What are Hardscapes?

If you’re embarking on your first landscaping project, there could be some terminology you aren’t totally familiar with. One term you may hear frequently but not be completely sure of is hardscapes. You’ll see that word pop up in landscape blogs, hear your contractor say it, and you’ll see it on our website when we say “Since 1947, RCP Block & Brick has been manufacturing and supplying the finest hardscape products and masonry supplies to Southern California contractors and homeowners.”

Well what does hardscape mean? And how does it differ from similar terms like landscape and softscape? Well landscape refers all of the elements of your yard. The hardscape aspects of a landscape project are all the non-living, “hard” materials in your yard. Hardscapes can be made from concrete, natural stone, and wood and include paver walkways, concrete driveways, fences, decks, concrete block walls, retaining walls, flagstone, and gravel ground cover. These things make up the bones of your landscape project and should be considered and planned before you move on to the softscapes, or the living aspects of your landscape project such as grass, plants, flowers and trees.

To learn more about the different hardscape products available at RCP and how they may fit into your next landscape project, check out some of our past articles:

Product Guide: Yard Design with Decorative Rock & Stone

The Benefits of Interlocking Concrete Pavers

The Original Keystone Wall Products

plans

Planning a Hardscape Project: Things to Consider

Planning for an upcoming outdoor home improvement project, whether a complete front and backyard remodel or just adding a little something to your existing yard, can be a daunting task. There are many factors to consider when in the planning stages of an outdoor project to make sure you stay on budget, the build goes smoothly, that you get what you want, and that you are following all applicable regulations and restrictions in your area.

Budget

Budget for Hardscape ProjectsIt’s important to have a budget set from the beginning. If your you’re working with a contractor, designer, or landscape architect having a budget will allow them to better help you through the design process by letting you know what you can and cannot afford. This can also help you narrow down your wish list. Want a built in barbecue and a fireplace but can only afford one or the other? This can help you figure out which feature you desire the most. Splurge on the item a feature that you will get the most use out of.

DIY or Hire a Contractor

There are plenty of outdoor projects that can realistically be undertaken yourself and there are plenty of resources to help you complete your own DIY project. However, don’t let yourself get in over your head. Take into consideration the size, scope, and difficulty of the features you want to install. Hiring a contractor will cost you more money but with the rHow to pick a contractoright contractor, your project will be completed in a timely manner and will be done right. Be sure to check the state license on any contractor your consider on hiring. CHECK CALIFORNIA STATE CONTRACTORS HERE. This project is going to bring your family enjoyment for years to come and can add considerable value to your home. It is best to make sure it is done properly to maximize that added value. Read the article “Picking the Right Contractor”

Size of the Project Area

It is important to carefully consider the size of your project area when coming up with a design. Having limited space may lead to limiting which features you can include in your design. If you have limited space and your priority is to have a patio space that can accommodate a large outdoor dining area for your large family, it would not be a good idea to cut into that space to put in a large bocce ball court that may not get as much use.

Maintenance and Repair

Your project isn’t complete when the installation is finished. With any outdoor project there will undoubtedly be some long-term maintenance to consider. This is an important thing to keep in mind when picking materials, paving options, plants, and many other aspects of the design. Do you want low maintenance landscaping? Then you probably don’t want to plant trees that require a lot of clean up like jacaranda trees. The long term issues of different paving option are important to consider as well. A concrete slab may be cheaper up front than concrete interlocking pavers but can cost you in the long run. Over time, concrete slabs will crack, requiring costly repairs to fix the unsightly cracks and re-staining to bring the faded color back to life. Read the article “The Benefits of Interlocking Concrete Pavers”

Water Usage

Decomposed Granite PathwayThe ongoing drought in California has forced us all to rethink how we use water. This is especially important when planning out a new landscape project. Selecting drought resistant native plants over water intensive plants and water-free ground cover over grass can save you a significant amount of money on your water bill while helping conserve a scarce resource for more important uses. Read the article: “Water Conservation with RCP Products”

Codes, Local Regulations, Permits, and HOA Requirements

It’s important to check for all permits, regulations, and zoning requirements with the building department of the municipality your project is located in. This is important to take care of beforehand because failure to obtain the proper permits or have the required inspections done before you install materials can result in your municipality requiring you to remove the already installed materials and starting over. This is another benefit of hiring a contractor. A professional residential landscape contractor will already be familiar with these regulations and can help navigate the permitting process. If you live in a neighborhood with a Home Owner’s Association it is important to check with their requirements as well. Failure to do so can result in fines levied by your HOA.

