Granite is used in a multitude of outdoor designs, including landscaping and patio, thanks to its extreme hardness. Granite is the most common igneous rock found on the surface. Its unique appearance has also made it sought after in both interior and exterior work. Surprisingly, granite only came into use in the 1880s and held a heft price tag. As Granite became easier to manufacture its popularity grew to become a commonplace sight within driveways, backyards, and front yards.
What is Granite Stone
Granite rock is cut into stones or pavers or slabs in order to be used in landscapes and hardscapes.
Granite Stones for Outdoors – Pros and Cons
Granite is one of the most popular natural stones these days. Granite is a very hard stone, depending on the composition and quartz content you’ll find it somewhere between 6 and 7 on the Moh’s scale. A 6 or 7 means you’ll need at least a steel nail to leave a mark, making it extremely durable and able to withstand nearly everything you throw at it.
Following its durability is its one-of-a-kind appearance. Granite comes in its characteristic speckles and pocked look which can take on the look of a luminous starry night, the red sands of the Sahara, or a pine needle-filled forest floor. The visual range of granite is beyond approach and can cater to any look you’re after no matter how unique.
Granite is also naturally heat resistant, with damage only occurring when heat is applied to the extreme as well as unevenly. Placing a hot pan on your outdoor kitchen countertop won’t damage granite as it could with other natural stones. Even using it as the building blocks of your patio fireplace should be perfectly safe so long as it’s not treated with chemicals.
The measurement of how much a natural stone absorbs water is called the absorption rate or capacity. Granite boasts an extremely low rate at 0.8% to 0.01%, compared to sandstone absorption rate which can be as high as 8%, granite cuts ahead quite a bit. A lower rate means that you won’t have to worry about stains seeping into your stone, as well as moisture-cultivating mold, bacteria, and pockets of moisture which can heat and crack your stones.
Granite will withstand many decades of heavy foot traffic while still maintaining its natural color. Its igneous nature speckled with quartz and other hard minerals means it’s not prone to cracking or chipping like other options such as sandstone. This stone can be used for nearly any landscaping plans you have and will stand as a monument to your tastes.
There are a few qualities that could be good or bad depending on the circumstances. If you’ve opted for a more common granite, then if it ever were to break or crack, you’ll be able to find a matching slab or paver that will match with the others. On the flip side, if your tastes are more eclectic and you chose a unique patterned granite, there may be difficulty sourcing a replacement for it.
Granite is a people pleaser, there are very few cons when it comes to working with this natural stone compared to others. The first I’ll mention is that granite isn’t always inexpensive. While common shades of granite may run a modest price, if you’re looking for something more distinctive it can cost a lot more.
Granite Landscaping Ideas and Backyard Uses
The timelessness of granite is proven by its popularity. Since its introduction in the 1880s, granite has been showcased in some of the most prestigious buildings and covetous homes around the world. From contemporary grey granite facades to all-white stone interiors, architects and landscapers alike are drawing inspiration from around the world and channeling it through this prestigious natural stone.
Outdoor Kitchen Countertop
Granite is a popular and durable option for your exterior kitchen countertop. It will brave the elements, has a low absorption rate preventing permanent stains, and won’t fade in the sun. Exterior stone countertops are in a unique position where they both are exposed to the outdoors but need a smooth surface to work on, so you’ll be looking for a higher quality polished granite.
Image credit: This Old House
If you’re like me then you know there’s something primal about sitting around the fire with your friends and family. Whether you’re watching your kids roast marshmallows or listening to your father-in-law’s story for the 3rd time, a granite fire pit will keep you mellow knowing it won’t break down and looks beautiful. This is form meets function, and with the variety of colors, you could have a really interesting centerpiece in your backyard.
Granite Mailbox Posts
Image credit: Walpole Outdoors
Here’s an interesting idea for you: a granite post to hold up your mailbox. You can purchase these stones precut either for your mailboxes, or even a lamppost, and can draw attention to your home with this simple addition.
Image credit: stonewoodproducts.com
If you’re looking for low-maintenance outdoor seating for your front yard or backyard then a granite stone bench can be an interesting option. They fit well in your garden, are easy to clean, will withstand the elements, and will last longer than their wooden counterpart.
