Walkways — published on March 25, 2008

Design Elements: Walkways

Follow natural access patterns when laying out walks. If you don’t, children or dogs will carve their own paths right through your prize petunias. A straight path, though less charming, is the shortest and least expensive, and sometimes the most sensible.

Use curves, jogs, or steps only where there is a reason, not just to meander. Combine practicality with visual appeal by making walks at least 36 inches wide. If scale permits, 42 to 54 inches is better so two people can walk together. For an illusion of greater or lesser distance, widen one end. Extra width at curves is pleasant.

Ideally, walks should slope 1 to 5 percent, never more than 10. If the entry is steeper, use curves, jogs, steps, or ramps. Let plants make the journey interesting.

Make walls, fences, or hedges near walks less than 2 feet so people can swing their arms or carry packages without feeling crowded. Between the walk and taller verticals, a buffer zone of ground cover, lawn, flowers, or mulch at least 2 feet wide gives more room for movement.

To add interest to walks, choose brick patterns or exposed-aggregate textures. If you have plain concrete walks, cover them with brick pavers, slate, or tile. Loose materials like tanbark or wood chips are fine for natural garden paths farther away from the house, but they result in too much tracking in if used for the front yard.