The Homeowner’s Guide to Building a Backyard Oasis With Natural Stone

The Homeowner’s Guide to Building a Backyard Oasis With Natural Stone

Imagine stepping into your backyard and having everything you love right at your fingertips.

—a pool for cooling off, a fireplace for warming up, and an outdoor entertainment area for drinks and dinners. If you’re planning to create a backyard oasis, whether small or big, there are a few things you should keep in mind. We spoke with landscape designer Cysilia Schaub with The Concrete Service, Inc. to find out what you need to know before you start designing your backyard project.

Landscape Designer, Cysilia Schaub

What’s Your Vision for Your Backyard Oasis?

When you look out back, what do you want to see? Maybe it’s a pool for the kids and a patio dining area for you? Schaub suggests starting by living in your space for a little while to get a feel for how you might want to use it. Then make a wish list. Be sure to have all parties involved who will be using the space, such as both partners in a couple.

“If it’s just the wife doing the design, then the husband may come in and want something different. Then the designer has to do a lot of extra work going back and redoing the plan to accommodate them both, which can also push out the timeline.” Schaub says.

She suggests putting what you want in your wish list and your likes and dislikes. If you see something at a neighbor’s house or online, add it to the list to share with the designer. “That way I can make sure to start steering them in the right direction,” says Schaub.

Timing Is Everything

Being aware of timing is also important. Schaub says many homeowners want to start a backyard project as soon as the warm spring weather hits. But then they face the reality of waiting for materials, available contractors or the project taking longer than they imagined. She says it’s a good idea to start planning a year to six months in advance. “If you only give your contractor a couple of months to come up with the design, figure out a budget and get everything mobilized, chances are it’s not going to happen. If you want a project for next summer, start planning this summer.”

Start By Contacting a Reputable Landscape Designer or Architect

As a homeowner, it may be daunting to know whom to call to start a backyard project. A little industry insight: A landscape designer can create a backyard project based on their experience and knowledge. They may not be formally educated in the trade or have a degree in a related skill. A landscape architect may have a higher education in engineering or civil architecture. Some design-build firms are both design and install, and have a collection of landscape designers and builders who work for them and can complete a project from beginning to end. Some designers work independently to design a project and then can recommend contractors to do the work.

Schaub says finding the right people is really important. Not only are you making a major investment in your home, and you want the work to be done well, but you also have to work—and live—with these people around your home potentially for months. “You’re going to have to look at and be with them every day,” she says. “You want to trust them and get along with them.”

Be sure to take the time to research them and meet them. Look at their portfolio, understand their experience. Get a sense of how they work and their capability of handling your project so you both feel comfortable going in.

The Onsite Walk-Through to the Design

Your landscape professional will first want to do a walk-through of your property and discuss what you want to do. Keep in mind that functionality is a priority over aesthetics. Your intended use of the area must be established. Then you can make it pretty. Once the designer understands your vision, they will create a design for you to approve or ask for revisions. Schaub says it’s worth including a building contractor in the discussions to note any challenges to technical aspects of the installation and to make sure the design is within budget.

Natural Stone vs. Manufactured Stone or Concrete

Schaub notes that a big part of the budget will be determined by the cost of the materials, followed by the labor cost. When your design is getting to the final stage, your designer will likely bring you samples from a company like Instone for you to select the stone style you want. While natural stone such as Aura Natural Landscapes may be a bit more expensive than manufactured stone, Schaub recommends it because the benefits outweigh the cost. “A big benefit is the aesthetic. The color and movement of natural stone just looks so much better,” she says. “Concrete products are made to mimic natural stone and some do it well, others don’t.”

She adds that the durability of natural stone also can’t be beaten. It’s stain resistant, scratch resistant and fade resistant. It’s been on earth for millions of years and can withstand the elements. While some concrete products try to include these benefits, Schaub cautions, “By the time you’re getting into the price range of a concrete product that has all of these features, it’s pretty close to the price of natural stone. So it’s pretty easy to make that jump and just go with natural stone.”

Here are some selections of Aura Natural Landscapes:

Benefits of Using Aura Natural Landscapes

Schaub says she’s now worked with Aura Natural Landscapes for several projects. She says what she likes about it is how consistent the product is. “The colors and thickness of the stone are exactly what you’re expecting, which is really important from an install standpoint.”

