The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Find Your Path - Selecting Path Materials

Last week's article discussed path design. Paths and walkways can make the landscape user friendly, add interest to the landscape and complement the home's exterior. Many path materials are available and people can get quite creative depending on what they have available. Material selection depends on path use, budget and home architecture.

Concrete is a durable paving material. It creates a smooth level surface and is best for people using wheel chairs or walkers. Snow removal from concrete is easier than from mulch or stone. Concrete looks formal and is often reserved for the front public area of the landscape. Plastic concrete forms are available to make less formal "stone" walkways. Exposed aggregate is a surface treatment where pebbles are added to the top surface before final curing or the aggregate can be incorporated into the concrete mix. This technique is best done by a professional or do some practice areas first. If the aggregate is exposed too much than the pebbles tend to flake off. Pebbles should be exposed just enough to reveal the rocks but retain a smooth surface.

Bricks or concrete pavers have a wonderful formal but inviting look. They may be set in any number of patterns. Running bond requires less brick cutting than others. To keep bricks from shifting and spreading apart they should be installed onto a tamped crushed stone or sand base and include some permanent edging. With a little practice and good direction most people can install a brick path set in sand. Bricks set in mortar are best left to the professional. Use paving bricks with a rough surface, not house bricks. Bricks can become slick where moss grows and weeds can root in between the bricks.

Stone can lend an elegant look to the landscape. It can also be the most challenging to install and be the most expensive depending on the stone selected. Stone set apart with pebbles looks more informal and can reduce the cost. A good spacing between stepping stones is 24 to 26 inches from center of stone to center of stone. Stone thickness should be more than 2 inches. Small skinny stones tend to rock and move around with traffic. It's best to keep the path level. You may learn over time where to step but your guests will learn the hard way.

Wood mulch can make a pleasant inexpensive path in wooded areas or informal gardens. Generally large shredded mulch is used for paths. It doesn't break down as quickly and it tends to knit together. Big chip mulch can get kicked around into the grass. Mulch placed near a home entry way is easily tracked into the home. Wood mulch does need to be replenished after a year or so. Weeds can grow into the mulch even with weed barriers.

Self binding gravels contain varying particle sizes so they knit together better than clean pea gravel. It makes for easier walking and is less prone to being kicked out of the path.

Landscape Recycling Center at 1210 East University in Urbana 217-344-5323 has different mulches available as well as a product of recycled red granite fines that's good for pathways, driveways and patios. It compacts hard over time and will replicate concrete but allow excavation with a hand shovel if necessary. Rainfall, daily use and watering hardens the surface over time. Mechanical compaction or hand tamping can speed the hardening of the material. Granite fines can also be used between pavers. Red granite fines are very durable. If used in minimum depths of 4 inches for pathways to 8 inches for driveways it can last for decades with little to no necessary renovation.

As the famous internet saying goes "I don't mind going nowhere as long as it's an interesting path".

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