An eye for definition

Features - Maintenance

Contractors discuss when to use curbing or edging for a landscape bed.

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June 13, 2017
Holly Hammersmith
“For a landscaper to add it on they probably could add it on and pay it off in a season, but it’s something that takes more time away from what they already do and it depends on how big they want to grow,” says Kyle Weber, founder of Beautiful Borders in Castle Rock, Colorado.
Photo courtesy of Beautiful Borders

From traditional spade edging to metal edging to plastic edging to concrete curbing – the options for creating a defined outline around landscape beds are endless.

For most customers, selection will come down to two factors – cost and permanence, says Matt Bakker, senior landscape architect for Landscape Design Services based in Holland, Michigan.

The company provides spade edging and metal edging – either aluminum or steel. With the latter, there is an added cost of materials, Bakker says.

“A spade edge does allow you more flexibility. As the plants grow out or if there’s an adjustment to the bed, it can be more easily changed,” he says. “With any kind of metal edge, once it sets it sort of determines its shape. It’s difficult to adjust it once it’s been in place.”

Another factor for consideration is the ease of long-term maintenance, says Ryan Wolfrath, president of Wolfrath’s Curb, a concrete curb installation company based in Hortonville, Wisconsin. Wolfrath also owns The Curb Depot, a company that manufactures the machinery used to create and install curbing.

“Business owners are seeing the benefits. It’s less maintenance as far as for mowing, weed whacking and for holding in stones,” he says. “It’s definitely one of the more expensive options but once you get it done, there’s not a better product in my eyes.”

Curbing considerations.

Curbing is made from concrete with steel cable and nylon fibers running through it to minimize movement during freeze and thaw cycles, says Matt Marschall, president of Curb-It Design, serving the Twin Cities region in Minnesota.

Every curbing job is unique and curbing is custom made to match each property, says Kyle Weber, founder of Beautiful Borders, based in Castle Rock, Colorado.

“The color options basically are unlimited,” he says, adding that he can also customize texture and appearance.

Curbing can help prevent mulch or rocks from washing away, Marschall says.

“The product itself is extremely heavy, so it’s not like it’s going to move. I have clients that run ATVs over it without any problems,” Weber says.

Curbing can be installed almost anywhere, but some regions prove trickier, Wolfrath says. For example, in Florida, soil is mostly sandy and more prone to shifting if the curb is not reinforced.

“I try to stay away from tree roots,” Weber says. “The roots are going to try to stress on that concrete and move it.”

In addition to a higher cost, curbed landscape beds cannot easily be moved or redesigned, which can be a disadvantage.

“Once you put it down, it’s down. There’s no moving it. If someone wants to consistently move the beds, you can’t really do that, unless you ripped up the whole section and repoured it,” Wolfrath says.

A properly installed curb can prevent mulch or rocks from washing away.
Edging up the competition.

Ideally, metal edging is level with the turf. “We set it on the initial installation on the top of the edging about three quarters of an inch above the soil line, so the turf will grow up and over,” Bakker says.

Because of the growth, maintenance is long-term strategy for both metal edging and spade edging. Beds are typically re-spaded, or a new edge is cut every year, Bakker says.

“The disadvantages to the hand edging is that you have to have a good eye for it every year when you maintain that edge,” Bakker says.

Severe elevation changes on a property can be a challenge with metal edging, as can frost heaves. Metal edging works best on sandy sites, Bakker says.

“As long as it’s a gentle slope, it’s typically not a problem. If (the bed is) curving horizontally and vertically at the same time, that adds to the difficulty. Other than that, it could be used on any site,” he says.

Price points and lifespan.

The average cost for curbing a residential property is $2,000, or $10 per foot, Marschall says. “Stone style” curbing is made with rubber matting and is a little more tedious to make. It can sell for $15 to $20 per foot, he adds.

Through his Curb Depot business, Wolfrath works with “curbers” nationwide and says some charge as little as $4 per foot, while others can net $16 per foot – depending on the region, competition and how the product is marketed. The average, however, is $8 to $9 per foot. Black plastic edging averages $4 to $5 per foot, he says. At Landscape Design Services, Bakker says metal edging runs about $4.50 to $5 per foot installed. Spade edging costs a little less because no materials are involved for installation.

Bakker says metal edging usually succumbs to damage before deterioration, but he has seen metal edging last 20 years without needing replacement.

“Typically, it’s more like they’ve been abused or hit with a mower,” Bakker says. “On a clay site, more often the edging might push up with the frost heave in the winter. If it pops up it could be subject to physical damage by a mower.”

Curbers say their product lasts at least a decade – maybe more.

In your service mix.

Landscape contractors can opt to add curbing to their line of business with an initial investment of about $20,000, Marschall says.

“For a landscaper to add it, on they probably could add it on and pay it off in a season but it’s something that takes more time away from what they already do and it depends on how big they want to grow,” he says.

Bakker says edging is typically included in a landscape installation package.

“If (the customer) was concerned about price point, it might be something we just don’t even propose to keep the cost down,” he says.

“If we feel like the client will accept that as part of the proposal, but then, that is something we can use to negotiate out if they want to save.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Ohio.