Walkway ideas from D.I.Y. to top-of-the-line

Now that our yards clearly need some attention and it's warm enough to work outside comfortably, it may be time to consider small landscaping projects, like walkways around your property.

Whether it's a statement-making front entrance to your home or a simple garden path, here's an idea of what you can get on P.E.I.

We talked to Zack Court, owner of Court's Landscaping in Charlottetown, and Darcy MacNeill, owner of Earthform Landscape Professionals in Stratford, P.E.I.

Both emphasized that walkways, regardless of how they are finished on the surface, are only as good as their foundation.

"P.E.I. lacks the solid bedrock that exists in neighbouring provinces," said Court.

"If you want it to last, it's wise to hire a professional that's certified, if you're going to make this kind of investment," said MacNeill.

"It can be used as a tool to invite people into your home," MacNeill said. "You want to set the stage for people to know what door to go to, and to make it an inviting space that sets the tone for the rest of the house."

1. D.I.Y. gravel

$2 per square foot, for an 8-inch depth.

Gravel is likely the cheapest option for a walkway — landscaping and construction companies sell it for $70 per cubic yard. Finer pea gravel that's nicer to walk on costs slightly more.

The downside is a gravel walkway is hard to maintain — it won't be long before weeds will pop up through.

Gravel will get into your lawn, it's hard to shovel off snow, and isn't great for accessibility of wheelchairs, luggage or baby carriages, Court points out.

2. D.I.Y. patio slab paver

$15 per square foot.

Patio slabs are a popular walkway choice because they are inexpensive and relatively simple.

A 24-by-24 inch concrete patio slab costs about $10 from hardware stores.

The majority of do-it yourselfers often place the stones directly on soil, but Court said that's not the best idea.

"These may be a quick walkway to throw down after a new home is built, however not a great long-term solution due to their design flexibility and poor aesthetics," Court said.

"They don't offer a whole lot of curb appeal, but they do offer a basic walkway for a lot of people," added MacNeill.

Creating a base for the slabs is the time-consuming, labour-intensive part of the job. Dig out a trench about 20 centimetres (8 inches) deep, add landscape fabric, then pour in about 8 centimetres of gravel (3 inches), compact by hand with a tamper or rent a plate compacter, and repeat with another layer of gravel. Then add a thin layer of sand or crusher dust to level the base and tamp again.

Lay down the patio slabs, ensuring they are level, and tamp down each with a rubber mallet to ensure it is even. Backfill between the cracks with polymeric sand, a fine sand that hardens when wet.

3. Interlocking stone

$20 to $25 per square foot.

Concrete and interlocking stone are tied for the most popular options for long-term quality walkways with natural stone gaining popularity in recent years, said Court.

"If you're really trying to turn it up a bit and make something that lasts you're going to have to go to a paver," said MacNeill.

Both companies say the pavers are their preferred material for walkways.

The pros of interlocking stone are that it comes in a wide range of colours, styles, textures and shapes, it lasts a long time and is more easily repaired than concrete.

It does requires maintenance and the cost to install it is higher, both landscapers said — they recommend only experienced professionals do it.

"It's very crucial to do the preparation for these types of pavers and interlock right — if you do it right it's going to exceed any other paving product out there," MacNeill said.

The latest trend, he said, is paver applications for walkways and driveways that are water-permeable to prevent runoff and flooding.

4. Poured concrete

$20 per square foot.

Concrete has a high compression strength, ability to be shaped and contoured, and offers lots of different options including basic finish, exposed aggregate which has a pebbled surface, and stamped concrete.

Both landscapers agreed the down sides are concrete will often crack with P.E.I.'s freeze-thaw cycles, repairs are difficult and unattractive, and the cost to install it is higher if it is prepared properly.

5. Natural Stone

$25 per square foot and up.

Natural stone dry laid over a gravel base or mortared onto a concrete pad is the most expensive walkway option, Court said.

It is available in square-cut pieces or random flagstone shapes. Square-cut natural stones cost slightly more.

While it is attractive, unique and durable, it is also expensive, has to be sealed, and requires professional installation, Court said.

"Random flagstone may be great for a patio or stepping stone path, however it may require a significant time to install on a main walkway to have perfectly level, whereas interlocking stone and concrete create the flat level surface that many prefer," Court said.

"You've really got to make sure that stone's come from a quarry that's less susceptible to cracking," MacNeill said. Also, the stones themselves can be uneven.

"Like everything, maintaining your walkway is required regardless of the material," Court said. "Without regular maintenance, small issues can develop that lead to problems if left unchecked down the road."

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