When you own a property, you want to be able to use the outdoor living spaces to their fullest. The last thing you want is for them to be difficult to traverse. But that’s exactly what can happen if you have steep slopes in your yard.
In some cases, these grade transitions can be dealt with by a professional analyzing the grade of the site and creating a landscape design that gradually transitions elevations from one area to another with sloped mulch beds, lawn areas, or even paver stone ramps (especially helpful for aging homeowners). However, there are some properties that will require a different approach.
Fortunately, landscape steps and walkways are a solution that can connect your outdoor living areas in a way that makes them comfortable and easy to navigate even with major grade fluctuations.
Landscape stairs and walkways are ultimately a very important aspect of your landscape and should not be an afterthought. While there are a lot of walkway companies in Lancaster and Reading, PA who might just put in a cookie-cutter path or set of stairs, finding a company that will take a thoughtful approach to the design of these features, and incorporate them in a way that they flow with the overall design of your space, will be key to completing the overall look of your beautiful outdoor living area.
Using Landscape Steps and Walkways to Enhance your Outdoor Living Space
Landscape steps obviously serve a valuable function of getting you from point A to point B. But they do more than that. Thoughtfully designed landscape steps and walkways can enhance your overall space by being the perfect finishing touch. These elements can go a long way in contributing to the aesthetics of the space.
Here are a few ideas and considerations to keep in mind as you think about adding them to your outdoor living areas.
Maintain the Natural Look of the Space
If you have a property that incorporates the use of boulders, natural stone, a lot of native plant material, or other “natural looks,” then you want to be sure to maintain that feel with the addition of any stairs or walkways you incorporate. Plopping a concrete walkway or set of stairs into your natural landscape is going to stick out like a sore thumb.
Sometimes natural stairways can have voids as the stones don’t fit together as precisely as man-made pavers. These voids can be backfilled with crushed stone or even some layers of topsoil with plants such as a fern stuck here or there for aesthetics. These are the kinds of details that can make a big difference in the finished product.
Good Design and Construction Matter
Even in natural landscapes, good design and construction are critical for your walkways and stairs. In this stepping stone pathway through plantings, for instance, the average walkway contractors in Reading or Lancaster, PA may have just laid these atop of the mulch.
But that would not have given the walkway the solid support it really needed to stay nice and level and it would have become vulnerable to shifting and settling and possibly becoming a trip hazard. Instead, this walkway has a solid base underneath supporting the entire path.
Incorporate Walkways Alongside Structures
A walkway within or alongside a masonry structure must keep with the look of the overall space. Again, a standard concrete walkway aside beautiful masonry work is going to deter from the overall look.
Walkways that intersect with masonry structures also provide aesthetic opportunities such as adding flagstone caps with stone risers for more of an architectural look.
Make it Comfortable to Traverse
How it feels to walk a pathway or set of stairs is, unfortunately, another afterthought with the average walkway contractor. But these are important details. Clustering several steps at a time so that it flows with one’s natural gait makes your outdoor stairways comfortable to traverse.
We’ve all been on awkward stairways in which the length in between steps was not well-thought-out. Simply put, it’s annoying, which is the last feeling you want people to have when experiencing your beautiful outdoor living area.
The width of walkways is also very important. As a general rule of thumb, a walkway should be wide enough for two people to walk side by side.That’s approximately 4 to 6 feet.
Of course, sometimes you only have so much space to work with. If you have a narrow walkway, some optical illusion can be utilized to make it appear wider by tapering it at the entrance.
Be Sure to Include Lighting
Lighting can be critical on your walkways and especially on your stairs in order to prevent them from being trip and fall hazards. This particular stairway which uses segmented concrete wall material that carries over from the rest of the patio area has lights shining downward on the steps to fully illuminate them.
Don’t Overdo a Curve
A gentle curve can add some appeal to your walkway, but don’t overdo it. If it’s made too curvy, your walkway can become frustrating to navigate and that detracts from its functionality. Curves should not be forced but rather should have a soft and natural flow to them.
A thoughtful design approach treats walkways like a “journey” to your destination. However, you don’t want that journey to take you far out of your way. You just want it to be as pleasant as possible getting from the starting to the ending point.
It All Must Come Together
Your property may require multiple walkways and landscape steps incorporated throughout the space and it will be important that it all comes together seamlessly. Functionally speaking, these features help connect your various areas like your patio, pool, pavilion, or your home’s entrance, so that you can easily get from one space to another. Aesthetically speaking, landscape steps and walkways can also make the space look connected and complete, making them an essential finishing touch.
Finding Walkway Contractors in Reading or Lancaster, PA, and Beyond
As mentioned, walkway companies in Reading and Lancaster, PA may just give you a standard, cookie-cutter walkway or set of steps. This might solve the functionality problem you have, but it will be aesthetically detrimental to your overall space. In fact, we have re-done builder’s grade walkways and stairs at homes that were filled with grandeur in everything about their design, including their gorgeous outdoor living areas, but had boring concrete walkways and stairs. These stand out in a bad way.
Whether your property need steps or can allow for more gradual grade transitions (like ramps for aging property owners), finding a landscape contractor who will properly shoot grades and elevations before even starting the design process is essential. This is something that a Registered Landscape Architect will explore with you before even beginning that process.
At Earth, Turf, & Wood, we have designed and built many landscape steps and walkways over the years, knowing full well that these are not an afterthought or a small detail, but that these features can really make or break a space. Walkways and steps make your space easily traversable, therefore making it more functional. But they are also the icing on the cake when it comes to aesthetic appeal. The last thing you want is a beautiful space plagued by ugly walkways and stairs.
Ultimately, your decision could be the difference between a beautiful, and truly complete space or one that doesn’t fully meet your needs. By choosing the right company who will treat your landscape steps and walkways as an important feature of your overall landscape design, you’ll be able to have an outdoor living space that you truly love.
If you want the perfect landscape steps or walkway to complete your comprehensive outdoor living area, and want to find out more about our walkway design services for your Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading, PA home, contact us for a free consultation. Then, sit back and relax knowing your outdoor living area will soon be truly complete.