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Carpenter Costin Blog

Natural Stepping Stone Walks and Paths

Consider a natural stepping stone path to guide traffic throughout your property.

It happens every year; the most highly trafficked areas on your property get trampled down natural stone stepping stone walkwayto bare dirt, leaving an unattractive series of paths across your landscape. Let this be the last year you have to look at these beaten paths, and add attractive stepping stone walkways to guide traffic across your landscape. Natural stone makes a great looking and durable stepping stone walkway.

The areas that are beaten down to dirt are done so for a reason – maybe it is the easiest path from the driveway to the front door, or quickest route from the back door to the grill. Whatever the reason, people choose it as the desired path; therefore, it makes sense to give it a desirable look and durability. Choosing to install natural stone as “steppers” is a great way to discretely improve your the path's durability, without sacrificing the natural look of grass and stone. Adding an engineered paver path or concrete walkway would undoubtedly increase the durability; however, it will sacrifice the natural appeal of the landscape.

One major benefit of a stepping stone walkway is that, when on a small scale, it can be an achievable DIY project. Natural stone can be picked up at your local landscape supply store and laid into the desired area. Once you have the stones where you want them you’ll need to dig a spot for the stone to rest, which is dependent on the thickness of the stone. You’ll want the stones to appear “sunken” in the lawn, but not too deep as that can become hazardous.

If you’d like to add a stepping stone walkway with large stones, or a full natural stone or paver walkway, we recommend dealing with a professional landscape construction firm since these projects will require additional equipment, grading, and expertise. Remember, as with any DIY project – safety first! Click the button below to speak with a Landscape Architect about natural stone walkways.


walkway stepping stones

This is the best route from the gate to the back deck - newly installed stones will help limit wear and tear on the lawn.

natural stone path

This path leads from the back patio to a beautiful garden and sitting area.

Combining Natural & Engineered Stone in Your Hardscape

Add a landscape feature with natural stone and engineered pavers to give you the best when it comes to hardscape

Deciding which type of stone to use for your next hardscape project can be a difficult. With a variety of natural stones and engineered pavers readily available, the paradox of choice threatens to make adding a new landscape feature a daunting task. If you’re having a tough time deciding which stone to use, we may just have the best answer for you – use both!

A skilled Landscape Architect will be able to design a new hardscape feature that incorporates both natural stone and engineered pavers to ensure you get the benefits of both materials. If you’re looking to add a new driveway, and want the durability and easy maintenance of pavers, but the classic look of natural stone, you can line the new pavers with a cobble or granite edge. Another common combination consists of a durable paver patio, with the natural look of a fieldstone wall surrounding the patio or lining the property.

Combining the two different types of hardscape materials requires a trained hand, as it is very easy to get carried away and end up with a hodge-podge of a landscape. The proper balance of natural stone and engineered pavers, when coupled with a great planting design, can really make a synergized property.

When adding any new landscape feature, it is wise to develop a landscape master plan so you can visualize the entire property, and plan to phase landscape projects that you would like to construct in the future. Take advantage of a free consultation to discuss how you can make natural stone and engineered pavers work for your property.

Request Free Landscape Design Consultation

paver patio w granite

Paver walkway and patio, paired with granite steps and retaining wall.

paver driveway cobble edge

Paver driveway lined with a cobble edge, and natural fieldstone wall.

Benefits of Phasing Landscape Design & Construction Projects

Landscape Projects in multiple phases will allow you to achieve the dream landscape you’ve always wanted

Adding a new landscape feature to your property can cost as little as a few hundred bucks, depending on what you want to have designed and installed. Building your dream landscape; however, usually requires a substantial financial investment which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. In order to make the project more achievable, a Landscape Architect can design and plan it to be installed in multiple phases.

Multiple Phases Will Help With Financing Your Project

Installing landscape projects in multiple phases can be extremely beneficial for a homeowner. One valuable benefit of phasing landscape projects is the ability to segment the project for budgeting purposes. As previously mentioned, your dream landscape can be costly; however, when phasing into multiple parts, you can achieve your dream landscape on a budget friendly schedule over a number of months or years.

Phasing landscape construction projects also lets a homeowner take advantage of season specific benefits, such as prime planting conditions in the fall. Often times, we’ll install a patio, wall, or walkway in the heat of the summer, but wait until the fall to install the plants and softscape – both because the conditions are more appropriate, and because it is a little easier on the homeowner’s wallet.

Once you realize that phasing landscape projects can help you achieve your dream landscape, you’ll need to consult with a Landscape Architect to develop a landscape master plan. A master plan will map out the various phases of the project and display how they will cumulatively compose your dream landscape. After developing a master plan, you can work with the Architect to schedule the phases to suit your budget, as well as the installation conditions.