There is a lot to consider when starting a big outdoor project, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. RCP has plenty of resources to help homeowners get their next project start from contractor referrals, material estimating, photo galleries to inspire your own design and much more. Read the article: “Get Your Project Started Today!”

smith-residence

Why Update Your Yard?

So you have some extra money and plan to use it to make some upgrades around the house. Checking off every single item from your home improvement wish list at once probably isn’t possible so you must prioritize which projects get done first. Look no further than your yard. Upgrading the landscaping in your front and backyards is the perfect home improvement project. Let’s look at why.

Ugly HouseYour yard is just downright ugly. Let’s face it, if you have an older home and haven’t paid much attention to your yard or the previous owner neglected the yard it’s probably in pretty rough shape. Imagine pulling into your driveway everyday and instead of seeing old, dying grass, cracking concrete, and outdated hardscape features you were greeted by a bright green synthetic lawn, new planter boxes full of colorful native plants, and attractive interlocking paver walkways and driveway.

Increase home value

“Having good landscaping can add up to 28% to to overall  homes value.”

Upgrading that ugly front yard will also do wonders for your homes curb appeal. This can increase your home’s value. Landscape economist John Harris says that having good landscaping can add up to 28% to overall home value. And it doesn’t have to be limited to the curb appeal of your front yard. Adding unique hardscape features to your backyard, like an outdoor fireplace or fire pit or a built in barbecue can make your home desirable and bring some added value as well.

Adding those unique features can also make your house a favorite among your family and friends. If you’re someone who loves to entertain, an upgraded outdoor entertainment area is a must. Imagine spending warm summer days grilling and eating outside with your family or cozy-ing up around an outdoor fire pit on crisp fall evenings. Creating an entertainment area outside increases the usable space of your home without the big price tag of a room addition.

Enjoying Fire PitYou can even use a landscaping project to increase the usable space of your yard. If you have sloped yard, you can use retaining walls and terracing to create more space in your yard. This is space you can use to increase a patio that isn’t big enough to accommodate all the people you entertain or to add attractive flowerbeds or walkways.

The true benefit of upgrading your landscaping is creating a space that is uniquely yours that you can share with loved ones for years to come.

So now that you’re convinced it’s time to upgrade your yard, check out some things to consider when planning your project in the article, “Planning a Hardscape Project: Things to Consider”

Volunteers Sandbagging

The Rain is Coming… Get your Sand Bags Ready!

El Nino 2015As you may have heard, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecast, a stronger than normal El Nino weather pattern is developing that is expected to bring cooler, wetter weather to the Southern California area. How much rain we will receive this winter is still anybody’s guess, but if it is anything like the lesser 1997 El Nino, we can expect quite a bit of rain and flooding. That being said, now time to start preparing for potential flooding and erosion problems.

 

Flood Control Bags (Sand Bags)

The use of sand bags is a simple but effective way to prevent or reduce flood water damage. Properly filled and placed sandbags canSand Bags Protecting Door act as a barrier to divert moving water around, instead of through, buildings. Sandbags by themselves do not guarantee a water-tight seal, but are satisfactory for use in most situations. Sandbags can also be used successfully in conjunction with plastic sheeting to create a more water-tight barrier to hold back flowing or standing water.

Types of Bags

There are a couple types of bags that are commonly used in flood control and erosion control situations. Untreated burlap sacks are available at most local feed stores. The problem with these bags is that they can quickly deteriorate when exposed to the elements or filled with the wrong material. A better option are the pre-filled woven polypropylene bags which are designed to hold up to the elements (Water and UV resistance) and filled with the appropriate materials. RCP Block & Brick Flood Control bags are of the 100% woven Polypropylene variety and are each filled with approximately ½ cuft of concrete sand.

Sandbags are generally filled to around half of their capacity in order to prevent the bags from getting too heavy and also permit the bags to be stacked with a good seal.

Flood Control Bag Usage and Placement:

  • Remove any debris from the area where the bags are to be placed.
  • sandbag-placementPlace bags lengthwise and parallel to the direction of water flow, with the open end (if filled at site) or sewn end (if using pre-filled bags) facing against the water flow.
  • Line the bags up, placing each new bag atop the unfilled portion of the previous bag. This creates a good seal between the bags. Tamp into place to eliminate any voids and form a tight seal.
  • For multiple layers, stagger the joints similar to how a brick wall is constructed. With the center of the bags of the upper row positioned over the joints of the bottom row.
  • This basic stacking method can be used in an unsupported construction of 3 layers. For higher, unsupported construction, you should use the Pyramid Placement Method. If supported, as up against a building, you can continue to add layers.
  • sandbag-pyramdPyramid Placement Method is used to increase the height of sandbag protection in an unsupported construction scenario. This is accomplished by placing the sandbags to form a pyramid by alternating header courses (bags placed crosswise) and stretcher courses (bags placed lengthwise).
  • In instances where an additional barrier of water protection is needed, such as when protecting a structure from water entering, a layer of plastic sheeting such as Visqueen can be used behind the sand bags, tucking the bottom edge of plastic under the first row of bags.

