Hardscape refers to hard landscape materials in the built environment structures that are incorporated into a landscape. This can include paved areas, driveways, retaining walls, sleeper walls, stairs, walkways, and any other landscaping made up of hard wearing materials such as wood, stone, concrete etc. as opposed to softscape, the horticultural elements of a landscape.
From an urban planning perspective, hardscapes can include very large features, such as paved roads, driveways or fountains and even small pools. Most water features are hardscapes because they require a barrier to retain the water, instead of letting it drain into the surrounding soil.
Hardscaping allows the erection of man-made landscaping features that would otherwise be impossible due to soil erosion, some that compensate for large amounts of human traffic that would cause wear on bare earth or grass. For example, sheer vertical features are possible.
Without nearby bare soil, or natural drainage channels or culverts, hardscape with an impervious surface requires artificial methods of drainage or surface runoff to carry off the water that would normally be absorbed into the ground as groundwater and prevent premature wear to itself. Lack of capacity, or poorly planned or executed drainage or grading of the surface can cause problems after severe storms or heavy extended periods of rain fall, such as flooding, washout, mud flows, sink holes, accelerated erosion, wet rot to wood elements, drowning of plants trees and shrubs and even foundation problems to an adjacent home like cracking the foundation, basement flooding due to water infiltration, pest infiltration like ants and other insects entering through damaged areas.
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