She says the availability is also better than other products meaning short lead times. “It’s not uncommon to have to wait three months for materials. But with Aura, I can usually get it within a couple of weeks. And their customer service is great. I’ve had questions about how to manipulate the product, and they are quick to respond.”

What Can You Put in Your Backyard?

Some options to consider when setting up your backyard oasis include:


  • Outdoor kitchen/bar
  • Pool
  • Patio
  • Garden
  • Sitting area
  • Fireplace
  • Fire pit
  • Water feature (fountain, waterfall)

Design Style:

  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Modern/Contemporary
  • Woodland/Natural/Rustic

While it’s easy to want everything, and improving your backyard space will bring a higher return on your home’s value, it’s better to start small than go overboard. You want to make sure you’re going to use everything you put in. A simple design may also be more attractive if you want to sell your home later on to someone who will like what you’ve done rather than someone who may want to rip out an overdone backyard. And remember, the more complex the project, the longer the installation will take.

Other Considerations for Your Backyard Oasis

Schaub says you also want to consider what is already in your backyard. Is there a view you want to take advantage of? Are there slopes that need to be accommodated with steps and proper water drainage? Are there mature trees with large roots? Your designer will help you work around challenges and take advantage of the natural beauty of your property.

Also, note what permits you may need to do building work. These can range from county soil and erosion permits, building permits and permits if your property is on an inland lake or stream. Check your local township and state requirements for what’s needed. In addition, check what setbacks you have to follow for your particular property. Your landscape designer should be able to help you find out what permits you need for your specific design.

So if you’re thinking about a backyard makeover, the time to start planning is now. Make your wish list and contact us for samples of Aura Natural Landscaping products!

Natural Stone and Outdoor Living Made Easy: Instone Has You Covered

Join Instone at the Northeast Hardscape Expo and see why natural stone is trending. Whether you ‘re looking for fresh new natural stone colors or have questions, Instone can help. Meet the A-Team and pick up a free t-shirt at the show!

You won’t want to miss the new products we’ll be bringing. Stop by our booth #500 and meet our A-Team, who can show you samples, provide education on applications and let you know how to order. Now read on to learn more about our featured products!


Natural Stone and Outdoor Living Made Easy: Instone Has You Covered


Unlike any other stone veneer product on the market, Pangaea® sets itself apart from the rest with its unique packaging and application technology. Just lift the top off a pallet, and you’ll see for yourself, this product is ready for application right out of the box. Each stone is pre-cut, tooled, trimmed and fitted together like layers of completed puzzles, saving you time, money and product waste. Plus, each pallet layer is pre-blended for optimal color variance and size ratio. You can see exactly how much product you’re getting in each palette and the coloring is quality controlled.

Photo of Pangaea Pallet

Every Pangaea® pallet is cut, tooled, trimmed and fitted before it comes to you.

“Pangaea® really separates themselves by doing things differently,” says Justin Alicandro, VP of Natural Stone Products, who’s been sourcing stone products for over 20 years. “They take the time to make the best quality thin veneer in the world, hands down. The biggest reason is they hand trim the stones and square them up before they package them. The packaging looks like a mockup for a job. With other products, the mason has to trim the stone, creating a lot of waste. Pangaea® has 100% product yield, and the others have maybe 80%, so it’s a more profitable stone. The mason just takes it out of the pallet and puts it on the wall, for a fast and simple installation.”

If that’s not enough, each Pangaea® veneer piece features Gripset® technology, pre-scored grooves on the back of each stone, enabling better adhesion to any surface. No more worrying about your veneer work moving or sliding.

Alicandro says they’ll also be showcasing a new Pangaea color® at the Expo, Pangaea® Providence, “It has some nice earth tone colors with grays and browns. It’s a blend of five different stones.”

Pangaea Providence Castlestone

New 2022 Pangaea® Color: Providence Shown 

Pangaea Providence Ledgestone

Learn more about Pangaea® on our product page

Aura Natural Landscapes

Supply chain issues? What supply chain issues? You won’t find a shortage of selection when it comes to our natural stone landscape product line, Aura. Available in a variety of products – paving, steps, treads, slabs and more, plus an ever-increasing line of colors sourced from countries all over the world. “Bluestone is the most popular color in the United States,” says Alicandro. “But because of supply chain issues, a lot of people can’t get it. We try to stay ahead of the competition by continually bringing in new selections and finding alternatives to stones that aren’t readily available. We plan ahead. We order early and often.”

