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How to Create a Water-Smart Hardscape Design for Your West Michigan Property

Do you ever look at your patio and wonder why there are puddles everywhere? No matter how much you try to prevent it, water ends up on your driveway or walkways after a rainstorm or watering. Despite all your effort, water never seems to go to the right place—your lawn and your plants! How are you supposed to keep your lawn healthy and your water bill low?

Improving your hardscaping is a key aspect of taking care of your lawn and landscape. When you have pooling water on your patio and sidewalks, it can cause your yard to suffer too. There are a few easy things you can do to your hardscape design to keep it water-smart! That means your yard will get the exact amount of water it needs, no matter how dry or wet the weather or efficient your sprinkler system. In this blog, we’ll cover a few changes you can make to your hardscaping to help you save time, money, and hassle for your lawncare. 

What is a Water-Smart Hardscape Design?

Water-smart hardscaping is a design for your patios, sidewalks, and other hard surfaces that accounts for the flow of water through a property, whether that’s from rainfall, irrigation, or other watering systems. When your property is water-smart, it conserves water where desired, distributes it where it’s needed, and prevents dangerous flooding or contamination.

While it sounds fancy, making your yard water-smart usually involves simple adjustments to your hardscape—and having a landscape plan that works seamlessly along with it. At Torchwood Landscaping, we help our customers not only create a beautiful outdoor landscape, but also a functional hardscape that families love and trust. We offer several water-smart options for both landscaping and hardscaping needs.

Why is a Water-Smart Hardscape Important in West Michigan?

There are lots of reasons to create a water-smart hardscape and landscape, especially in West Michigan. 

  • It can reduce water bills from the cost of sprinklers and irrigation. When water is in the right place, you won’t overwater your plants or grass—or get water and puddles on your sidewalks and patios! Water-smart hardscaping can also help you recycle and harvest rainwater. 
  • It keeps plants hydrated in dry summers. Proper drainage from your hardscape design can direct water to the landscaping that needs it most even in dry spells. 
  • It keeps water from pooling and causing damage to your plants and home. Water-smart landscaping and hardscaping can prevent floods on your lawn or cracks in your foundation or hardscaping.


How to Create a Water-Smart Hardscape Design

Creating a functional, beautiful, and safe yard doesn’t have to cost your family hours of DIY projects or even break the bank. Here are a few of our recommendations for small changes you can make to create a water-smart hardscape, along with other considerations for your yard and landscaping. 

Assess Your Property’s Water Situation

If your yard has water distribution problems, you’ve probably already noticed them! But before you start a water-smart project, take note of problem areas in your yard, such as: 

  • Where water collects after rain or even after sprinkling
  • Areas near (or inside!) your home that flood after a big storm or snowmelt 
  • Areas where your patio or sidewalks are especially cracked or worn
  • Landscaping that gets washed out easily 
  • Dead patches of grass from over- or under-watering 

These are all common flooding problems among West Michigan homes. These issues can be especially noticeable in the springtime with snowmelt and heavy rain. 


Choose the Right Hardscape Materials

If you are looking for a water-smart hardscape, it’s important to start with the right materials. Some pavers are more permeable than others, meaning they will drain water properly and prevent it from collecting on your hardscape. Here are a few characteristics to look for in water-smart hardscape materials. 


Permeable materials allow for water to permeate through its surface. A solid surface like concrete is typically not permeable, while something like crushed stone or pavers allows water to flow back to the ground. Permeable materials also filter out potential pollutants, like leaking oil from a driveway or other harmful chemicals. 


Materials with wider joints (spaces) in between also allow for more water to seep through to the soil and prevent flooding. Patio pavers often come with different joint types—including some that allow grass to grow through them.


If you get your material straight from nature, chances are it will be water-smart and eco-friendly! With flagstones or other natural stone, you can control the flow of water and permeability. Natural stone is less likely to erode as quickly from water damage or flooding. 

Drainage Systems

Another consideration for hardscapes is a drainage system within your hardscape, especially if your lawn is graded or your patio is located in a problem area of your lawn. Designing your patio or sidewalk to drain into holding tanks, a creek bed, pond, or other water feature can benefit both the life of your hardscape and the quality of your landscape.


Intentional Landscaping and Hardscaping Design

Hardscaping and landscaping often work together to create an efficient water system in your yard. You’d be surprised by how much your landscaping can determine how water-smart your lawn is. Beyond structuring walkways and patios to manage the flow of water, here are some more ideas for water-smart landscaping that can work with your hardscaping design.


Drainage isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it can mean the difference between life and death for your grass. Installing a French drain or burying your gutter downspouts to direct water underground can reduce the standing water in your lawn or on your sidewalks. This kind of drainage is especially helpful if you have spotted any foundational damage in your home, live in a flood plain, or have a pool (especially above-ground or inflatable pools that tend to slosh water on your lawn.)

Fix Your Lawn’s Grading

If your lawn grades toward your home, you probably notice more flooding around your house’s foundation when it rains. It’s time to use gravity to your advantage! Using soil, mulch, retaining walls, or even an entirely new landscape and hardscape design, you can even out your lawn’s grading so it diverts away from your foundation or other problem areas. 

Create a Rain Garden

Rain gardens are designed to mimic the earth’s natural water cycle, meaning water is properly absorbed back into the soil. With the right location in your yard and plants to cultivate it, a rain garden can not only be a beautiful oasis in your backyard, but a functional one as well! A rain garden is also another way to drain water from your hardscaping. 

Find Water-Friendly Plants

Not all plants are created equal. If you have water problems in your yard, plants with a high water tolerance can help reduce erosion and slow water flow. These are also called flood-resistant plants and can include: 

  • Elderberry
  • Iris
  • Cattail
  • Winterberry
  • Buttonbush

Having water-smart plants around your hardscaping can prevent flooding and water damage from your patio and sidewalks—and add a finishing touch to your hardscaping. 

Use the Right Mulch

Mulch also varies in its permeability. Wood-based materials like chips or shredded bark tend to soak up more water, and different types of wood have different levels of absorbency. Adding mulch to your garden, retaining wall, or landscaping around your patio and sidewalks can cut back on standing water and puddles from over-watering (or kids playing in the sprinkler!) 

Add Retaining Walls

Retaining walls do just that—they retain soil and water from sliding down a graded lawn. With retaining walls, you can even out your lawn, preventing flooding in lower areas, and can prevent erosion from excessive rain or water. It will also keep water away from your home’s foundation. They don’t have to be an eyesore, either—retaining walls can add a unique touch to any landscaping! 

Never Fear Your Water Bill Again

With a water-smart hardscape design, you can rest assured that your grass is getting the water it needs, everywhere it’s needed—and your patio isn’t flooding after every rainstorm. In this blog, we covered just a few simple tips for how to create a water-smart hardscape that your family will love. Want to put all of these ideas together? Torchwood Landscaping can create a design that combines all the pieces, including a beautiful patio, stunning landscaping, and discreet drainage. Contact us today for a free estimate!