You could even have a whole garden furniture set (table and benches) made in granite.
The photo above shows a beautiful white granite bench in a garden.
You’ve probably seen these patio water features in other people’s backyards, and they are a beautiful addition to any yard. Whether it’s a cascading column bubbling water from the top or a spherical fountain encased in a shell of water, these features can tie your backyard together with a touch of sophistication.
Granite is one of the best options for stairs because you need to choose a stone that you can rely upon. With granites’ ability to resist the freeze-thaw cycle it outperforms many other natural stones, and with that means keeping you and your family safe. Never choose a stone that is prone to cracking, it’s an accident waiting to happen.
Granite retaining walls are used to retain and reinforce a depth of soil and provide support to slopes. This creates levels or terraces which can be utilized for gardens, patios, walkways, or simply to add some privacy to the surrounding area. Sometimes your backyard will have unusable portions of landscape due to the slope and designing a granite wall can capture that area back for your use.
Granite is one of the best options for use in a retaining wall; it’s strong, highly water-resistant, and never looks out of place. Stone blocks cut for retaining walls are commonly referred to as a billet, and if you’re looking for a frugal option, then using granite capstones to finish your wall is a viable and sightly option.
Decomposed Granite Driveway
Image credit: Deborah Silver and Co.
Decomposed granite driveways are an economical and easy-to-install option if you’re looking for something other than concrete or brick paver. Decomposed granite is made from rocks that have been weathered and broken down into smaller pieces. This style of the driveway is available in many colors, can be installed in a day, and by nature is slip-proof. The granite chips drain water extremely well which will prevent flooding. If you choose this route there is a few cons to keep in mind. If you don’t properly stabilize a decomposed driveway it will spread out over time, migrating away from high-traffic areas. Another problem is it’s an invitation for weeds, creating the perfect habitat with trapped moisture and wide enough gaps for the roots to settle.
Granite is the quintessential stone for backyard usage and when I imagine a natural stone patio images of grey granite spring to mind. Granite is durable and near impervious to water which will increase the value of your home. If you’re looking for a bit of sophistication then you can choose patterned pavers or mosaic shapes to draw the eye, or if you want to take the classic route then a rustic grey paver can suit your needs. Granite is also virtually maintenance-free, allowing you to spend more time enjoying and less time cleaning.
Image credit: Stone Market
Creating a crisp border between your garden and the pathway is not just a modern act of artistic indulgence, it also serves a purpose to prevent weeds from creeping into your soil. If you’re looking for a natural look then I would opt for the grey or brown colors, but if you intend to make your garden stand out then perhaps an evergreen shade could be more to your liking. Regardless of the color you pick, granite will suit the garden as much as the flowers you plant.
I always say that the material you choose for your garden pathway can have a massive impact on how your house is perceived. I consider the pathway to be the artery to your backyard and the rest of your house that connects the important inclusions together as a cohesive unit. A granite path will never appear cheap, is slip-resistant, and requires very little upkeep.
The backyard is a playground for your mind, and if you want to blend your landscape into its natural surroundings, then the inclusion of a simple granite boulder can add a lot of depth. You can step past simply placing a boulder in your backyard as well. Using granite boulders as levels or steps, surrounding them with gravel, or burying them strategically can bring out the character of your backyard and elevate its surroundings.
Types and Grades of Granite Rocks
Now that I’ve shown you what you can do with granite in your landscape, let’s go over the different colors and types of granite that you may come across when picking this stone for outdoor use.
Grades of Granite
Granite is divided into three separate grades each denoting their own level of quality.
Level 1 granite, sometimes referred to as “builders grade”, is the lowest level of granite. This mass-produced granite is commonly used in commercial installations due to the cheaper cost and is pre-fabricated into slabs prior to knowing what it’s used for.
Level 2 granite will typically be thicker cut than level 1, with a higher variation in both colors and design. You’ll also find a greater diversity in patterns but will cost more.
Level 3 granite is the highest grade you’ll find. This type of granite may contain veins of striking colors, will be cut quite thick to prevent cracking, and comes in a wide range of styles. This grade of granite is the priciest.
