Making stepping stones is a great way to get creative and have fun while being productive.
There are many ways you can make your stepping stones, but one of the best ways is by using sand molds. This method works well for two reasons: first, it doesn't require any expensive materials; second, there's no mess involved.
In this article, you'll learn how to make your stepping stones along with a few tips to help you make the most of your project. Let's get started.
Gather your materials
To make your stepping stones, you'll need to gather a few materials.
Find a large bucket for mixing the concrete (a 5-gallon bucket is a good size). You may want to put newspaper or plastic under the bucket for easier clean-up.
You will also need:
- Concrete: You can use dry cement, just add water. For this article, I am going to assume that you're using a mix made for stepping stones (read on for more details).
- Gravel: You can use whatever size gravel you want but keep in mind that anything larger than 1/4″ may not be suitable for small molds.
- Sand: This is optional and only necessary if you want to reinforce your stepping stones. If you're using a mold that's more than 6″ wide, use one cup of sand per bag of concrete mix.
- Water: Make sure it's free from impurities since these will make your stepping stones weak.
- Something to mix the concrete: You can use a shovel or just use your hands if you're feeling adventurous.
- Molds: The size of your molds will depend on how many steps you want to create. For example, if you want a 4″ wide step, you'll need a 4″ mold. You can get these at most home improvement or craft stores. If you don't have molds, you can easily turn items like milk cartons or yogurt containers into free molds
- A brick: This is optional but it helps make sure the concrete dries in an even layer. Place the brick on one side of the bucket and fill it with concrete.
You will also need to make sure you have a good level surface where you'll be working. The ground must be dry, flat (no puddles), and free of debris – you don't want rocks or sticks in your new stepping stones.
Preparing the concrete
Before you can start making your stepping stones, you'll need to mix up the concrete.
Mix the concrete according to the instructions on the package, but use more water. The extra water helps make sure that your concrete is easier to work with.
The first part is for pouring your mold (about 1/3 of the total amount). Make sure this layer isn't very thick, or it will be difficult to release your stepping stone.
The second part is for making a solid base in the middle of your mold (about 1/4 of the total amount). This prevents your stepping stones from warping and cracking.
The rest is for decorating or creating a border around your stone (this will be about 2/3 of the total amount).
How to make decorative concrete borders
You can add a decorative border to your stepping stones using the concrete mix described in the previous section. To do this, add a little bit of sand to your mix and increase the amount of water you use (water should be about 1/2 of the total amount). Follow the instructions on the package but make sure that you don't add too much water because it can cause your stone to crack.
Once you have the concrete in your molds, add some rocks or pebbles to make it prettier. You can do this after mixing (just mix them in when you pour) but make sure that they will be stable once you take out the mold because wet concrete is quite heavy.
Dry your concrete. Set aside your molds in a safe, dry place for at least 24 hours to let the concrete harden. Once it's ready, remove mold gently and check if the sand has sunk in evenly (if you want perfect-looking stepping stones, this is the time to fix any imperfections).
Once your steps are ready, let them cure for a few more days before using. You can speed up the process by mixing a little water with the concrete and covering it with an old cloth or some plastic wrap.
Do I need to order stone veneer, sand, and cement too?
Yes, you will need to order a couple of things for this project to be successful.
You will need a stone veneer for the surface of your stepping stone. This is the same material used for hardscaping, which are things like patios and retaining walls. It comes in various widths (12″, 18″ or 24″) and lengths (2′, 3′ or 4′).
For example: If you want to make a 12″ wide by 6″ deep step, you will need two 2′ x 2′ pieces of stone veneer so that it covers both sides of the step.
You'll also need to order some sand, which can be found at most home improvement stores. The sand should be about the consistency of beach sand. You will use it for leveling your mold before pouring your concrete.
Concrete mix is a special type of concrete mix designed for this use, but the regular concrete mix is just as good.
You will also need some cement. This can be found at most home improvement stores, and you will need about 1-2 bags to make enough steps for a small patio or garden. Cement comes in many different strengths, so ensure that you buy the right type for your project – this is written on the back of the bag. A standard strength (50 lb.) should work well for these steps. Remember to choose a brand that does not have fiberglass fibers since it won't hold up over time as regular cement will.
How many bricks of each size should I buy?
If you want to make a patio that is 18″ wide by 24″ deep, and you are using 12″-long bricks, then you will need:
6 ABC bricks (= 2 full layers of brick)
3 XYZ bricks (1 for each side)
In total, the amount of stones needed for this project is 20. This also assumes that 1/2″ thick stones will be used. If 1″ thick ones are instead used, then 40 blocks per layer would be required.
What size do I choose?
The size of your bricks will depend on the overall look you want to achieve. For example, if you are planning to make a small patio in your garden but would still like it to be substantial, then using 1″ thick stepping stones may not fit well with the rest of your design. However, smaller stones tend to crack and break more easily than larger ones do.
If you want them for an area that does not get much use so sturdiness is not as important -like an entryway or walkway – then go ahead and choose any thickness and size.
What should I do with the leftover stone mixture?
If any of it is left after making the stepping stones, don't throw it away or dump it in a landfill. Use these excess materials to build things around your homes, such as a short wall, a flower bed, or even an outdoor planter box. In addition, stepping stones can be used to create a short retaining wall.
What should I do with the leftover concrete mixture?
You can use the leftovers to make hardscaping projects or even home décor items like garden markers or outdoor plaques.
How do I level my mold before pouring the concrete?
Leveling the mold before pouring the concrete will help ensure that your stones are perfectly level. The sand should be about the consistency of beach sand. The easiest way to go about this is by placing a couple of 2×4's between both sides of your mold and then filling in any holes or gaps with sand.
Once the mold has been set, how should I remove it from the form?
There are two ways in which to do this:
1) Carefully remove them one-by-one with a pry bar (you can use wood shims to dig them out), or
2) Remove all four corners first. You can then remove the entire mold easily by lifting it up and away from the stones.
What is the purpose of placing a brick on top?
The bricks placed on top serve two purposes:
They provide a level surface for the concrete mixture to sit upon, thereby giving you an even surface to work with;
They also act as spacers that will allow your stepping stones to be evenly spaced apart so that they don't overlap with each other.
Final thoughts on how to make stepping stones
In conclusion, I would say that making stepping stones is a great way to spend time outdoors. It is relaxing, it is very inexpensive to do and finally, you get something that you can use in your garden or possibly as a gift for someone else.
Finally, if you're a fan of making things around the house, why not check out these two articles on kitchen countertops? Here's one on quartz vs granite to learn more about different materials you can use for your projects along with another article on marble kitchen countertops to get a better idea of how this material can be used.