If you have any questions or interested in any of our services please contact us at 877-308-8733

Natural Stone Retaining Wall Project in West Newbury, MA

We have a unique project to kick off the newest aspect of Carpenter Costin’s online community, our “Featured Project.” We’re hoping to highlight a project every few weeks, especially if it has a cool story or shows a great transformation.

Our first “Featured Project” utilizes a recycled material found in a rather unusual location – the homeowner’s basement. While in the process of excavating his basement from a crawl space to a full sized room, the homeowner encountered a large amount of natural stone schist. Now that there was a heaping pile of schist on the lawn, the homeowner needed to decide what to do with it all.

Enter Carpenter Costin. A quick look at the property and our Landscape Architect determined that the newly excavated schist would make a great natural stone retaining wall to replace the existing railroad tie wall.

Using the recycled schist from the basement to build the wall ended up saving the homeowner thousands of dollars in material costs, and makes a for a very cool story. Not to mention – this wall looks great and will serve as a functional retaining wall for many years to come. We’ll also be adding some plants in the future to round off the project.

View the pictures to see how the wall turned out.

before retaining wall

Before: A pile of stone, plants, weeds, and dirt. Not exactly "curb appeal."

after retaining wall

After: The new retaining wall, seen here meshing well with the driveway's slope.

railroad tie wall to be removed

Before: Timber railroad ties won't last forever. This one was only beginning to fail.

schist retaining wall

After: This stone will last forever, and when properly built, will serve as a sturdy retaining wall for many decades.

old wall

Before: A grade change made this part of the property hard to use and maintain.

stairs and level grade

After: Leveling the grade and adding stairs made this part of the property functional. Once the plants are added, it will be functional and beautiful!

Build a Natural Stone Wall to Line Your Property

Natural Stone Walls Serve as an Attractive and Functional Boundary Marker

For thousands of years, land owners have been using stone to construct the walls that lined their property; keeping their cattle in check, and helping to identify rigid property boundaries with their neighbors that could have lived many miles away. Though times have changed, natural stone is still a great choice for a wall surrounding your property.

Years ago, farmers would save the stones they encountered when tilling their fields and use them to construct the long stone walls that marked their land. Luckily, stone is now readily available at a local hardscape distributor, which saves some excavation time and effort - but if you have existing stone on your property it can certainly be reused to help save costs! We’ve even constructed walls out of stone excavated from someone’s basement.

There are many different varieties of natural stone, but for simplicity sake, let’s just focus on two styles: round stone and flat stone. Round stone presents a very organic and timeless look that meshes well with classic New England architecture. Flat stone is still very natural, but portrays a more elegant appeal that works well with both modern and classic architecture. Both styles of natural stone are beautiful and are sure to add a timeless appeal to your landscape.

A natural stone wall is not only a great aesthetic feature, but it can also provide safety and security. We’ve seen a number of stone walls that have been damaged by cars that have strayed off the road. There is no telling where the car would have ended up had the walls not been there.

Take advantage of our free consultations and discuss adding a natural stone wall to your property with a Landscape Architect.


natural round field stone wall

A small natural round fieldstone wall at the edge of a property, separating it from the street.

flat field stone wall

This flat stone wall sits between a natural stone patio and a beautiful garden.

Using Recycled Stone to Build a Retaining Wall

Take advantage of existing stone on your property and create a new retaining wall.

We always try to utilize existing materials when feasible, because it helps the homeowner save a few bucks and creates a cool story along the way. A recent project; however, involved using recycled stone from a very unlikely place – the homeowner’s basement.

The homeowner was excavating an area in his basement, and transitioning it from a crawl space into a full-sized basement room. Little did he know, but he was going to find a tremendous amount of schist in his excavation that would make a great natural stone retaining wall just a few weeks later courtesy of one of our Landscape Architects. The wall, (pictured below) is made entirely from stone that was excavated out of the basement.

Who knows, maybe you have some stone on your property that can be used to build a great hardscape feature of your own. Here are some before and after shots of the retaining wall.

 natural stone wall before

The area was overgrown and had an exisiting wall that was crumbling.

stone wall after1

The schist was perfect for this retaining wall.

stone wall before2

The wall was long, and the railroad ties weren't going to last much longer.

recycled stone wall

All this schist was excavated from the homeowner's basement.

stone wall before shot

Using recycled stone saved the homeowner a tremendous amount.

recycled stone retaining wall

 The wall is ready for some new plantings and mulch!


Choose Bluestone for Your New Patio

Designing and constructing a new patio with Bluestone can be a great addition to your landscape.