The look of granite varies so greatly in composition, shade, tone, tint, and coloration, that it’s difficult to cover all of them in their entirety. Rather, I’ll go over some of my favorite colors and where I think they’d be best applied.
This granite has the color palette of ground coffee beans and a rich inviting texture that will have you reaching for it. I love the mixture of dark and light browns that allows for a consistent pattern and matches extremely well with rustic wood colors that you may find in your backyard.
Blue Pearl Granite
The colorations on this distinct granite make it feel like it’s from a museum painting. The overtones of greyish blue mixed with the blotches of dark brown give it an eye-catching appearance. I would keep this kind of granite on the outdoor countertop and possibly for pool coping. This granite can be so eye-catching that were you to overutilize it then it could become a case of overindulgence.
This is the ubiquitous color of granite. You can find this variation in all manner of landscaping, hardscaping, and architecture for good reason. This granite coloration is timeless and can be used for every and all applications. It fits perfectly as an exterior countertop, walkway, or patio, and will never seem out of place. If you have trouble deciding which color to go with, then I would simply opt for the classic grey and move on.
This type of granite is typically quarried in Canada and is an excellent choice for all outdoor applications. This color is also known as Canadian Red granite and is characterized by a constellation of grey, white, and black specs upon a backdrop of light shades of red and salmon. I can see this style being used in arid, desert-like regions if you want to blend your granite into the surrounding. Otherwise, this makes an excellent patio stone option as the granularity and darker tones make it hide stains and wear easier than something white or light grey.
African Red Granite
Sticking with the red theme, African red granite comes in a few different styles but its applications are wide. This granite is the lighter side of carnation, with crimson red hues marked with black pits of a mineral called gabbro. This color of granite comes with deep pits that may be filled with epoxy resin, but there’s very little variation in its color. This makes it an excellent choice if you’re looking for lively granite that still has consistency. Be it a walkway, or the edge of your fire pit, this stone will stun your guests.
Oxford White Granite
This stone has grown in popularity recently. It’s mostly white granite with speckles of black and grey throughout. This color of granite is frequently used as stone countertops and would be a gorgeous outdoor kitchen accent. This light-colored stone adds some serious visual appeal and is one of the best white variations of granite.
Black Galaxy Granite
I’m a sucker for the simplicity and strength of black colorations, and this style is my absolute favorite. This granite is mostly composed of dark black with flecks of gold or white quartz. This durable granite is well-suited to every and all projects, and I personally couldn’t think of a better look to bring up the value of your home.
Select Your Finish
Once you’ve selected which type of granite you want you still need to select a finish. This will transcend your granite from a simple-looking stone to a product that helps display the look you’re trying to achieve. Whether it’s polished and shiny or rough and matte, there are numerous styles of finish that will help you find the look you’re after.
A honed finish is where the workers grind the surface down to a matte finish. This is a preferable finish when you’re designing a patio, walkway, or even a pool deck, as this style gives you a textured surface that is slip-resistant.
This style of finish requires you to first grind the stone down with subsequently finer grits, then polish it down to a glossy appearance. Something like this would be an excellent choice for an outdoor kitchen countertop, or beneath a pergola-covered patio. Be cautious though, as the polished surface will make it considerably slippery.
Leathered finishes have become more popular recently. This newer style of finish is created by brushing the surface with diamond-tipped brushes until you achieve a textured and matte appearance. This style of finish maintains the natural colors of the stone and gives it a textured and pitted feel. While this finish looks immaculate, I wouldn’t recommend it for walkways as the grooves and pits may trap dirt and debris, marring the look and making it difficult to clean.
This type of finish is created by subjecting your granite to alternating cycles of heat and cooling periods. The granite warps in a predictable manner and creates a rough texture while fading the color somewhat. The process gives you a slip-resistant, visually unique finish. One thing to note is that while flame-finished granite will bead water, there may still be microscopic pores that may allow water or oils to seep in. This can cause staining and is notoriously difficult to remove.
The installation of pavers for use in walkways, patios, pool decks, and retaining walls has been well covered in my Travertine Landscaping article. If you’re interested in installing a decomposed granite pathway I’ll give you a quick overview of the step-by-step involved.
