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How to Make Concrete Garden Stepping Stones

How to Make Concrete Garden Stepping Stones main article image
Posted on July 23, 2021 by Julie Richards

I love concrete garden stepping stones in my garden because it saves my flowers from being trampled. Everyone knows where the path is through the yard. Since concrete becomes stronger as it ages, it only makes sense to make concrete garden stepping stones because I know they will last for years. And because I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I love that I can preserve some great memories with those same stepping stones.

You can make concrete garden stepping stones at home with just a few supplies. However, there are some precautions you must take to ensure your safety and to produce a quality stepping stone that will last for years to come. The first thing you need to know is that concrete contains dry particles that create a lot of dust. You must wear a mask and eye goggles to keep the dust from entering your lungs or your eyes. The concrete can also cause skin irritation so wear a pair of heavy gloves to keep the mixture off your hands.

Mixing the concrete is easier when you make small batches. If you plan to make more than one concrete garden stepping stone, mix up one batch at a time for each stepping stone you create. Since concrete starts to set within 10 or 15 minutes, a large batch may harden before you get the mixture into all your molds. I make one stepping stone at a time, so I don’t waste any concrete.

Consistency is the key when you make concrete garden stepping stones. You want a mixture that has just enough liquid to form a thick consistency. Excess water causes the concrete to dry in an uneven way. You should not see standing water on the surface of the concrete mixture. This could result in the stepping stones crumbling or cracking in the future. You want the moistened concrete to have the consistency of a very thick batter: not pourable, just scoopable. Some people compare it to brownie batter or a thick cake frosting. It reminds me of the mud pies my friends and I made as kids.

The molds are easy to come by. Any container with a flat bottom that does not contain holes works for making concrete garden stepping stones. You can use old cake pans, the bottom of a bucket, or a cardboard box that you line with heavy plastic. You can also make your own molds from wood. When you make a wood mold, the sides should be about 2-inches high. If you make the wooden molds, you don’t need a bottom piece. Simply make a thin layer of sand across the entire bottom area and pour your concrete on top. Once the concrete solidifies, you rinse the surface of the concrete and remove the wood.

You need something to keep the concrete from sticking to the mold, whether you use plastic, metal, or wood. I recommend using cooking oil. Just brush all the surfaces with the oil so there is a good coating on the mold. This does not hurt the concrete and makes getting it out of the mold so much easier. TIP: An aluminum foil pan works great for this project. The pan pulls easily away from the concrete once it has hardened.

The bag of concrete you buy will have instructions for mixing it into mortar. In my experience, every time I use the concrete, the water amount varies. I think it may have to do with the humidity in the air or how I pour out the dry concrete mixture. But I am not a concrete mason, so I am not sure. Just know that you need to start with the dry mix and add water slowly until you reach the right consistency.

Another thing to remember is when you mix the concrete for the garden stepping stones, it adds air to the mixture. Air bubbles in the dry concrete is a weakness in the structure. I shake my mold and tap it on the sides with a wooden stick to get air bubbles to rise to the surface. I also tap the top of the concrete with a gloved hand. This helps to raise those nasty air pockets to the surface as well.

I love to decorate the concrete garden stepping stones with all kinds of things. You can use marbles, tumbled glass, pretty stones, or just about anything you want. We use large leaves from the garden and trees to make eco-prints in the concrete. But when we do this, the leaves go in first and upside-down. This lets the veins of the leaves imprint in the concrete.

 You may want to have the kids put their hands or feet in the concrete to have a permanent piece of history in your garden. Remember to keep fresh water on hand so they can wash the concrete off their hands and feet if you choose to let them squish in the cool mud! You don’t want their skin irritated.

Patience is a virtue when you make cement garden stepping stones. If you try to unmold the concrete before it is cured, the stepping stone will crumble and break. Or you will lose the decoration you put on the top. I generally wait about an hour to put in any stones or marbles I want on the top. The same with letting the kids put their hand prints on the concrete.

You must store unused concrete in an airtight bag if you want to use it again. Concrete draws moisture and will harden when you leave it unattended. I mean it turns into a bag-shaped block of solid concrete. If you only make a couple of concrete garden stepping stones to see how it’s done and then go back in a week to make more, the concrete could be solidified and unusable. Either buy a small bag to start with or use a heavy-duty garbage bag to store the opened bag of dry concrete mix. One 80-pound bag of concrete made 10 garden stepping stones of various sizes. And an entire day of fun!

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