Stepping Stone Path DIY
Here is a really easy project that you can do in a weekend or less. If you have been to "Tadege Land" you have seen these all over my yard. Mine are all in so this is an off location project, but you can come by and see mine. These are free form, nothing but concrete and dye to deal with. I just mixed the concrete in a tray with a garden hoe, you could rent a mixer at Lowe's if you choose, but there is only a small amount for each stone so it isn't worth the time or money to me. Almost all of my concrete work is done using portland cement and sand, keeps it very inexpensive, portland is under $10 for a 94 pound bag and mixes 1 to 3 parts with sand. You can also use bag mix concrete if you don't have the sand from another project in your yard. It's rather pointless to mix your own if you have to buy the sand. I don't know why they even sell forms for these, form work installation would be a lot more work and time. Who would want them to all look the same anyway? Plus since these are free form and will lay flat on any ground surface you don't even need to level the ground or put down a sand base like you have to with premade stepping stones to keep them from rocking.
The only prep I do is to cut the grass very short with a string cutter. I just eye shoot the path that I want, there is no set way to put these in and just place them in the path that you want as you go along. Actually if you have a wear path in your yard that people have been using this is a really great place to put your stepping stone path and for some reason unknown to man, a wear path usually has a nice curve to it. When you mix the concrete you'll want the mix on the thick side so you can form the edges of the stones, just follow the instructions on the concrete bag. I find that if you are mixing this in a tray with a hoe that it's easier to mix it thin and then add more dry concrete to thicken it up. After it is mixed you'll want it to sit for 5 minutes, if you mixed it with a hoe, you'll need 5 minutes also, then remix. If money is not a concern you can mix the dye in as you mix the concrete, a less expensive way is further down on this page.
Just shovel out piles of concrete where you want the stones. You can always add more or take some out as you go along. I'll bet you think I was just setting around drinking beer while Mary was doing all the work, I was mixing the concrete in 2 different trays, taking the pictures and drinking beer. Mary did all the shovel work, form work and coloring, her first stone path work and they came out great. Any project like this goes a lot easier if someone is mixing the concrete as you go along. In the next picture you can see that more stones are being added to an existing path, this was done just a couple days apart but you could come back and add to a path at any later time. Even if the color is different it doesn't matter since stones are different colors. In this picture the color hasn't been added yet.
Here are some pictures send to me of a great project from a visitor to my website. Sure beats a poured concrete sidewalk.
After letting the concrete sit for about 5 minutes to dry a little it's time to shape them, it will be like working with clay, very easy once you try it. Leave the concrete about 2" thick and just use your hands to make them the shape that you want, if they are to runny to shape just let them sit a few more minutes and them come back and do the shape work, if you need more concrete for a stone just throw it on, or just remove any extra and toss it on the next stone. You'll want them thick enough for some strength, about 2", but not so high that you'll have trouble with cutting the grass between them. After mine in my yard were dry I came back the next day and sprinkled portland cement between them and just misted it in with the hose to keep out the grass and weeds, but they also look very good with ground cover growth between them. Moss would be great, but I have never had any luck with growing moss where I want it and I've tried all the secrets. Space them apart as you choose. You don't need to worry about the final surface texture at this time, you're going to add some coloring after this part. Always wear gloves when playing with concrete, the lime will do a number on your hands. It's easier to make a few of the stones before you add the color, then come back and color a group at a time. If you mixed the dye in the concrete you may still want to add another color to make a light, dark pattern on the stones.
The concrete dye comes in a number of different colors. This is made to add to the concrete while you mix it, but it is somewhat expensive and you can do the coloring by just sprinkling some on the surface before you do the final texture for the stones and save a lot of expense. Home Depot has the dry powder type dye, I've never used the liquid type but I'm sure it would work also, you might try it in a spray bottle if that is what you are going to use, if you already have it use it for sure. The dye is just sprinkled on, then pat it out with your hands, some texturing pad, or just a plastic bag. Concrete dye is rather intense so start with just a little and add untill you get it how you want it. You could also try other things like sea sponges or what ever for different texture effects, actually they probably make things to texture concrete but I've never looked, to many free things to use. The ground is really going to pull out the moisture fast so you may want to have a container of water to dip into while doing the coloring. You may want to put your critters in the house before doing the coloring and final finish to avoid foot prints in your stones, or not. They seem to really like to run on wet concrete, once they figure out they won't sink in to far, it kind of freaks them out at first.
These will be fairly dry by the next day, but give it a week before putting heavy traffic on them. For the next 4 days or so you'll need to wet them down every day with a light spray from the hose to keep them moist and drying evenly or they will crack, don't leave this part out. If for some reason you can't wet them down every day, just really soak the ground around them the next day and cover the stones with a plastic sheet. After they finish drying the color will lighten up and they'll look more natural.
A few days after they dry they'll look like they have been there for years. You can use sealer if your choose, I don't, so you'll have to read the instructions. I have benches and chairs setting on mine and have never had a problem with cracking or wear, but let them dry very good for a week before putting a lot of weight on them. I'm sure these would not take the weight of a car without adding some rebar to them, so keep this in mind if you are putting them next to a drive way. Since these are free form you could always come back at a later time and do any repairs that may come up or even add to your paths without breaking the pattern. This is a really easy way to add to your yard with little expense or time, give it a try, you can do it. It will be one of a kind and you will of done it, everyone will be impressed. If you have any questions or I left something out just send an email to me and I'll try and answer any questions you may have. firstname.lastname@example.org
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