When adding a new patio, be sure to consider using Bluestone as the primary construction material. Bluestone is great for patios because it has a timeless look and feel, which is why it has been a top choice for patio construction for the last couple hundred years!

Although Bluestone has been used for hundreds of years, engineered pavers have been stealing some of the patio limelight in recent years; however, that does not mean that pavers are better (or worse) – they’re just different. Bluestone has an edge over pavers when large or irregular pieces are needed, and Bluestone can be cut easily, helping to get the desired shape.

Bluestone can be great for pool landscapes, and is a tremendous improvement over wood decks if possible. A Bluestone patio is capable of lasting a very long time (like centuries); where as a wood deck will need to be replaced after a decade or two just to ensure it is safe.

One of the main benefits of Bluestone is that it meshes very well with natural stone, so if you have an existing stone wall, a Bluestone patio will compliment it extremely well. Bluestone comes in various finishes, including natural, thermal, and tumbled, allowing greater customization of your patio, and ensuring the look and feel you desire.

Bluestone is a local product to boot; and all the Bluestone we use in our patios comes from New England or Pennsylvania. If you’re thinking about adding a patio to your landscape, but are stumbling over which material to use, consider Bluestone and you won’t be disappointed. Take advantage of our free landscape design consultations to learn more about Bluestone patios.


bluestone patio by pool

Bluestone is a great choice for pool areas.

bluestone water feature

Large, irregular pieces of Bluestone make for great patios, and go well with natural stone.


Review Your Landscape this Summer with a Landscape Architect

Have a Landscape Architect over to review your landscape, and start planning projects for the fall or spring 2013.

Summer is a great time to review your existing landscape. In the summer, a trained Landscape Architect will be able to see all the plants in your landscape, including perennials in full flower, and get an excellent idea of exactly what can be done in your landscape. Evaluating your landscape at this time will allow an Architect to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses of your landscape, and design a plan to highlight the strengths and remove the weaknesses.

Consulting with a Landscape Architect this summer is also a great idea because it will allow you to begin installation in the late summer and early fall should you choose to make any improvements. The fall is a great time for plant installation and should not be overlooked for hardscape construction as well.

Carpenter Costin’s landscape evaluations are completely cost and obligation free. Our Landscape Architects are here to help, so take advantage of our free consultations and meet with one of them this summer.

Request Free Landscape Design Consultation

landscape design a construction

Adding a Water Feature to Your Landscape

Installing a water feature can truly enhance a new or existing landscape.

There is something relaxing about the sound of moving water as you sit and enjoy a beautiful day on your patio. Unfortunately most people think waterfalls, ponds, and water features are meant for multi-million dollar estates and mansions. If that is how you think, get that thought out of your head immediately!!

Water features can be customized to any landscape and budget, so don’t get intimidated by the thought of incorporating a water feature into your landscape. Consult with a Landscape Architect to see exactly how we can design and install a water feature that works for you.


water feature

A recently installed water feature made with natural stone.


Some seating next to your new water feature creates a relaxing haven.


A water feature next to a patio makes a great summer hang out spot!

Benefits of Paver Driveways

Engineered Paver Driveways For Exceptional Appeal and Durability

Pavers are a great option to consider when building a new driveway because they offer three main benefits: appeal, durability, and ease of maintenance. Whether you need to replace an old blacktop or concrete driveway, or are building a new home, a paver driveway might be the best option for you.


There are three differentiating factors that separate paver driveways from asphalt or concrete driveways when considering appeal or attractiveness, and they are color, shape, and texture. Pavers come in many different colors, shapes, and textures which allows you to get the look and feel you desire. The various shapes and colors allow a professional landscape mason to create attractive patterns in your driveway to suit your tastes.


Engineered pavers are very dense and thus very durable and strong. Due to the density, pavers are not suspect to winter freezing and thawing damage. The smooth, flat surface of pavers also allows for easy snow removal without any damage. Most engineered pavers can withstand 8000 pounds of pressure per square inch, which is about four times greater than concrete.

Ease of Maintenance

Caring for paver driveways in the New England winter is easy, as they are resistant to damage from snow plows, snow blowers, and shovels. In the summer months, paver driveways can be pressure washed to keep them clean and free of dirt. If a paver becomes stained or broken, it is easy enough to pull it up and replace it with a new one.

Paver driveways can be a great addition to your property, but it is highly recommended that you have a Landscape Architect design the driveway and professional landscape masons install it to ensure you get optimum results. If pavers aren’t the right choice for you, there are various other driveway alternatives. Click the button below to learn more about paver driveways from a Landscape Architect.


paver driveway

A paver driveway is a great addition to your property.

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