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Put your best foot forward

Your home’s front walk is its first impression—make it count

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Improve a narrow path by adding a border in a different material to the sides. A line of bricks down either edge, for example, adds colour and interest.

As the snow melts it reveals the debris of a long winter. Just like your home’s interior, your front walkway will benefit from a spring cleaning. A fresh front walk adds appeal to your home for you, your visitors, and neighbours.

Start with a power wash. It will revitalise tired looking hard surfaces like concrete or brick. You can blast away dead weeds between pavers at the same time. Most big box stores rent power washers.

Ensure your walkway’s lines are smooth and sharp. “You really want clean lines,” says Myles Whitaker, the landscape construction supervisor at Murray’s Garden Centre and Horticultural Services in Portugal Cove, N.L. “They give definition and please the eye.”

Whitaker suggests digging out the weeds between the stones and tidying up the edges. Cut away encroaching grass. Top-up gravel walkways to freshen their appearance and add sand between paving stones for stability. Consider replacing regular sand with polymeric jointing sand, which is more durable and will repel weeds. Find it at your local hardware store or garden centre.

Winter’s freeze-thaw cycle can send paving stones or bricks reaching for the sky. Tamp down those that have shifted slightly. Pull up and level the ground below those that need more than a tap.

A solid concrete walkway showing bad signs of heaving and cracking might need professional help. Before it gets to that point, you can extend concrete’s life by using concrete-friendly ice melters rather than salt.

If your concrete walkway is in good shape one way to spruce it up is through resurfacing. Cement-based overlays come in a variety of colours and can give the appearance of different materials like Italian slate or flagstones, making the entire path look brand new.

Make sure whatever you chose complements your house in both colour and style. Painting also offers a quick and easy change in appearance, although it won’t last as long and may become slippery when wet.

The wider the path, the more attractive it looks. Improve a narrow path by adding a border in a different material to the sides. A line of bricks down either edge, for example, adds colour and interest.

“Walkways can sometimes look a little industrial,” says Whitaker. Plants will soften the lines and add colour. “But you don’t want something that can be crushed or broken by having the snow thrown on it. If it’s by a road with lots of traffic and snow-clearing, it’s got to be pretty hardy.”

Potted plants allow you to create a variety of looks in spring and summer. But Darcy MacNeill, owner of Earthform Landscape Professionals in Stratford, P.E.I., says small potted plants at the nursery can be deceptive. Ask the garden centre staff how large plants will grow before buying.

Plants can help keep people on the walkway. If your path curves or has sharp angles and visitors tend to cut across the lawn, use well-placed plants to steer them back onto the walk.

Landscape lights placed every one-to-two metres along the path add visual excitement and safety at night. “Lighting extends the season and is a great way to enhance the presence of the house,” says MacNeill. “It takes it to another dimension.”

Find solar and electric lights at your local hardware store. A professional should install electric lighting, which makes it more expensive. The good news is that LED lighting comes down in price yearly and will only get more affordable.

For a year-round lighting option, MacNeill suggests electric. “Solar lights are okay, but they’re not quite there yet,” he says. “They will go far in the next few years, but now they don’t last and aren’t bright enough with the long nights we have in winter.” Solar lights are easy to install yourself and perfect for more isolated paths or where the lighting has to cross a driveway or some other obstruction.

A clean, smooth walkway with well-defined edges, attractive lighting and well-placed plants is sure to make anyone happy to be led down your garden path.

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