What Is The Cheapest Hardscape Material?

Looking for the cheapest hardscape material you can find to create your landscape design? Our tips will help you complete your hardscaping project on a budget.

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Looking for the cheapest hardscape material you can find to create your landscape design? Our tips will help you complete your hardscaping project on a budget.

Concrete is a very common material to use in hardscapes. It's also one of the cheapest. But it's not always the first choice when it comes to creating diversity and style within your landscape. There are many other materials you can use without breaking the bank, such as gravel, stones and bricks.

This article breaks down six different types of materials commonly used when hardscaping on a budget. You’ll learn what they are made of, how to use them and why people choose them for their hardscape projects.

I’m no authority on many of these materials, except for pavers and wood. But I have thoroughly researched the others to ensure that I bring you the most relevant information possible. However, when it comes to wood and concrete pavers, I’m speaking from experience.

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Some of the Cheapest Hardscape Material on the Market

Gardening and landscaping have become very popular in 2021. People all across the globe have a greater understanding of the benefits of outdoor spaces. If you’re thinking about transforming your yard into an oasis, you can definitely do it on a budget.

When designing your landscape, you must consider the costs of the softscapes, such as flowers, plants and other greenery. But your hardscape materials can be much more costly, depending on the plan.

Here are six of the cheapest hardscape materials commonly used to build patios, gazebos, arbors, water fountains and other landscape elements:

1. Bricks

When constructing patios and other hardscape elements, brick gives your yard a classic look. Although they don’t come with many choices when it comes to colors, they do provide diversity. You can arrange bricks in numerous different patterns to create a look that’s all your own.

Bricks will run you about $14-$20 per square foot. However, you can cut costs by purchasing reclaimed bricks. They are actually eco-friendly, which helps the environment. The material is quite absorbent, so they provide good drainage and allow water to quickly pass through them.

This hardscape material can be long-lasting because it doesn’t erode or wear away easily. However, freezing temperatures can cause them to crack or break. But the cool thing about using bricks to construct your hardscape is that you can replace them individually if that ever happens or the color starts to fade on a few of them.

There are some disadvantages to using bricks for hardscapes:

  • Rough Surface – Mortar doesn’t sit well on brick surfaces so your surface may not be smooth
  • Hard to Clean – Moss can appear on the bricks which can be difficult to remove without a scrub brush and bleach
  • Tough Work – Constructing hardscape elements using bricks is not necessarily a good DIY project for beginners

2. Concrete

Concrete is another inexpensive material for building hardscapes. Pricing ranges from $6-$13 per square foot. Because it’s so simple to shape poured concrete, it allows you to create unique designs and shapes. It’s very sturdy and strong, so the material lasts for years.

However, because it’s porous, concrete tends to expand when freezing temperatures hit, causing it to crack. But this can be avoided by painting it with a sealant so it doesn’t soak up water. You’ll have to repeat this every two or three years.

For a more dramatic look, choose stamped concrete. It comes in a variety of textures and colors. There are even some that look much like natural stones. Stamped concrete can also be used to create unique shapes, designs and patterns.

3. Concrete Pavers

Natural stone courtyards are not only charming, but they’re versatile. Depending on your own personal style, they can be chic or rustic. Pavers are very sturdy and cost about $14-$20 per square foot. But they are well worth it to create amazing-looking pathways and other hardscapes.

They are processed stones that come in a variety of textures, colors and shapes. Some even look just like bricks, cobblestone or other natural stones. Plus, they are simple to install, making them great materials for a DIY hardscape construction project.

Pavers are constructed using various types of materials, such as clay, recycled plastic and concrete. The cool thing about them is that if one gets destroyed, you can simply replace just that one without redoing the entire thing.  

Personally, I’m in the process of designing a walkway that leads from our curb to our front porch. I’ve already laid cardboard down throughout the area to kill the grass and suppress the weeds. This weekend, we’ll tackle the backbreaking task of lugging all the pavers home to create a stunning pathway to add to our home’s curb appeal.

4. Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is another of the cheapest hardscape material to use, which ranges from about $6-$10 per square foot. This material consists of earth-toned, flat, loose stones that are about the size of a pea. They help give your landscape a quaint look like no other.

This gravel makes the perfect DIY hardscaping project because they are simply gravel pieces, meaning there’s nothing to install. Simply drop the stones where you want them, then stand back and admire the view. Pea gravel can last a lifetime if cared for correctly.

Although pea gravel can give your yard a soft, unique look, there are some disadvantages to using it as part of your hardscape:

  • Unleveled – Because they are stones, they aren’t leveled, so it’s not the best surface for patio furniture
  • Messy – Over time, the gravel tends to get scattered around from wind and human error, making a bit of a mess in your yard
  • Weeds – Yes, weeds can start to grow under the stones, so be sure to put down layers of cardboard in the area before dropping the pea gravel

5. Stones

Although a bit more expensive than the others on this list, stones are still a cheap choice for creating hardscapes. The cost is about $14-$28 per square foot because each individual stone must be extracted so the lot of them can be shaped together in the style you want.

Some of the most common stone materials used in landscapes include:

  • Bluestone
  • Flagstone
  • Limestone
  • Slate

Stone requires very little maintenance and can last for many years. Just keep it weeded and swept and you’re good to go. For tough stains, scrub the service with bleach and water for a good, deep cleaning.

This material is hard to break or destroy and it doesn’t erode with time. However, if a couple of your stones do get broken, you can replace them separately instead of replacing an entire walkway or other structure. If you’re planning a DIY hardscape project, keep in mind that stones can be very bulky, heavy and hard to install if you don’t have experience.

6. Wood

Wood is my all-time favorite choice of materials for hardscaping. It gives the yard the natural feel of being in the woods while bringing out your landscape’s natural beauty. The material provides a warm feeling while bringing a little softness to your yard. Plus, it blends in very well with softscapes.

The costs of wood vary greatly, depending on the type you choose. Here are some of the common types of wood used to create hardscape designs:

  • Cedar – This softwood is a native of the West Coast. So, not only is cedar commonly used there, but it’s also pretty cheap there because the supply beats the demand. One drawback is that it tends to show dings, wear and tear.
  • Douglas Fir – Although redwood and ipe are simply magnificent looking, Douglas fir can be just as alluring, but at a cheaper price. Use preservatives to treat it to prevent mold, rot and termites.
  • Ipe – This hardwood is absolutely beautiful and looks a lot like teak. However, it’s much less costly. Ipe is long-lasting and easy to maintain.
  • Pine – This is a softwood that may warp if the planks are not cured first for several months. Treat pine with preservatives to prevent termites and other wood-eating bugs from chowing down on it and to prevent rapid deterioration.
  • Redwood – This hardwood lasts a long time and won’t split or warp. Redwood needs to be treated or its orange-like color will start to fade and eventually turn to a silvery gray.

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