Landscapes have two main categories: the soft and hard zones. The soft zones are dirt, water and plant related, and the hard zones are rock, concrete and stone, as well as any structures or accessories added to make the area more functional. Landscaping steps and stones are very important elements in hard landscaping and can aid in creating beautiful paths, stairways, focal points, patterns, edging and retaining walls.
What They Do
Landscaping steps and stones serve multiple functions in a setting. They are decorative and functional, providing a beautiful path, wall or embankment, while also creating a foothold, keeping earth in place or holding back water or dirt as a retaining wall. Whether you use jagged, free-edge stones or straight-edged, man-made brick or stone, you can set shapes and patterns in the landscape to create focal points, utilize areas better and make formerly unusable places wonderful gardens or play areas.
The natural material landscaping rock comes from basalt, gneiss, granite, sandstone, limestone, marble and slate. These materials are usually very strong to allow for the creation of paths and walls. A few, such as sandstone, are weak. The weakness of sandstone is part of its attraction, and while rarely used for solid paths or walls, it works very well for crumbled rock paths or stone lining.
How to Pick Landscaping Stones or Steps
It is important to judge the type of job you need your steps or stone landscaping materials to do. Heavy marble or granite that is nearly impenetrable and unbreakable is great for walls and walks and comes in a wide variety of attractive colors, even pink. However, if you need small pieces, marble and granite are not as good choices because they do not break as easily. Sandstone and limestone, on the other hand, make wonderful rubble, as does gneiss. Be careful if you need stone to hold back water. Don't pick limestone or sandstone because they are very porous.
Natural or Man-Made
Landscaping steps and stones come in both natural and man-made cut shapes. The man-made shapes typically have straighter edges and smoother contours. They are useful for patterned layouts. Natural steps and stones are jagged and rough but add texture and ambiance to a path, wall or stairway. Natural stones arranged in pits in conjunction with risers make beautiful rock gardens for a focal point in a landscape as well.
There are two common methods of laying a stone landscape area: wet and dry. Dry is the most common. The ground is leveled and cleared and stone or steps are placed on the level ground and tamped in. This method works well for paths and other level areas. Wet installation is more common for retaining walls that have to hold up to pressure, or road and patio areas that must hold heavy equipment or structures. For wet installation, the ground is also leveled and cleared, but then cement is poured and the stone or steps set directly into the wet cement.