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Published: November, 2020
There are some great options for both steel and aluminium edging available to use, but how do you decide on which one to use and why? Are you looking to design or install a neat lawn or landscape edging, to stop the erosion of soil and migration of other materials? Well we know that wood is a material that rots quickly compared to metal, but this may not be the reason why you choose to use steel or aluminium, lawn and landscape edging, instead of timber.
Timber is natural-looking, easy to cut and join, and when making straight lines, it is straightforward to fix in the ground using wooden stakes. However, there are huge limitations to using wood, apart from the fact it rots quickly.
A product such as Borderline steel lawn edging comes in different sizes and finishes, preventing the erosion of the edge of the turf invisibly, or you could utilise the 15 cm/6” high version, making a visible upstand. Upstands can be an attractive feature, not just for edging of lawns but also a border for paths and drives with surfaces such as gravel, avoiding migration of loose materials.
It's really important to think carefully about the thickness of the steel. 2.0mm should generally only be used for soft landscape situations such as lawn and flower borders, as it is not ideal for traffic. If you want to have an upstand, use a minimum of 3.0mm or even a product such as Borderline at 5.0mm thick, for durability should it come into contact with vehicles of any kind.
A 5.0mm thickness for steel would give you the best advantage over timber, due to its durability and strength and with a minimum of one-third of the material embedded both sides, you have an installation that looks professional, neat and is exceptionally resilient to both the weather and the physical elements with which it would have to cope.
When it comes to concrete path edgings, often known as ‘Pin Kerbs’, new edging products are being promoted which are definitely challengers to this commodity product used by the 10,000’s of metres on paths and driveways all over the planet. These are typically L shaped profiles but also upside down T Shapes, which are very stable, do not require a concrete haunch and are fixed using a 250mm long steel spike, which is hammered into the compacted hard core, or Type 1 road base material.
Another character of steel to think about is the flexibility. When you take a long length of steel edging in hand, it takes little effort to flex to a desired curve and is, much harder to fit in straight lines. When handling a short sample, this is not easy to imagine, as steel is strong, and with a short length, there is very little leverage giving an impression of it being too stiff to apply a curve.
The flexibility of thinner edging such as Borderline steel lawn edging is a useful feature though, and you can achieve a 1.0m radius with 2.0 or 3.0mm thickness. When using 5.0mm Jumbo Borderline, it is more difficult, but a graceful curve of lesser diameter is possible. Bear in mind, with timber, you would have to cut slots in the planks to enable flexing, and these slots will absorb water and rapidly accelerate decay of the board.
Another point to note is that should you flex the material too much, it is possible to kink the metal, making it almost impossible to achieve a straight line, so take care to avoid this. The likelihood of this happening with aluminium is greater than steel, which is another characteristic to consider. The ‘memory’ of steel is greater than that of aluminium, and its ability to flex back to its original position is therefore more likely.
If you are creating any shapes with any type of symmetrical element, I strongly recommend that you order bespoke material to a drawing that can be fitted in a fraction of the time of free style on site, and a very small proportion of the frustration and probably, waste material, when you abandon what you are really trying to achieve! This recommendation cannot be overstated!
What a popular material for edging! Cor-Ten® has been an extremely popular option due to its resilience and natural look. It is excellent to use, looks fantastic in the right place, and there are many case studies to look at.
Beware! Many of these offerings are not genuine Cor-Ten® steel, and are merely, bare mild steel There are other good quality weathering steels, but if this is important to you, and I suggest it should be, make sure you know what you are buying and have this in writing from the manufacturer.
Other finishes such as galvanisation, provide alternatives to powder coating or untreated steel, but they are not everyone's cup of tea! However, they are also very resilient and when specifying an upstand to withstand migration of such as gravel, they are good options to consider.
Just a note here as to stainless steel used as an edging. The cost implications of stainless, especially if 316 is in mind, which is the only viable option due to corrosion of 304, make this product very rarely worth considering. It works well of course but is probably around 10 times the cost with no advantage apart from aesthetic. However, it can be made, and it works well if money is not an object and is desired deeply enough!
Working with steel as opposed to wood is challenging, and it is a good idea that anything particularly bespoke you fabricate off-site, to a drawing. Cutting and forming of steel is completed very quickly using specialised machinery but is not easy at all with smaller tools on site.
Further information of using the flexibility of steel to create curves is discussed previously but I would always suggest some experimentation if you are a contractor thinking of creating curves on site.
However, if you need to form corners using Borderline or a similar type of metal landscape edging, by using a small grinder you can cut a V-shaped groove down the front of the strip, which will enable a very professional looking corner with ease.
When scoring, the bare metal should be protected with paint galvanising spray if not using an untreated finish. This will preserve it from corrosion. Why not experiment with a small piece prior to doing the actual corner, so that you have a clear understanding of how deep the groove should be?
The advantages of using metal edging go beyond this of course, and when I say ‘metal’ here, I refer to both steel and aluminium. The market has grown enormously in recent years, and awareness of steel and aluminium as an option to timber is well known and used and for good reason, as you can and will appreciate!