Walkway Designs – The Right Path With Walks and Drives

brick pavers in landscape

Driveways and walkways are mainly functional.

Walkway designs should provide the quickest way to go from street to house or vice versa. For economic reasons both drives and walks need to cover only necessary distances.

Eliminate extra curves, wide sweeps, “islands,” if you want to accent the functional.

Adjusting For Nature

If a lovely tree or a natural asset like a rock outcropping stands in the straightaway course, then you are justified in curving the path to save the feature.

The key in landscaping a walkway is to keep curves as slight as possible to avoid the natural outcome – short cut paths worn by impatient feet. For today’s fast pace, all much-traveled garden steps and paths such as front and back entrance walks should be straight in line, firm, and smooth of surface.

The width of front entrance paths should always be four feet to accommodate easily two people walking abreast. A wide smooth entrance path is a boon in the delivery of heavy and bulky boxes and furniture, sparing the edging and adjoining lawn from damage. Smoothness aides in speedy snow removal, and in the safe passage of your high-heeled visitors.

Narrow Pathway Look Inhospitable

One of the most common mistakes in garden walkways in landscaping is making front paths too narrow. This is a needless error, probably fostered by a desire to reduce construction costs.

Many times, the long narrow path from street to house can be eliminated and replaced by a shorter but wider one from the driveway where most visitors will walk anyway.

The location of your path will depend on the traffic and whether people will arrive by car or by foot along a sidewalk. But surely, a narrow path looks inhospitable and skimpy, and it would always be a disappointment.

If a short, four-foot path seems stubby and awkward or if it uses almost all the allotted space (leaving only 12 inches or so between the outer boundaries), a better effect may be obtained by enlarging the path into a small terrace.

This results in the space being filled comfortably rather than run through the middle by the path. A little experimenting with tapes and marking out trial paths will reveal the right solution.

Of course, the time to work out size and location of your path or terrace is before construction work begins. Working the landscape plans out on graph paper to scale is also a helpful way, for it is much easier to make changes with an eraser than a pickaxe.

If it looks right on paper, chances are it will be right in design. Sometimes it is wise to have your plan checked over by a professional landscaper or an experienced construction man.

Gravel Presents Problems With Snow

Faced with a narrow existing path, you may sometimes widen it by neatly bordering each side with flagstones, bricks, or fairly symmetrical fieldstones. Try to use a material which is close in feeling to the original stone, brick, or concrete. Time and nature will lessen the patched look.

Gravel paths can be excavated the desired extra width to a depth of eight inches, and then filled in with matching gravel. Gravel does not make the best walk for heavy use. It is difficult to walk on, and wretched to shovel in winter, as it is impossible to keep the gravel from being dumped with snow on the lawn.

Landscape stone is used mainly because it is quick to lay and less expensive than mortar-laid brick or flagstone, or poured concrete.

Leave Room For Planting

rugged natural garden steps
Since “no house is a home until it is planted,” be sure to leave a strip of land next to the house for a suitable planting. This is especially true when the path is long and runs parallel to the house. The variations can come in the planting to relieve any feeling of monotony, and add charm and friendliness to the entrance the year round.

If steps are needed, place them all together—not scattered along at various points. Mark the change in footing with a planting, lamp post, jardiniere, or rail. With three or more steps, it is wise to set in a rail for extra security.

Steps should be at least one foot deep, and five to seven inches high, and should slope 14 inch or so outward to allow runoff of rain and melting ice water. There must be adequate provision for good lighting all along the path, but especially at the steps. Light may be furnished by low voltage or solar spill lighting, or from an attractive lamp, controlled by a double (indoor-outdoor) switch.

Whatever the material used, the construction of paths, being such a permanent addition to home building, must have drainage and a firm foundation. Grades in paved paths must be considered to allow for quick runoff of surface water.

The center of the path should be slightly higher than the sides, and lengthwise slope should be at least one foot in 100 linear feet.

In planning drives, directness is even more important than for paths, when considered from a cost angle. A wandering drive makes driving difficult, wears out more quickly, and is unnecessarily expensive to build.

A long drive, however (say, over 150 feet long), may reasonably be gently curved for the sake of beauty. If the house is of very formal design, a straight drive would be best. Whether the drive is straight or curved, planting must never obscure the entrance nor any part of the drive.

A one-lane driveway should have a minimum width of eight to nine feet on the straightaway, and 12 feet on circular portions.

Where two cars pass, it increases to 16 feet minimum. A pass-court, where one car may be left near the front door, should be 30 feet long by eight or nine feet added to the width of the drive, making that area at least 16 feet wide.

A two-lane driveway should be at least 18 feet on the straight, and 20 to 22 feet on the curved portions.

A well-planned drive should be located a little away from the house to avoid dust, noise, and glare, yet be close enough to service the front door and back yard.

It should include adequate turning space for it is no longer safe to back one’s car into street traffic.

A turnaround even of the least proportions is certainly more important than lawn, gardens, or trees. Usually, however, both drive and plantings can be included if planned for in advance.

Planting along the drive is highly desirable, especially shade trees with high branches.

Plant ornamental shrubs well back from the drive to avoid scratching cars and obscuring the view.

An entrance planting may add distinction to the drive, but must be kept low—two to three feet is a maximum safe height.

As in all aspects of landscaping – design and planning will help reduce later problems.

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