio umbrellas. Concrete, paver stones, brick, and natural stone are all materials used in hardscaping projects. 

Softscaping is the soft natural plant materials, such as annual and perennial flowers, shrubbery, succulents, and trees. Basically, softscaping is the living stuff in a yard, and the hardscape isn’t.

One – How Are Retaining Walls Going To Be Designed?

Retaining walls need to be sturdy structures made of stone or brick because they are intended to hold back soil and plants. Retaining walls are sometimes used on hills and slopes to separate two elevation levels, such as upper and lower patios, and can help prevent soil erosion. Due to the physics involved, it’s best to hire hardscaping contractors that use 3D CAD computer software to design retaining walls. Signature Landscaping always designs retaining walls using 3D CAD, so you’re sure to enjoy a trouble-free ownership experience.

Two – Will Geogrid Reinforcement Be Used For Retaining Walls?

Signature Landscape uses geogrid reinforcement when building retaining walls over 4’ in height, and sometimes on shorter walls when it makes sense from an engineering or aesthetic standpoint. Geogrid locks into the face of the wall and is firmly planted in the slope behind it, leveraging the weight of the wall and backfill as anchors that stabilize the retaining wall as a whole.

Three – Does The Hardscape Contractor Use Geotextile Fabric?

Signature Landscape installs Geotextile fabric between the subsoil and base gravel to prevent intermixing for a more stable base over time. Geotextile fabric is also installed behind any vertical surfaces to prevent the washout of base gravel or sand from behind and under the retaining wall for greater longevity.

Four – What Drainage System Will Be Installed For Patios Or Retaining Walls?

Signature Landscape always ensures a minimum of 1% slope away from buildings and houses.  Sometimes, internal drainage may be necessary for raised patios or retaining walls to prevent water buildup behind the wall or erosion around it.  Drainage is a crucial factor that must be included in a quality 3D CAD hardscape design, which is why we always factor drainage into the design steps.

Five – How Much Base Material Will Be Used?

Signature Landscape uses a minimum of 6” of well-compacted base materials when building hardscape patios and walkways, and more for retaining walls based on their height.

Six – How Is The Paver Base Prepared For A Paver Project?

Ask how the contractor prepares the base for your paver project in Orange County. Signature Landscape begins every paver project with undisturbed, compacted soil that’s kept separate from the base materials using Geotextile fabric.

Seven – What Type Of Stone Base Is Used And How Is It Compacted?

Signature Landscape uses a granular stone base of 2A modified stone, and we compact the base layer as the base is being constructed at a minimum of every 2-3’ of base that’s being installed.

Eight – What Type Of Jointing Sand Will Be Used For Hardscaping?

Signature Landscape uses polymeric sand on joints when installing hardscaping. Polymeric sand helps prevent weeds from growing and ants from building hills in between the paver stones because it sets like a mortar, while remaining flexible enough to allow for temperature expansion.

Nine – Ask If A Permit Is Required For Your Hardscape Project 

Starting your hardscaping project in Orange County without a permit could have costly consequences, so be sure your contractor will take care of these details. Signature Landscaping always makes certain that the correct permits have been filed before work begins.

Ten – Ask About The Hardscape Contractor’s Insurance And Certifications

When you’re having hardscaping installed in Orange County, you definitely won’t want to risk being liable for damages or injuries that could happen on your property.  All good hardscapers will have coverage, so checking on this will reveal a lot about the contractor you’re considering. Always check that the hardscape contractor has insurance before signing a contract. 

Hardscaping is a craft that demands developing skills over time, along with specialized training that earns certifications. Seek out hardscaping contractors who are certified for the type of hardscaping project you’re looking to have done. There are two primary hardscaping certifications to look for, either ICPI or NCMA. These certifications will cover hardscape patios, walkways, and retaining walls.

Hire An Orange County Hardscaping Contractor With A Reliable Track Record

The Orange County hardscaping experts at Signature Landscaping take pride in crafting outdoor environments that pay exceptional attention to detail and beautiful designs that last year after year. 

Many of our crew members have been building beautiful hardscapes for more than 20 years, and some of our project managers have been with us for over 30 years. 

You can be certain that our hardscaping team will get the job done right every time. When quality work and services that wow are your main concern, Signature Landscape is the hardscaping contractor to call in Orange County.

Schedule Your Free Orange County Hardscaping Estimate Today

Signature Landscape’s design and installation hardscaping services feature only top-quality materials and world-class installation techniques. Orange County homeowners rave about our hardscaping designs in Southern California, including Laguna Beach, Lake Forest, and Yorba Linda, just read the reviews on our website and Yelp! For your free Orange County hardscaping quote, contact Signature Landscape today!


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