Courtyards are a beautiful and refined addition to any residency, be it part of a grand front entryway, a backyard terrace or a stylish garden getaway. They add charm and refinement to your home and are easy additions to pair with other hardscape features, such as outdoor dining, retaining walls, planter pots and urns or garden benches — to name a few.
However, courtyards come with their own unique considerations, materials, design trends and tricks of the trade. Rather than seeing courtyards as simple plots of foot tiles or stones placed on the ground, hardscaping aficionados know stone or paver courtyards can transform the look and feel of an entire space.
Landscapes go from ordinary to elegant with a few square yards of these installations.
Courtyards tend to be paved from three primary materials: Stone, brick and pavers. Each one comes with its own subsequent price tag, durability and maintenance precautions.
- Stone: Installing stone courtyards may come with the highest price tag, depending on stone cut, treatment and sourcing. Yet stone’s durability and strength alone can make it worth the budget.
- Brick: Likewise, real brick hardscaped courtyards range in pricing and stability. While clay and concrete bricks alike come in multiple cuts and colors, they are prone to chipping. Brickwork is also vulnerable to cracks and surface damage from not only rain and the elements, but weeds and other foliage burrowing around their base. Prices for brick courtyards fluctuate, running as low as $5 per square foot to as high as $60 per square foot.
- Paver: Finally, installing paver courtyards takes elements of stone and brick. Since landscape pavers themselves can be made from either of these materials — and more — paver prices average between $3 and $20 per square foot of paver installation.
Tools for Installing Hardscaped Courtyard
Installing a hardscaped courtyard would be a difficult job without the following steps and tools:
- Layout and measuring: Industrial measuring tape, chalk or paint box, stakes and string, construction twine, carpenter’s square or speed square.
- Excavation: Shovel or sod cutter to clear the installation area, chalk, paint box and stakes and string to outline perimeter, trowels for detailed digging.
- Construction: Masonry saw or splitter, vibrating plate compactor, hand sledger, masonry or metal grinder, shovels, trowels, brooms, grading rake.
- General: Hand levels, rubber or stone mallet, hand sanders, concrete sand, mortar or a similar binding mix.
What to Know Before Installing a Courtyard
It’s easy to see the steps of installing a courtyard as merely clearing a little yard then placing some stones or pavers.
While that is indeed the gist of it, ensure you’re plotting, placing and landscaping your stone, brick or paver courtyard correctly from the get-go by planning the following details:
1) Location, location, location. Review the functional and aesthetic aspects of where you wish to lay your new courtyard. Consider the desired amount of privacy, sunlight and shade, and weather patterns like rainfall and wind. Also, consider that desired area’s soil type — soft and supple or clay-like and dense — alongside slopes, slants and potentially tricky dimensions. All this will affect the long-term condition of your chosen courtyard material.
2) Colors and patterns. The colors and patterns of your courtyard’s foundation will set the tone for the space. Are you looking for warm hues of sandstone, rustic blends with reds and russet browns, marble accents, earthy limestone tones, or classic monochromatic stones? Do you want solid matte or a pearly finish? Do you want a smooth or textured courtyard, with even-cut blocks or a stylishly arranged mix of shapes?
3) Complementary landscaping. Your courtyard will appear bare and dull without accent vegetation, potted flowers, shrubs and other decorative green elements.
4) Inviting lighting. Ensure your courtyard is cozy and well-lit day or night with an attractive suite of outdoor lighting.
5) Sound. Sound-reducing, refracting or even white-noise design features for backyard or garden courtyards can help make them private escape from the outside world. Place retaining walls, fencing, water features and vegetation strategically.
Hardscaped Courtyard Tips and Tricks
To maximize the lifespan and look of your courtyard installation — regardless of what material you used — make sure to follow these tips and tricks:
1) Order extra paving materials. It’s one of the time-tested tips in the industry — always order a few more square feet of pavers, bricks or stones than you initially estimate. That way, you’ll have plenty to spare in case your design takes a turn or materials arrive damaged.
2) Use a sealant. Sealants increase the durability of courtyard materials, protecting them from the elements and surrounding horticultural wear and tear.
3) Don’t be afraid to decorate. Use containers or hanging gardens, potted plants, water features and more to beautify the new feature.
4) Use a mix of built-in and portable furniture. Varied outdoor seating is not only pleasing on the eye but far more functional when you need to swap or change the use of the space.
CHAPTER 3: DECK AND PATIO HARDSCAPING