How to lay Garden Stepping Stones

how to lay stepping stones

Stepping stones are an attractive and low-cost way to create pathways in your garden. With just a few simple tools and materials, you can install a stepping stone path in a day. Follow this guide for tips on selecting and laying stones for a path that lasts.

What You’ll Need

  • Stepping stones (you can use sandstone, limestone, or even porcelain slabs).
  • Measuring tape
  • String
  • Spray paint
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Sand (sharp, course grade)
  • Cement
  • PVC piping and washers (for drainage)
  • Wood plank or board
  • Spirit level
  • Rubber mallet

Planning Your Path

First, come up with some path ideas on paper before deciding on the route for your path. Mark the path outline with string, keeping the width slightly wider than your stones. Space stones 12-18 inches (300-450mm) apart so the average stride can cross comfortably.

Use spray paint to mark the exact position for each stone. Ensure stones are level with the surrounding area so grass or gravel can be installed flush up to the stones.

Preparing the Base

Dig a trench at least 2 cm deeper than your stone thickness. Fill the trench bottom with 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) of sharp sand – this will allow for drainage. Place drain pipes at a downward angle under a few stones if you have wet or clay soil.

Mix 1 part cement to 3 parts sharp sand to make your patio mortar base. Set and level each stone by placing a 2 cm thick mortar base under the stone, then tap gently with a mallet until level.

Some people like to lay stones on a fully dug-out concrete paving sub-base; however, this isn’t necessary for stepping stones since they are just for foot traffic .

Securing Stones

Let stones set and firmly adhere to the mortar base, around 12-24 hours. Fill gaps between stones with topsoil & grass seed or fine gravel, level to the stone height.

Your path is now complete! A stepping stone walkway offers visual appeal and invites you to slow down & enjoy your garden landscape.

Stepping stones on grass

“When preparing your base, make sure to thoroughly tamp down and smooth the sand layer before adding mortar – this will prevent sinking or shifting of stones over time.” – Steven Bell, Landscape Designer

Cutting & customising Your Stones

Stepping stones come in standard sizes, but you may want to cut them to better fit your path layout. The process differs slightly depending on the stone material:

Cutting  Sandstone Mark cutting lines with chalk or pencil. Use an angle grinder or stone chisel to score the stone, then tap along the score line with a hammer to break the stone. Smooth any rough edges with the grinder.

Cutting Porcelain Score the porcelain along cutting lines with an angle grinder fitted with a diamond blade. The scoring creates a weak point for the stone to break evenly. Tap the rear side of the score line with a hammer and the porcelain should snap cleanly. Use a tile nipper on small irregular pieces.

Shaping stones into custom curves or edges can be done with an angle grinder and diamond pads, working slowly and carefully. Always wear safety gear when cutting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do stepping stones need to be concreted in place?

It can be a good idea to concrete stepping stones into a mortar base. This prevents shifting, sinking, and weed growth. Pour a mortar mix into the gravel base, level the stones into the mortar, and allow to fully cure for 1-2 days before walking on the path. Alternately, you can lay the paving slabs straight on the soil but it does have some downsides.

 What kind of base is needed under stepping stones?

Prepare a 4-6 inch gravel base under the path area before laying stones. Compact the gravel fully before installing mortar and stones. The gravel base allows for drainage under the stepping stones.

 Should gaps be left between stepping stones?

Gaps should be left between the stones to allow drainage and prevent buildup of debris. The width of the gaps depends on personal preference, but 2-6 inches is typical. Grass or pebbles can be used to fill gaps.

 How far apart should stepping stones be spaced?

Stepping stones should be spaced  12-18 inches apart from centre to center. This matches the average stride to allow for comfortable walking across the stones. Adjust as needed to match your own natural gait.

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