Table of Contents
What is Hardscape?
Hardscape refers to the man-made, non-living elements of a yard. Hardscape includes patios, pergolas, fences, retaining walls, wood or stone arches, sidewalks, stone paths, and gazebos. Some types of hardscape are used to contain water or plants. For example, flower beds, large above ground pots, fountains, waterfalls, and statue fountains are also considered hardscape.
Why is it Necessary to Have Hardscape Around a Pool?
No matter what type of pool you have, hardscape is necessary for safety around the pool, the longevity of the pool, and the overall aesthetics of the backyard. It is very rare to see a pool set directly into the ground with grass all around it. Even if a yard is otherwise very grassy, there is always a square of stone or concrete around the pool. There are 4 reasons why it is important to have hardscape around your pool:
1. It protects the pool from the yard
Concrete or stone around an inground pool creates a barrier between it and the softscape. If your pool had grass immediately next to it, your pool would end up being filled with grass and dirt. Without the hardscape barrier, the dirt and foliage from the yard could be washed into the pool when it rains. This can damage the filter in the long term, make the pool too dirty to use, and cause plants to grow inside the pool.
Fences and retaining walls can also protect your pool. Fences will help prevent debris and trash from blowing into your pool on windy days. If your backyard is sloped and your pool is at the lowest point, you should add a retaining wall. Overtime, it is possible for rain and snow to cause erosion; this will cause the earth on the sloped part of your yard to collapse inward. A retaining wall can keep the earth in place and prevent dirt from getting into the pool.
2. Hardscape give the pool structure
In addition to the square of stone or concrete around the pool, many families choose to have more concrete or stone placed around the pool to create a poolside recreation area. The additional concrete can give your pool structure and protect against cracks or inground leaks. A larger barrier of concrete around a pool can also protect it from tree roots, which may damage the foundation of the pool over time.
3. Stone is for safety
Having a hardscape recreation area around the pool can also protect your family. Natural stone, stamped concrete, and pavers are quick drying and slip resistant, so children can run and play around the pool without falling.
Most families put in enough hardscape to support a supervision area with beach chairs and umbrellas. This will enable parents to keep a close eye on their children while they play in the pool.
4. Rocks and gravel will extend the life of an above ground pool
When you have an above ground pool installed, gravel and a ring of rocks should also be installed around it. It may be tempting to surround your pool with mulch and grass, but this will damage your pool long term. When excess water and moisture get into the underside of a pool, it can damage the pool’s structure and cause vital components to oxidize.
Hardscape materials like gravel and rocks are best for an above ground pool because they will not hold moisture. In fact, creating a small gravel slope can whisk moisture away from the pool to prevent it from being damaged.
Materials like gravel, river jacks, brown landscape stones, and pure red landscape stones are best for above ground pools. Avoiding using limestone near your pool because it can corrode the metal liner over time.
What Are the Best Materials to Have Around a Pool?
When you have hardscape installed around a pool, you essentially have 3 options for materials: stamped concrete, pavers, and natural stone. Some families want a large hardscaped area around their pool for activities, while others only want a small border of stone. Regardless of the amount of hardscape, your family will want to choose a durable, low maintenance, and cost effective material to surround and protect your pool.
Stamped Concrete: The Most Affordable Option
Stamped concrete is exactly what it sounds like: after the concrete is poured, it is textured to mimic the appearance of pavers, natural stones, and other hardscape options. Because concrete is relatively cheap, this is the most affordable option for covering a large area. It is easy to make concrete look like another type of stone, so stamped concrete is the best for families who want that luxury landscaping without the huge price tag.
Stamped concrete is a popular poolside choice because it is textured enough to give families traction whether they are in sandals or barefoot. Concrete will also absorb heat well, which can be a blessing on cold days and a curse on hot ones.
There are some downsides to stamped concrete. All concrete can form cracks over time. When it is put in, the installer will create joints and cuts in the material in an effort to control where the cracks happen. This may prevent obvious cracks, but your concrete will still crack and require additional maintenance.
Depending on the type of pool, your concrete may need to have a sealer applied to it every 2-3 years to protect it from the pool chemicals.
Concrete Pavers: Long-Lasting with Easy Repairs
Concrete pavers are square tiles made from concrete that can be colored and textured to mimic other types of stone. Compared to poured concrete, pavers are a little more pricey. However, they are durable, long-lasting, and very easy to customize to match your backyard.
Because pavers are not a monolithic structure, rather separate sections, they are less likely to crack than poured concrete. This makes them able to survive the seasons without showing damage. It is possible for pavers to chip if exposed to freezing temperatures and great force. Even if a chip occurs, the color in pavers goes beyond the surface so chips will not be as visible as they would in stamped concrete.
