By Walt Steele
Imagine, for a minute, what sets one house on a street apart from the rest. During the day, conventional wisdom would suggest that a contrasting front door will give you a real “wow factor,” while at night, dramatic lighting can be used to play up the front of the house.
One opportunity for a landscaping professional would be to go more permanent than a coat of paint and setting out a few exterior lights.
Choose instead to install a walkway — or walkways — out front, made of genuine clay pavers.
Laura Schwind, a registered landscape architect on the staff of Pine Hall Brick Company, points out that today’s clay pavers come in a wide variety of colors beyond the classic reds. That means they can be incorporated easily into the landscape design.
“You can look at the trim color or at the roof color,” said Schwind. “Sometimes, people will go lighter to simulate concrete. Sometimes, they will match it to the roof, if they have a roof that lends itself to that. Sometimes, they will go with the traditional red colors, because that’s what they have seen most often. It really does depend on the person, on the homeowner more so than the designer.”
Schwind said that landscaping professionals should not be afraid to use their imaginations. To start, go big. Laying out a walkway that is, at minimum, four feet wide — wide enough for two people to pass — or even wider, will make a statement. Everybody else’s walkway on the block will look tiny by comparison.
“It makes even an economical house look like a million bucks,” said Schwind. “It adds so much to curb appeal — it makes it look richer and more impressive — it just makes your house a step up from all the neighbors.”
One of the biggest benefits is that the look will last. In clay pavers, the color goes all the way through and never fades. Leave it as it is, and the color will become a rich patina over time; clean it with a diluted solution of bleach and water and a nylon brush, and it will look identical to the day it was installed.
Clay pavers also have the advantage of being an example of green construction. They’re made out of clay and water, two of the most abundant building materials on the planet. Because today’s clay pavers are made to last virtually forever, they’re the definition of sustainability.
If you look at it as an entire walkway made up of individual pavers, it also has the benefit of never changing in appearance — unless you want it to. Should a tree root heave several pavers out of place, take out the pavers, set them to one side, dig down and cut the root out, then replace the pavers. That’s in sharp contrast to a concrete walkway, which will have to be dug up and replaced — or patched — to repair the damage.
And should you want to change its appearance entirely, you have the option of picking up all the pavers and moving them a few feet or farther away.
In terms of design, Schwind said that a straight-on walkway is an effective design for a formal Colonial house, while a curved walkway might be a better choice for a cottage or bungalow style.
Schwind also said that a common-sense, intentional approach works best for functionality. If there’s a driveway to one side or the other, consider installing one walkway from the street and a second one from the driveway, both ending at the front door.
“It really does make it more functional and you have more visual appeal, because it helps define the space,” said Schwind. “You could also build in an additional garden area in the front with two walkways as well.”
If the homeowner typically puts up Christmas lights in the front yard, beyond the sidewalk, think about installing a PVC pipe underneath the pavers, with irrigation boxes with lids tied in on each side at ground level, so that you can temporarily run outdoor extension cords underneath your sidewalk to power the lights. When it’s time to take down the decorations, the cords can be removed, the lids to the boxes closed and a bit of mulch thrown atop them.
Pine Hall Brick Company offers three main kinds of pavers: conventional, which are best installed in a crusher run and sand bed; thin pavers, which can be installed on top of an existing concrete sidewalk; and permeable pavers, which are installed over a bed of aggregates. For permeable pavers, Pine Hall Brick recommends 12 inches of aggregate for driveways and six inches for walkways, but it also recommends that a local civil engineer be consulted to ensure that the aggregate bed will be deep enough to provide enough drainage.
The first step in any installation is to figure out what kind of pavers you want and in what kind of pattern you want to set them. In terms of pavers, Pine Hall Brick Company has more than 50 different colors of pavers. Within that number, there are 27 different shades of red, eight browns and six each in burgundy, brown and tan. Some look brand new and some have been distressed during manufacture to look like they came from the 1700s.
The second step is to determine which pattern you want. A herringbone pattern is effective but will require a lot of cuts, as opposed to a classic running bond or basket weave. The third step? Find out and mark where your underground utilities are located.
Once you’re done, you can stand back and see how the walkways out front have added to the curb appeal. The next step? A clay paver patio out back would effectively add an outdoor room to the living space.
Walt Steele, is a recognized expert on clay pavers. He is paver business manager for Pine Hall Brick Company, America’s largest manufacturer of genuine clay pavers. The company has plants in Madison, NC and Fairmount, GA. Its corporate headquarters is at 2701 Shorefair Drive NW, Winston-Salem, NC 27105. For more information, Steele can be reached at 800-334-8689, via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and by fax at 336-725-3940, or visit www.PineHallBrick.com.