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Most hardscape installation involves important advance planning - construction drawings should be studied thoroughly and tools and materials should be assembled prior to beginning the project. Local building codes may need to be consulted to determine the legality of the project; it's probably better to be up front with the authorities than possibly having to alter or even remove the project at a later date. Most hardscape installation involves a fair amount of expense for materials and considerable manual labor - the primary advice for the do it yourself installer is DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!
Interlocking concrete pavers provide a durable and beautiful alternative to concrete or asphalt for patios, walkways, driveways, fountains...even streets. Over 200 million square feet of pavers have been installed in North America, and the popularity of these materials is rising steadily. Numerous options exist for size, shape, color and texture. When installed correctly, the surface is flexible, withstanding loads from traffic, wear and weather. The joints between each paver are filled with sand; this enables loads to be transferred to adjacent units in a pattern similar to asphalt. The joints eliminate the cracking common to concrete surfaces. If problems underground require excavation, the pavers are simply removed and later replaced; no materials are wasted. Most paver installations allow air and moisture to penetrate, allowing for the health of plant roots. Pavers stand up well to snow removal processes and resist deicing salts better than conventional asphalt or concrete pavement.
Sloping sites can benefit from the construction of retaining walls to provide more level areas for planting and other uses; walls are one of the most popular and useful hardscape additions to the landscape. It's extremely important to understand the possibly catastrophic consequences of poor design or construction; the significant physical forces involved in holding back large quantities of soil require very thorough engineering and careful construction. The drawings and photo below show a wall built with interlocking concrete block, one of the best alternatives for a retaining wall; construction of other types of walls such as stone, timbers and railroad ties, share many of the underlying principles shown in the diagrams. The do it yourself installer will be wise to resolve any questions or concerns with the help of a qualified professional; you really don't want to do this project twice!