3 Ways to Build Permeable Hardscapes

Use these 3 methods for building a permeable patio or walkway…

Permeable hardscapes are a popular landscaping trend. In the San Luis Obispo area, people tend to be environmentally friendly and aware of their water use, so it’s no wonder that these green alternatives to traditional hardscapes are being installed with increased frequency.

In contrast to impervious surfaces, such as concrete or mortared sidewalks and patios, permeable hardscapes allow rainwater to soak into the ground.

This has 3 main benefits (learn more here):

  1. It decreases stormwater runoff, and thus reduces the amount of pollution that goes into our waterways and the ocean.
  2. It allows rainwater to permeate into the ground which helps recharge our groundwater reservoirs.
  3. It helps water your plants.

Given the Central Coast’s proximity to fragile marine ecosystems and our dwindling water supplies, permeable hardscapes are a responsible alternative to impervious pavements.

Here are 3 options for including permeable hardscapes in your landscaping…

1.Decomposed Granite

A permeable patio made from DGDecomposed Granite (commonly referred to as DG) makes an eco-friendly and affordable alternative to concrete. DG can be used for a wide variety of applications. Walkways, patios, driveways, or even roads can be made from DG.

The construction process is fairly simple for DG patios and walkways. Typically, they are built using a coarse aggregate base layer that is compacted, an edging material, and finally the Decomposed Granite layer. The DG is moistened then compacted using a hand tamper or plate compactor.

The result is a firm and durable surface that will last for many years. As opposed to concrete, DG has a more natural look that can blend much more easily into a residential landscape. The big benefit though, is that it is highly permeable. It soaks up water and releases it slowly into the soil below.


Flagstone makes for a striking patio or pathway. These large slabs of stone can be used in a variety of ways to provide a distinct style and function.

Stone walkway in Morro Bay, CATo be made permeable, a hardscape made of flagstone must be “Dry Laid”, meaning it is placed on a bed of gravel and sand, and the spaces between each flagstone are filled with a permeable material. This permeable material could be pebbles, sand, mulch, or a ground cover plant.

This is opposed to a “Wet Laid” patio or walkway which is set on top of concrete and the joints between the stones are filled with mortar or polymeric sand.

Fortunately, a permeable flagstone walkway or patio is very durable and offers many opportunities for artistic flair and style. A contrasting pebble used between flagstone can add more interest and depth to the hardscape. Another idea is to use a ground cover plant, such as Woolly Thyme, to soften up the hardscape and add greenery.

3.Permeable Pavers

Permeable pavers come in a variety of styles and can be used as an alternative to traditional pavers that are made from concrete and are installed as an impermeable surface.

permeable-paver2The process for installing permeable pavers is slightly different from traditional pavers. The exact installation procedures vary depending on the intended use, paver material, and manufacturer. Typically, it involves a thick layer of gravel as a base, geotextile fabric, a sand setting bed, and sand or pebbles in between the permeable pavers. The idea is to not over-compact and to allow water to seep through the joints between pavers.

Permeable pavers are perfect for driveways and patios. These are likely the largest hard surfaces on your property (besides the house). This means 2 things –they better look good, and they are a great opportunity to reduce a significant amount of rainwater runoff.

When renovating or creating a new landscape, you can use permeable pavers to accomplish those two goals. They quickly and effectively allow water to filter down into the soil, and look wonderful. In fact, with such a large selection of permeable pavers available these days, it’s easy to find a style that matches your preferences.


Permeable hardscapes are an attractive way to improve the sustainability of your property. Other than the 3 methods outlined above, there are many more options for building an environmentally friendly patio, walkway, or driveway. Porous concrete, decorative gravel, brick, and turfstone type pavers are a few of the other materials that can be used. They are all durable, sustainable, and look great.

When looking for a landscaper to install a permeable hardscape, be sure to seek a company that has knowledge and experience working with permeable materials. It’s critical for the long term durability, looks, and permeability of the structure to use proper installation procedures. A company that knows the ins and outs of building these types of sustainable hardscapes will be your best bet.

If you’d like to learn more about permeable hardscapes, or inquire about having us design and install your permeable patio, walkway, or driveway, feel free to contact us. We specialize in creating environmentally friendly and water efficient landscapes. Increasing permeability in the landscape is one of our main goals, so we would love to help you with your permeable hardscaping project.