Welcome! You Have Lots of Choices to Greet Those Who Walk Up to Your New Home
Believe it or not, one of the most important aspects of the new house plan you’re planning to build may go unnoticed – neglected until the last minute. It doesn’t usually get a lot of pre-planned design consideration. It’s often an afterthought. It doesn’t get a lot of respect. But one can’t even approach the house without it, especially if you have a large yard, and especially in wet weather or muddy conditions. It’s the walkway.
Walkways are almost indispensable to the home landscaping, both from a practical and aesthetic standpoint. A sturdy walkway will ensure firm, dependable footing as guests approach your front door, and a beautiful walkway will enhance the curb appeal of your home. And whether the walkway will be short and lead straight to your door or be more circuitous or lead to or from a courtyard entry, there some basic guidelines you should pay attention to.
The shape you give the walkway – straight or curved – depends on your yard and the design of your house plan. If you have a small yard, then a short, straight walkway is best. You will also want a straight, formal walkway if you have a traditional style house or a formal design like Victorian or Georgian. If you have a larger yard and/or a more casual or informal style home like a Ranch, Country, or Mediterranean style, then a winding or curving walkway may be best, as long as you don’t take curviness to the extreme – otherwise people may take shortcuts through the lawn!
How wide you make the walkway will have a great impact on how your guests feel as they approach your home. If it is too thin, then guests will have to walk single file and may feel uncomfortable. You want your path to be wide enough so that two people can walk comfortably side by side. Generally, 4 feet is the recommended minimum width and 5 feet is preferable. Much more than that, and the walkway will be too wide and look out of place in all but the most expansive landscapes and sprawling mansions.
You should strive to complement your house plan with the materials you choose for the walkway. If your home has brick accents, for example, then a brick walkway or a concrete one with brick borders would work nicely. If you have a Craftsman style house or similar with stone siding or accents, then a flagstone walkway may be in order. Whatever material you consider, keep in mind that the goal is to provide firm footing for visitors approaching your home, so try to stay away from gravel, pebbles, or other loose materials in favor of concrete, stone, pavers, and brick.
Simple and basic, a plain concrete walkway serves the purpose of providing dry, firm footing for approaching guests. Because it is so “no-frills,” it may be best for first-time or budget-strapped homeowners building a basic house plan. You can also use plain concrete as a subtle element in a more elaborate landscaping plan so it doesn’t call attention to itself and detract from the landscaping and/or architectural focal point.
This simple concrete walkway leading off a similar concrete driveway (left) suits the setting for a modest 3-bedroom, 2-bath Acadian style home plan (House Plan #142-1002). Concrete can also grace a more upscale setting as a subdued element, evidenced by this stepped walkway leading to a meticulous 4-bedroom, 3½-bath Arts & Crafts home with stacked-stone accents (House Plan #161-1001).
2. Pattern-stamped Concrete
You can now get poured concrete to mimic almost any hard surfacing material: pavers, brick, cobblestones, flagstones, etc. Contractors color the concrete to match the desired material and stamp it with special forms that shape the concrete cookie-cutter-style to match the shape of the material. They can even fill the gaps between individual shapes with mortar to make the finished product even more realistic looking.
Colored and stamped to resemble small to medium dry-laid flagstones, this pattern-stamped concrete driveway-and-walkway combination is handsome and elegant enough to complement a sophisticated 4-bedroom, 2½-bath Craftsman house plan (Home Plan #153-1781).
3. Colored Concrete Plus Border
If simple color and decorative accents are more your style, you can get high-strength concrete colored taupe, terra-cotta, red, etc.; poured with a flat surface finish; and bordered with brick, pavers, or other material of your choice. The result is an understated, elegant look that complements both formal and informal architecture, especially if colors and/or materials match up with those of the house.
Colored a bright masonry red and bordered and accented by pavers, this driveway/courtyard/walkway seems like it was made to order for a striking 3 bedroom, 3½-bath, 4,121-sq.-ft. European style luxury home plan (House Plan #153-1897).
4. Brick Pavers
Ideal for almost any walkway, either as the field or the border accent, brick pavers can be laid with or without mortared joints, on a sand or concrete base. When laid in sand, you would not mortar the joints. Generally, mortared brick looks more at home in a formal setting, whereas dry-laid brick with brushed sand in the joints is more versatile – just as much at home in an informal country setting as it is in formal or urban settings.
A 3-bedroom, 2½-bath Cottage style house plan (Home Plan #142-1096) with rose garden landscaping creates the perfect setting for this informal brick walkway.
5. Mortared Flagstone
Flagstone and slate are timeless materials for walkways. You will often find them set in concrete or a thick mortar bed, appropriate for formal or informal situations, depending on the treatment. If the flagstones are incorporated within a formal border and other hardscaping in the landscape, then they are suitable for formal or urban settings. If the flagstone pathway winds through the landscape unadorned, then it is appropriate for a more country or informal situation.
Whether in a formal setting, leading to a stately modern Tudor style home (left), or as an informal pathway to a 4-bedroom, 3 bath Country Craftsman house (right, House Plan #163-1007), mortared flagstone can be made to fill the bill.
Many paving materials are suitable for both classical formal landscapes and more rural informal settings, and cobblestones are no exception – there is nothing intrinsic in the material that makes it more suitable for one or the other. But the fact is that cobblestone is an expensive treatment, and as such you are more likely to see it a gracing high-end dwelling or formal landscape than a lovely but modest Country Ranch style or Farmhouse home plan.
Cobblestone with a brick paver border is ideal as the walkway/courtyard/driveway material for an elegant 4-bedroom, 4½-bath, 5,841-sq.-ft. Mediterranean luxury home plan (House Plan #175-1064).
What could be more country and informal than stepping-stones placed strategically along a pathway to a destination – like the front porch of a rural home? Stepping-stones are not an ideal walkway material – and may not be recommended by some landscape designers – but if planned well, set closely and carefully, and maintained meticulously, stepping-stones can serve their “footing” purpose well and add whimsy to an informal landscape in a rural landscape.
Informal but entirely appropriate for a rural house plan, this stepping-stone walkway made with flagstones leads to a 6-bedroom, 3½-bath Traditional style home (Home Plan #187-1001)
Note: The lead image shows a beautiful rural treatment of an extreme stepping-stone setting, with large flagstones serving as a stairway in a sloped yard. For more information, click here.