Join the Instone Army

Speaking of Bluestone, Alicandro says they’ll be bringing Aura’s new Italian Bluestone to the Expo, “It’s a very strong sandstone and there’s no iron in it so the color will stay blue. It won’t rust or brown over time.”

Aura Landscape Photo Shot

Aura Italian Bluestone: New for 2022

Aura Urban Landscape Paver Photo

Learn more about Aura Natural Landscapes on our product page

Alicandro says they’re bringing a full-color palette to the Hardscape Expo for attendees to see it in person. “We’ll be showcasing some new sandstones. They are the densest sandstones in the world. Some say it’s hard as granite. And it’s a very competitive price point.”

Some colors to look for:

  • Blue Mist
  • Blue Sky Grey (a Blue Mist alternative that doesn’t get as hot)
  • Blue Ice
  • Autumn Brown
  • Oxford Buff

Why Natural Stone?

Natural stone comes from the earth; therefore, it has durability on its side. Using stone products on and around your home will immediately increase its value, not only because of its longevity but it is also resistant to wind, fire, water and bug infestation. “It’s the Ferrari of materials. It’s not manufactured. You can’t get a better-quality product for your home,” says Alicandro.

So come see us at the Hardscape Expo. Check out our products, meet the A-Team and get your free T-shirt! We can’t wait to meet you!

5 Steps to Expertly Source Natural Stone: The Landscape Architects Resource

5 Steps to Expertly Source Natural Stone: The Landscape Architects Resource

With more people spending time outdoors, backyard designs are in high demand. And so is beautiful stonework to create all the amenities for luxurious outdoor living: patios, pools, spas, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and fire pits, as well as the hardscaping: steps, walls and walkways.

5 Steps to Expertly Source Natural Stone: The Landscape Architects Resource

Instone can provide landscape designers and architects with the stone information, samples, technical specs, shop drawings and custom stone fabrication they need to complete projects and satisfy clients.

It starts with a plan set. When that is sent to Instone, the Fabrication and Design Teams get to work to provide the support that landscape architects’ needs.

A Stone Sourcing Checklist for Landscape Professionals:

“Availability is key,” says Instone’s senior estimator, Nicole Blackburn. “We can let them know what standards we have in stock and how fast they can get it. We provide samples for their requests. We’ll also provide options based on our experience and expertise. We will let them know the time it will take to get the product and the price point so they can take it back to the homeowner to decide on what they want.”

Instone also gives landscape architects the technical data including the stone’s stocking sizes and country of origin, as well as mechanical properties such as density, water absorption, and rupture compression strength.

Example of the product specification Instone provides for each of its Aura stone products.

“Usually, they want to know the density of the stone, how durable it is, how it will hold up under the weather conditions and if the stones get hot underfoot. We can provide all of that information,” says Blackburn.

When the Fabrication and Design Teams receive a plan (or drawing) set of a full backyard design, takeoff and stone schedule, they then provide an estimate to a local stone distributor. Once the quote is approved, the shop drawing process begins for each stone. It includes the type of stone, dimensions, finish and fabrication work such as edging and placement according to the stone schedule. Instone works closely with local distributors, landscape designers and contractors to ensure the shop drawing is perfectly constructed and accommodates their needs.

Once all parties approve the specifics, the work begins with fabrication cuts on the natural stones to prepare them for installation.

Because timing is everything with stone, Blackburn advises homeowners and landscape architects to plan ahead. “Most people want to start backyard projects as soon as winter is ending. The weather is warming up, and they want the stone quickly. They may be limited to what we have in stock, or they will have to wait if their heart is set on a particular stone, we work to get it for them.” She recommends people start their planning process before or during the winter months, so if there is some wait time, the project will be completed by the start of summer.

Instone’s Fabrication and Design Teams are here to help landscape architects and designers get what they need quickly and professionally to create beautiful outdoor living spaces for their clients.