How to Choose a Low-Maintenance Hardscape


At Julie Orr Design, we believe that outdoor spaces should be beautiful retreats, not burdens. With a focus on Silicon Valley’s unique climate, soils, and lifestyle, we’re here to guide you in creating a low-maintenance hardscape that simplifies your outdoor oasis. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide practical advice and expert insights to help you make informed choices.

Understanding Low-Maintenance Hardscapes

Understanding how to maintain your low-maintenance hardscapes is essential for ensuring that they look their best for years to come. While they require less upkeep, regular cleaning and maintenance are still necessary to prevent issues like staining, cracking, and discoloration. Proper care saves time and money by avoiding costly repairs or replacements. Well-maintained hardscapes enhance the overall beauty and functionality of your outdoor space, creating a relaxing oasis for you and your family.

Site Assessment and Design Integration

Site assessment and design integration are crucial when choosing low-maintenance hardscapes for your outdoor space. Conducting a site assessment is key to aligning hardscape choices with your climate and lifestyle. At Julie Orr Design, we educate and empower homeowners to select materials that thrive in their outdoor environment. Seamless integration of low-maintenance hardscapes into existing landscapes is essential for creating visually appealing outdoor spaces, with tips on scale, color, and architectural style to ensure a cohesive blend.

Material Selection

Low-maintenance hardscapes are a great choice for outdoor spaces, and they come in various materials. Here’s a list of materials suitable for low-maintenance hardscapes in order from highest price point to lowest:

  • Composite Decking: Composite decking is very low maintenance. “Wash and go” plastic mixed with wood by-products (sawdust) creates a finish that is nearly indestructible and lasts a lifetime. The bad news is that when it is removed, it does not compost well and will sit in the landfill.
  • Stone: Stones are naturally occurring and typically very durable when set over concrete with mortar joints. Be careful to avoid very porous stones, like some limestones, which can absorb oils and stains. When in doubt, add a sealant yearly to protect your investment.
  • Porcelain Tile: Porcelain tile is made to be a wash-and-go product, set over concrete with mortar joints. It comes in a myriad of choices, is beautiful, and is nearly indestructible—making it a top choice for designers!
  • Pavers: Simple installation over a base of rock and sand. Preferred over concrete due to their resistance to cracking, particularly crucial around trees. Available in a variety of shapes, colors, and patterns, allowing for creative designs. However, the polymeric joints erode over time, heavy rain, and cleaning, so regular maintenance is needed to top them off.
  • Concrete: Modern and beautiful, concrete is not intended for clients who notice variability in colors (modeling), cracking (hairline or otherwise), or who need color dependability (concrete will cure and look different than the samples). While concrete can and should be washed, it is porous and will absorb substances that land on it, such as rusty leaves, potted containers, or pet urine.

Maintenance Tips and Techniques

Hardscape refers to the non-living elements in an outdoor space, such as patios, walkways, and retaining walls. Proper maintenance is essential to preserve the functionality and aesthetics of hardscape features. Here are some maintenance tips and techniques for hardscapes:

  • Regular Cleaning: Regularly clean hardscape surfaces to remove dirt, debris, and stains. Use a broom, leaf blower, or pressure washer to keep them clean and free from buildup.
  • Weed Control: Prevent weed growth by regularly removing any weeds that emerge between cracks or joints in hardscape surfaces. Then add polymeric sand to the clean joints to prevent grow back.
  • Stain Removal: Address any stains or spills on hardscape surfaces promptly. Use appropriate cleaning solutions or techniques depending on the type of stain. For stubborn stains, consider seeking professional help.
  • Sealing: Apply a sealant to hardscape surfaces to protect them from moisture, stains, and UV damage. This helps extend their lifespan and maintain their appearance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application.
  • Inspections: Regularly inspect hardscapes for signs of damage, such as cracks, chips, or shifting. Address any issues promptly to prevent further deterioration and ensure the safety and longevity of the hardscape features.
By following these maintenance tips and techniques, you can keep your hardscapes in optimal condition, enhancing the overall appeal and functionality of your outdoor space.


In closing, we’ve summarized the key takeaways from our guide. If you’re looking to simplify your outdoor space and transform it into a low-maintenance oasis, we invite you to reach out to Julie Orr Design. Let’s work together to create an outdoor retreat you’ll cherish for years. Do you want to read more about what to do during which season (seasonal garden maintenance) you can read Mastering Seasonal Garden Maintenance: The Definitive Guide. Also if you’d like to hear more how to garden (specific garden maintenance tips), click here.  Schedule a consultation and stay connected with us through our website and social media for ongoing inspiration.