The guests come marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah "¦ if that describes the entry walk to your home you might consider a change. Many homes are hardscaped with a narrow concrete walk bisecting the front yards, as if the designer was completing a geometry exercise. Often three feet or less in width, this type of path forces people to walk in single file to your door.
"It's a very ungracious welcome," says Bonnie Bayard, landscape architect with KenCairn Landscape Architecture in Ashland. More welcoming is a front walk four and a half to five feet wide, and a porch or stoop where two or three people can stand comfortably.
Maybe you have cracks in the walk but don't want to invest in a new walk now. Bonnie Bayard, landscape architect with KenCairn Landscape Architecture, suggests widening the crack at the edge of the walk, adding soil and planting low-growing "step-able" plants. Make sure not to create a tripping hazard.
If you drive your car directly into the garage, it might be appropriate to eliminate or minimize any walk from the driveway and concentrate on creating an entry from the street or sidewalk, says Tiina Beaver, of Medford's Galbraith and Associates. And before adding a material, consider how it will perform in winter weather. Make sure there's no danger of slipping.
Hiring professional concrete workers is a good deal, says John Lawton, owner of Cut 'N Break in Medford. Concrete behaves differently according to conditions and mixture. "It's all timing," he says.
Fortunately, narrow walks are easy to improve by adding material to each side, says Bayard. Use concrete, or edge with another material that's used elsewhere in the landscape, such as pavers, or in the house construction, such as brick or stone. New materials for landscaping are "almost unlimited," says Tiina Beaver, landscape architect with Galbraith and Associates in Medford, however when combining "all the materials should look like they belong together."
It's important to keep the path inviting and safe, says Beaver. "If possible, create some type of journey. If you add a curve, make sure the front door is always in sight so there's a specific destination."
John Lawton, owner of Cut 'N Break Construction, Inc. in Medford, says new techniques in concrete allow homeowners lots of leeway and creativity when designing new walkways. Traditional broom- or trowel-finished concrete can be combined with exposed aggregate or with newer options like stamped and colored concrete.
Rubber stamps add texture and color to the walkway and can mimic brick, tile slate and even random stone work, says Lawton. Colors are almost limitless, with browns, tans and blacks among the most popular choices, along with varying shades of terra cotta. The color goes down while the concrete is wet. First the color hardener is troweled in, then the release color is added and the form is stamped. The next day, the surface is washed to remove excess and finally a seal is added.
Acid washing is another way to add color, although the choices are limited to about six colors, Lawton says. Sealing coats need to be renewed about every two to three years.
Even though walks are often adjacent to, or emerge from the home's driveway, it's not necessary to alter the drive in order to improve the front walkway, he says, although the front porch is usually incorporated into any design change.
If the existing walk is in perfect condition, it's possible to upgrade it with color or texture, but costs will be similar. That's because site preparation is basic to the long-term success of concrete, so cost varies as much with site preparation as it does with size.
If you are wondering whether a change to your front walk is for you, invite a friend and walk it yourself to see how it feels, advises Bayard. Scale and setting are both important and in some places the narrow walk is appropriate. Safe and welcoming are the keywords for the walk up, just as you want guests to feel once inside.