Erosion Control Bags

In instances where soil erosion is a concern, the use of Erosion Control Bags may be needed. Erosion Control Bags are similar to Flood Control Bags in bag material, size, and weight; but differ in the material with which they are filled. Unlike the Flood Control Bags which are filled with concrete sand, the Erosion Control Bags from RCP Block & Brick are filled with 1/2cuft of 3/8” pea gravel.

The use of aggregate as opposed to sand brings a more permeable quality to the bags, allowing some water to move through the bags instead of diverting or holding back the majority of water flow. Although Erosion Control Bags will still divert water, these bags are designed to reduce soil erosion by both stabilizing the soil on which they are laid as well as reducing the strength of water-flow that may carry soil away.

 

For more information on available rain, flood, and erosion control products, please call an RCP Block & Brick location near you!

Decorative Rock Landscape Design

Product Guide: Yard Design with Decorative Rock & Stone

With the California drought continuing with no end in sight, RCP continues to promote water wise landscaping options as an alternative to high water usage grass landscaping. We’ve already covered rebates offered by state and local agencies to promote water wise landscaping and products that help cut water usage. The State Water Resources Control Board recently encouraged homeowners to let their lawns die as part of their greater plan to conserve water through mandatory water usage restrictions. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for ugly, dusty patches of brown dirt around your property. There are plenty of natural products available at RCP that reduce your water usage while maintaining an attractive landscaped yard.

Decomposed Granite

  • Decomposed Granite Pathway

    Decomposed Granite Pathway with Crushed Gravel Planter Areas

    What is it: Decomposed Granite, or DG as it’s commonly called, is a compactable material formed from the natural weathering and erosion of granitic rock. DG is typically of easily compactable rock particles 3/8” and smaller.

  • Benefits: DG is an ideal product for various projects because it is inexpensive, its permeability allows for good drainage, and is more stable than other natural ground cover materials such as gravel. DG can be used for garden pathways, rustic patios, or as a base for stepping stones, pavers, flagstone, and synthetic turf.
  • Maintenance: placing a weed blocking landscape fabric underneath the DG helps prevent weeds from growing popping while allowing water to still drain through into the soil below. Adding a pathway stabilizing liquid onto your compacted DG area can help prevent shifting of loose DG and the tracking of DG into the house on the bottoms of shoes. However, over time some DG will break down and shift with exposure to weather and foot traffic. This can be easily remedied by adding a little more DG and compacting it in these areas as needed.

Crushed Gravel

  • Decorative Crushed Gravel Landscape

    Decorative Crushed Gravel Landscpe Design

    What is it: Gravel is chunks of jagged, crushed up rock, usually crushed to sizes of 3/8” and 3/4” and comes in various colors.

  • Benefits: Crushed gravel provides good drainage, causes less dirt to be tracked into the house than with DG, and achieves a contemporary look. Multiple color options give you a variety of choices and the ability to mix different gravels to create unique designs. Gravel can be used to cover large areas of your yard, for smaller walkways, or to break up areas of plants.
  • Maintenance: Like with DG, laying down a weed taming fabric will help block weeds from appearing. Foot traffic can cause shifting and thinning of some areas but small quantities of replacement gravel will remedy this.

River Rock

  • River Rock Planter Area

    River Rock Planter Area.

    What is it: River rock is rounded and multicolored. RCP carries two types of river rock: smaller 1”-3” that is sold by the yard and larger sizes of 3”-12” sold by the pound.

  • Benefits: there are a variety of sizes and colors available to fit any project. River rocks can be used to create realistic dry river beds and are the perfect way to create an appealing border between paved and landscaped areas.
  • Maintenance: Weed taming fabric. Using a blower is a good way to remove debris such as fallen leaves and dirt.