Your first step will be to visualize your path, either using header boards or spray paint. The next step involves excavating down at least 4 to 6 inches, ensuring you maintain a level surface area. Next time requires some math: you’ll need to estimate how much of the decomposed granite you’ll need. Sum up your square footage either by using a coverage calculator or grabbing the ol’ pen and paper and jotting down the following formula to get your cubic volume.
(area x depth) / 27 = cubic yards.
Example: 200 sq. ft x 0.33 (4 inches deep) / 27 = 2.222 cubic yards.
This should help give you an idea of how much gravel you’re going to need and prepare you for the next steps. Place header boards around the edge of the excavated area, this is meant to keep the granite held within the boundaries and keep it packed in. Stake in the header boards every 4 to 6 feet, securing each one with a nail. The next step is to install the weed barrier which is important to ensure the longevity of your driveway. Roll your weed barrier fabric and use galvanized staples to root it down every 1 foot.
Following this it’s time to lay your granite gravel. Make sure it’s evenly spread out and when it’s all placed soak the granite thoroughly with water, this will help pack it down and create a cohesive substrate. Wait at least 8 hours for the granite to dry, then use a plate compactor to flatten your driveway. Repeat this step until all holes are filled and you have yourself a decomposed granite driveway.
If you’ve chosen granite as your natural stone then you’re in luck when it comes to maintaining it. Granite is resilient and durable, is hardly affected by the weather, and can last your lifetime if maintained properly. Keeping that in mind, I hold firm to the philosophy of “prevention is the best form of medicine”, and it’s no different for granite upkeep.
The first step is properly sealing your granite pavers. This will prevent the ingress of dirt and debris and will make future cleanings a breeze. Realistically your stone pavers should be sealed annually, as the sealant isn’t as long-lasting as the stones themselves.
It’s also prudent to regularly clean your granite pavers. If they’re dirty give them a sweeping, and if they become muddy then take the mop or a damp cloth to them. If you maintain them as part of your routine then you’ll be preventing any major cleaning projects in the future. If you do encounter a particularly nasty stain that simple water won’t solve, you can apply a bit of dish soap and scrub with a bristled brush, this should most issues. If you find yourself with a stubborn grease stain then stepping up to isopropyl alcohol mixed with even parts of water can work wonders.
Cost of Granite
Granite comes in a variety of styles, colors, and cuts which will all factor into the cost of your backyard project. When you’re spending thousands of dollars it’s nice to know how much lighter your wallet will be when you’re done, so let’s go over some hypothetical projects to give you an estimate.
Starting with something simple; the granite boulder. The average cost of a granite boulder is roughly $0.20 per pound, this puts a 1000-pound boulder at $200 That’s just the cost of the rock itself, the cost of delivery will be entirely dependent on your location from the quarry to your home. Depending on the size of the boulder and how you plan on using it, the installation cost can range from $50 to$100.
Moving on to a decomposed granite driveway. If you plan on installing it yourself then you’re looking at the cost of material and delivery. The rock itself should run you roughly $100 to $300 per 400 sq. ft, and the delivery can be as much as $80 per load. If your back won’t allow you to do all that hard work, then you’re looking at roughly $80 per hour, but most companies will charge you a flat rate based on their quote. Building a 500 foot long driveway could run you upwards of $2000 by the end.
Next up is the granite walkway. This project is easy enough to take on as a DIY project which could help cut down the costs. The cost of granite pavers per square foot is roughly $10 to $12.50, so a 50 sq. ft pathway could total up to $650. If you’d like to cut down on costs even further then going with naturally broken stones and spacing them out into steps would lower your costs even further.
Moving on to the stage of your backyard, the patio, which may go beyond your ability as a DIY project. Doing a mud-set method (laying a concrete foundation) can significantly add to the cost. It will involve paying for the labor of pouring the substructure, which itself will cost around $900 for 160 sq. ft. Once the substructure is established you can move on to the pavers themselves, the material alone will run you back roughly $1200 plus $600 in labor. While this may seem like a lot to you, remember that a natural stone patio will add considerable property value.
Once installed you’ll need to seal them as well. You can purchase natural stone sealant for around $100 to $150 which should cover 500 sq. ft.
In my opinion, regardless of your project, using granite in your outdoor landscaping is worth every penny and will help build both your property value and the pride in your dwelling.
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