What Is Hardscape and How Is It Used Throughout a Home?

Dina Cheney
Written by Dina Cheney
Updated January 26, 2022
A house with brick patio
Photo: pics721 / Adobe Stock


  • Hardscape includes the non-living elements of a landscape.

  • In general, hardscaping costs $300 to $30,000 or more.

  • Hire a landscaping service or landscape designer or DIY this project.

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Think about a piece of land and you’ll probably first reflect on its landscaping or the plants that grow on it. Yet, it’s the hardscaping—or the permanent, non-living elements of landscaping—that lend shape and structure to a property. Think retaining walls, walkways, patios, fences, decks, pergolas, water features, stairs, boulders, and more. Read on for the lowdown on hardscape, including its uses and how much it costs. 

How Is Hardscape Used?

Hardscape serves several important functions:

  • It makes properties more orderly and well-defined. In addition to dividing land into sections (like a field of wildflowers, an outdoor kitchen, and a bocce court), it guides people through outdoor spaces.

  • It highlights certain areas, such as raised garden beds or entertaining spaces.

  • It reduces maintenance. For instance, a patio is generally easier to take care of than a yard. Similarly, it can help resolve drainage issues. Case in point: if water pools on your lawn, you can install a creek bed, with water flowing into a buried pipe that drains away from your property.

  • It adds functionality, as with an outdoor kitchen, fire pit, or playground, bench, or covered patio.

  • It carries on a design scheme. So, if you have a European architecture-inspired home, you can add hardscape evoking French landscape design. Or, if your house features Japanese architecture, you can install a Zen rock garden. Try to tie in materials used in your home but avoid including too many since an excess can look haphazard.

How Should I Plan a Hardscape?

  • First, consider the positive defining features of your property. If your land includes aspects you’d like to play up, such as a pond or expanse of fir trees, put them in your hardscape plan.

  • Second, think about your property’s topography, including its grade. Remember that it’s easier to work with rather than against your land. The more you try to change the terrain (as with re-grading a slope), the more expensive hardscaping becomes.

  • Third, consider how you’d like to use your property. If you’ve been dreaming of a koi pond, pool, or pergola-covered patio inspired by your recent trip to Tuscany, include them in your plan. When mapping out your space, prioritize privacy and shade, say situating an entertaining space far from your property line.

  • Fourth, devise a budget. Hardscape can add up, so you might not be able to achieve everything on your wishlist. Prioritize elements and, if necessary, actualize them over time. 

Who Should I Hire for a Hardscape Plan?

A stone walkway in flower garden
Photo: ampols / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Enlist a local landscape designer or landscaping service near you or handle this project yourself. You can also come up with a rough design and then offload the project’s execution to your landscaper. 

What Does Hardscape Cost?

Hardscaping costs anywhere from $300 to $30,000 or more, depending on the scope of the work. The average cost is $5 to $25 per square foot, with landscapers charging $50 to $100 per hour (plus an additional $25 to $50 per crew member). Here’s an overview of various expenses:

  • Electrician: $50–$100 per hour (if installing an outdoor kitchen or lighting)

  • General Contractor: $15–$35 per square foot (for building decks or porches)

  • Firepit: $300–$1,400

  • Landscaping (for plantings): $1,300–$5,600

  • Permit: $250–$2,000 (You’ll generally need one for a new deck or outdoor kitchen or if you’ll be affecting 2,500 square feet of soil or changing soil grade by more than 24 inches.)

  • Play Set: $500–$5,000

  • Patios: $750–$7,200 for a 12-foot-by-12-foot area

  • Water feature: $850–$4,500

  • Walkways: $1,200–$2,900

  • Pergola: $2,500–$6,000

  • Demolition: $2,000–$10,000 or more (if you need to tear out old hardscape elements, like walkways)

  • Deck: $7,630, with a range of $30–$60 per square foot

  • Gazebo: $7,000–$10,000

  • Porch: $10,000–$30,000

  • Outdoor Kitchen: $22,200–$100,000 or more

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