Beach Pebble

  • Beach Pebble Landscape Design

    Beach Pebble Planter Border

    What is it: Beach pebbles are rounded, flat rocks. They range in size from 1/2” to 3” and come in a greyish-black color and a mixed color option. Beach pebbles are only available in bags and not by the yard some they can be an expensive option for larger applications

  • Advantages: Beach pebbles provide an elegant and sophisticated style and can be used for a variety of projects such as to topdress container plantings, to puddle around plants or boulders, pathways, or as borders around planters and paved areas.
  • Maintenance: Similar to river rocks, you can use weed taming fabric and a blower to keep the area clear of weeds and debris.

Flagstone & Slate

  • Flagstone Pathway

    Flagstone Pathway on Decomposed Granite with River Rock Accents

    What is it: Flagstone refers to large, irregular flat stones used to pave an area. Flagstone comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and textures and is sold by the pound.

  • Advantages: Flagstone is easy to install, low maintenance, and an affordable way to pave a patio or walkway. The variety of colors and types of stones like sandstone, quartzite, or slate means there is a flagstone to fit any project. You can use a variety of materials between the stones to achieve different looks such as gravel, river rocks and pebbles, DG, and moss.
  • Maintenance: Weed taming fabric. Debris can be removed from the area using a blower or broom. Using a stone sealer can protect the stone over time and enhance the natural color of the stone.
Waterwise Landscaping

Rebates for Removing Your Lawn?

Waterwise Landscaping

Waterwise Landscape: Artificial Turf, Natural Stone Dry Stream Bed, Landscape Wall, and Interlocking Pavers

It’s no secret that California is in the midst of one of its most severe droughts in history. Rainfall totals are reaching historic lows and reservoirs across the state are seeing dangerously low levels. With extreme droughts come government regulations and programs aimed at lowering water consumption by the general public. This includes voluntary and mandatory water use restrictions. Along with use restrictions, some water districts and municipalities offer rebate programs to incentivize customers to limit water usage by switching to high-efficiency, water smart appliances or irrigation systems. One rebate program being offered by many municipalities in Southern California can help with your long-desired outdoor home improvement project: the turf removal rebate program. Homeowners may receive up to $2.00 per square foot of water-intensive grass turf removed and replaced by water conserving landscaping options. This rebate program can be a fantastic way to help homeowners pay for their landscape projects but there are some restrictions and eligibility requirements to consider before starting your project.

Rebate Eligibility

The first and most important step is to visit www.socalwatersmart.com to familiarize yourself with the rebate process and to ensure your property and municipality is included in the turf removal rebate program.  The website even includes an estimator to give you an idea how much you will receive in your rebate. In order to qualify for the program the proposed project area must include grass that will be removed. Your completed project must not include live turf or “turf looking plants” but should include water-smart plants. Synthetic turf projects are eligible for the rebate unless specified in your area. Some areas or municipalities may have further requirements for eligibility. That’s why it is important to visit the above website before starting your project. Each approved property is eligible for only one turf removal rebate. So if you plan on doing your project in stages, it is better to it all at once in order to maximize your rebate.

Applying for the rebate is a two step process. It is important to follow these steps in order to qualify for and receive your rebate.

Step 1: Get Rebate Approval BEFORE You Start

It is important to remember that you must apply for and receive project start approval BEFORE beginning removal of any of your grass. Your rebate approval specifies a project square footage and reserves a rebate amount based on based on the measurements you provide on rebate application. You cannot add square footage of removal area to your rebate amount after you’ve been approved for a rebate so it is important to accurately measure and calculate your area before applying. To start the approval process, visit the SoCal Water Smart website and set up a log in account. Here you will find the application to fill out, which you will submit with five color photos of the removal area and a photo or copy of your most recent water bill. The website has a section that highlights the photo requirements and has examples of what your photos should include. http://socalwatersmart.com/index.php/qualifyingproducts/turfremoval#photoGuidelines

Once you complete and submit the application and necessary photos you will have to wait to receive an approval email before starting your project. This approval will arrive approximately two weeks after your application submission. Once you have received project approval you have 120 days to complete your project.

Step 2: Complete Rebate Application After Completion

Once you have completed your project within the 120 days, log in to your account on the SoCal Water Smart website to complete your rebate application. With your application you must submit five new color photos of your completed area and photo or copy of your most recent water bill. If your completed project includes synthetic turf you must also submit a photo or copy of your synthetic turf receipt. Once you submit your rebate application, you will receive an email with the results of your application review within four to five weeks.

Trilogy II Artificial Turf

Trilogy II Artificial Turf from RCP

It is important to visit the website to familiarize yourself with the program requirements, application process, photo requirements, and all other aspects of the rebate process.

Visit any of RCP’s six convenient locations for materials for your turf removal project like synthetic turf, decorative ground cover rocks, cobble stone, landscape boulders, tools and more.