Compared to stamped concrete, pavers have a few major advantages:
- They do not retain as much heat, so they will be cooler in the summer months.
- Pavers have high resistance to algae and moss growth, even in highly moist environments.
- Pavers are very easy to repair if they are damaged. Simply remove the damaged square and replace it. This is much easier than repairing poured concrete.
Natural Stone: The Best Hardscape Option for Pools
Natural stone is the best and most expensive option for pools. It is a big investment, but natural stone adds elegant beauty to your backyard. Because stone is not man-made, it is far more durable than either paved or stamped concrete, no matter how harsh the climate.
When you choose natural stone for your pool, you will get your money’s worth because it is slip resistant, safe, low maintenance, and will increase the value of your home.
Some of the most popular choices of stone for pools are:
- Limestone comes in pink, gray, brown, and blue and can be cut into any shape.
- Flagstone can be smooth, uniform, or non-uniformed in texture. It is highly resistant to water and works well in natural landscapes.
- Slate is easy to install and can be cut into any shape, depending on the aesthetics of your backyard.
- Travertine can be ivory, gold, or brown. It is resistant to heat and absorbs water, which makes it non-slip and ideal for pools.
- Marble is popular as indoor flooring but can also be used around pools. Sandblasting marble and leaving it unpolished will make it slip resistant. Marble is easy to clean and remains cool during hot summers.
- Sandstone is slip-resistant but may need to be sealed to protect against the salt content in pool water.
- Shell Stones can be white, beige, pinkish, walnut, or brown. Fragments of shells in the stone give it a unique texture and a beachy appearance.
Is Wood or Brick Suitable for Pools?
Wood is a suitable and popular material for decks, aches, fences, pergolas, and treehouses. It is not, however, suitable for hardscaping around a pool.
Even when wood is sealed, it does not come close to the level of water resistance of stone. Repeated exposure to water, especially chlorinated pool water, will cause the wood to rot and become unsafe. Sealed wood can be very slippery, especially when wet, and leaving the wood unsealed is not an option because children may get splinters in their feet. The only way to make wood slip resistant is to finish it with an aggregate to give it more grip.
Wood is also an expensive option compared to poured concrete or pavers. While the up front cost of wood may be less, the yearly maintenance will add up. Between sealing it and replacing rotted beams, wood decks around a pool will be more costly in the long run than a concrete or stone option.
Brick is another hardscape material that is great for other structures but is not ideal for pools. The main problem with brick is that it does not absorb water, so it is very slippery when wet. Brick will also grow moss and algae, so it will require a lot of cleaning.
Hardscape Ideas Around Pools for Families
When it comes to customizing your backyard and pool, the sky's the limit! If your family wants a large amount of hardscape around the pool, you could consider adding a concrete area with a basketball hoop, a poolside gazebo for shade, or an inground fire pit near the pool. Areas for outdoor amenities will give your kids lots of ways to play and will give you ample space for hosting dinner parties and get-togethers.
Whether you choose a gazebo, a pergola, or a removable awning, it is recommended that you incorporate some shade when you consider hardscape ideas around pools. In the summer months, having a shady place to sit will make it more enjoyable to supervise the kids in the pool.
If you want more softscape than hardscape in your yard, there are still ways to integrate the two seamlessly. If your landscaper has leftover pavers from the pool, you could have them make walkways by placing the pavers in the grass. Having a walkway, no matter how minimalistic, will save your grass from the wear and tear of people crossing it.
You could also consider utilizing hardscape in the form of planter boxes, retaining walls, and fences to support your oasis vision for your pool. Large, stone planter boxes can be used to organize your flowers and keep spreading plants contained. They can also be staggered to boost some plants and lower others, resulting in a surrounding feel.
Fences can also be beneficial for protecting and accessorizing your pool. When you grow flowering ivy over a fence, it will add a touch of paradise to the pool area.
Luxurious Hardscape Ideas for Pools
If you want to make your pool luxurious and adult-friendly, consider adding a poolside bar. Pool designers have recently jumped on the resort trend and popularize adding swim up bars to home pools. HGTV recently highlighted several beautiful pool designs, including one with a raised pool and a stone bar. This design allows guests to swim up to the bar on the pool side and enjoy a drink with guests who can sit on bar stools on the dry side of the bar.
Fountains and waterfalls can also be incorporated into a backyard pool for a luxury resort experience. Whether your tastes are more Greco-Roman, classic, minimalistic, or modern, water feature hardscape can elevate your pool.