Walkways: they’re kind of a taken-for-granted aspect of most homes and businesses, aren’t they? Sure, we see them and use them daily, but we probably don’t pay much attention to them. This is unfortunate because paths are an affordable way to add some character and functionality to your outdoor space. Boring concrete (while very cost-effective) is a thing of the past!
Today’s post is all about walkways: why they’re valuable, the wide array of materials that can be used in their creation, pathway ideas, and much more!
Why Install a Walkway?
There are many good reasons to install or replace a walkway. As we mentioned above, they are a cost-effective way to spruce up your yard and increase curb appeal. The sky is the limit on design ideas and you would be surprised at how many different types of materials can be used to create them. That’s what makes walkways a unique way to create a central focal point in your back, side, or even front yard!
Speaking of looking amazing, a one-of-a-kind sidewalk or pathway adds curb appeal to your home. This also translates into an inexpensive way to add value to your home if you’re trying to sell.
Paths are also great for highlighting certain areas of your yard. You could have a meandering trail from one planted area to the next. They have a unique way of sectioning off areas of your landscaping while seamlessly tying them together.
At the very least, walkways are a functional feature from your house to garage, mailbox, pergola, etc. In the wintertime, they create a safe route to get to and from your driveway and mailbox. Plus, they are a lot easier to shovel! Year-round, pathways prevent repeated footsteps stamping down a dirty, muddy trail through your lawn.
Walkways also come in handy if you frequently have visitors. Guests will know right where you would like them to walk, creating a safe path for them and keeping your lawn in pristine condition.
Walkways can range from simple garden paths that blend in with the surroundings to elaborate, formal paths. Materials used to make them are just as numerous. In other words, there is a walkway for all budgets!
Looking for ideas for your own pathway project? Let’s take a look at the types of materials that are generally used to construct walkways.
Those lovely, natural stone walkways you see? Those are made from pavers. Put simply, they are paving stones. They generally come in stone, brick, and concrete.
When it comes to stone, you’ll see the term “flagstone” tossed around a lot in the pavers world. Flagstone includes limestone, fieldstone, bluestone, sandstone, and slate. Each has advantages and disadvantages. You can read about some of them on our “Selecting the Right Patio Stone” blog. With the wide range of these stones, you also get a lot of different colors to choose from. You could even use cobblestone to create that old world look.
Pavers can also come in a variety of sizes, from natural, organic shapes to uniform, geometric squares, rectangles, hexagons, and more.
You’re probably already aware that gravel can come in many sizes, ranging from the big pieces usually used in driveways to pea gravel. For a walkway, your best bet is medium-sized gravel. The pieces won’t be so large that they’re uncomfortable to walk on, but they also won’t be so small that you can easily slip on them.
Basalt, limestone, and sandstone are the most commonly used minerals in gravel. Some other examples include marble chips and river rock (which are perfect for a beautiful natural look).
Mulch has so many diverse uses, doesn’t it? Those uses don’t end at protecting plants!
If you’re looking for something natural and inexpensive, mulch is the way to go. The main materials used for mulch are wood chips, cocoa beans, and cypress bark. (Important note: DON’T use cocoa bean mulch if you have dogs!) As you can imagine, these also come in many color variations due to the natural colors of the trees they came from. Dyed mulch is also available for something a little different but not recommended unless dyed using organic materials.
Keep in mind you will occasionally have to renew your mulch as it breaks down over time. For more mulch tips, head over to our “All About Mulch” article when you’re finished here to learn more about the different types of mulch available for your project.
Step stones provide an easy and cost-effective way to create pathways, whether you’re going for a natural look or something more modern.
Stones used to create these paths are generally the same types of rocks you will find used for pavers: limestone, slate, quartzite, etc. If you’re feeling a little artistic, you could also use large natural rocks you’ve found or make your own decorative ones. These add a nice personal touch to your walkway.
Prevent step stones from sinking into the ground over time by placing a base of sand or small gravel under the stones. This will also help with leveling.
Speaking of sinkage and leveling, it is an excellent idea to install some sort of footer beneath any kind of path. This is especially important in boggy areas prone to drainage issues.
A footer, or base, is often a compressed layer of gravel, usually about 8 inches thick. Sand is also sometimes used. Basically, it’s a sturdy, but permeable, layer to keep your walkway from sinking and improve its durability. After all, you wouldn’t build a house without a foundation, right? The same goes for walkways.
For added strength, you can also purchase geocells or other grids made from recycled materials to use in your base. These come in varying sizes and they can help with erosion too!
Going for a traditional garden path type of look? These work great if you’re looking for something that blends in well with your low-maintenance landscaping and is equally low-maintenance. Plus, they’re budget-friendly and low-key.
Mulch and gravel are the cheapest materials and work well for these types of pathways. They are also the easiest to install. Meandering pathways with lots of curves are much easier to make with these materials. Plus, the nature of its design lends itself to an organic feel, which is why curving trails are perfect if you’re wanting a natural look. The major downside is that you will need to replace the material every few years since it is natural and breaks down over time.
Using stepping stones is also an easy way to create a natural, minimalist path through your outdoor space. If you’re the DIY type, they’re super easy to install yourself. Planted paths are also a nice touch for a natural-looking walkway with stepping stones.
For a more formal-looking pathway, go with traditional geometric-shaped pavers. For something in-between, use natural stone pavers. You can still shape these in a very obvious path, but their unique shapes lend to a more natural look as opposed to formal.
For something eye-catching, try a herringbone pattern with brick or concrete pavers. Include strategically placed patterned pavers to add some pizazz to your stone walkway. Don’t feel confined to using just one color. You could even use one or more colors as an accent to make your walkway stand out even more.
Need some visuals to get your own creative juices flowing? No matter what type of walkway you are thinking of creating, you’ll love the inspirational ideas below as much as we do!
Edging or no edging? That is the question. For the most part, edging isn’t necessary but does add a nice touch to your walkway. Paver pathways look nice with the right edging material to complement them. This is especially true if you’re going for a more formal or modern look.
However, there are a few instances where you really should use some type of edging. For loose materials, such as gravel and mulch, it’s pretty much a necessity to install some sort of border to keep it contained. Otherwise, you will be replacing your materials a lot sooner than you expected! Other than normal usage, edging will also prevent loose gravel and mulch from washing away in heavy rain.
You have several options when it comes to “trim” materials. Brick and stone usually create nice formal looks. Landscape timbers and concrete create a nice “in-between” look: Not too fancy and a little laid back. Finally, metal and plastic are inexpensive choices to keep gravel and wood chips in place.
Ready to Install Your Own Walkway?
Greenscape Geeks is a central Indiana landscape architecture and landscape design, construction, and lawn maintenance company, serving Indianapolis (including Meridian Kessler, Herron Morton, Williams Creek, and Irvington), Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, and Zionsville.
This blog post is by Alicia Owen