Updating the look of an outdoor space does not need to be time-consuming or cost-prohibitive. In fact, something as basic as a stepping stone path not only elevates the appeal of a space, but also offers homeowners a simple, inexpensive DIY project that they can complete in one weekend. The process of laying stepping stones is quite simple. However, following basic steps and heeding tips from the pros ensures that the finished product looks like a professional job.
Design and measure out the pathway
Before any work commences, homeowners must design the look of a stepping stone pathway. This includes a number of considerations such as the décor of the garden area, the length of the path, the spacing between stones, and the cut and design of the stones themselves. It is easy to find stepping stones in a number of shapes including: squares, circles, hexagons, and even irregular, "natural" shapes.
Performing basic calculations
Once homeowners know where they want to lay the stepping stone path and what style and size of stones they want to use, it's time to calculate the number of stones needed to complete the job. To do this, respected home improvement specialist, Bob Vila, suggests using a friend or family member to help map out the route. As a helper walks, measure the length of each stride and place a stake at every point where his foot falls. These are the marks for each stepping stone.
Adding aesthetic design to a stepping stone path
Once marked, lay out each stepping stone in its proper place to see what the finished product looks like beforehand. At this point, consider adding some aesthetic flair to the design. Play with the position of each stone, especially if they are naturally-shaped. For square paths, keeping to a more geometric design may be best.
Cut out and prepare the area for each stone
When satisfied with the layout, the preparation process for laying each stone begins. This is especially important when working on a grass surface, since it is necessary to remove the grass from the area of each stone and create a level base.
Cutting out the area
Using a sharp garden knife, gently score the grass around the stepping stone, tracing along all sides like a template. Then, remove the stone and guide a garden spade underneath the turf. Finally, use a garden trowel to remove any excess dirt and create a hole that is at least 5 cm deep from the top of the grass line.
Levelling the ground
Next, it is time to level the hole. Using the same trowel, add 2 to 3 cm of soft sand, also known as levelling sand, into the hole. The sand must be even and compact in order to support the stepping stone and the weight of the individuals walking across the new path. Therefore, the best option is to use a hand tamper, which allows for even pressure across the area, to compact the soil.
Lay the stepping stones
There are two ways to secure the stepping stones after prepping the area: adding cement, or laying the stones on top of the compact sand.
Secure the stones with cement
The best way to truly secure a stepping stone into the ground is with a layer of cement directly under the stone. To do this, mix a ratio of one part cement to four parts sand and add water gradually to form a mortar paste. Spread a thin layer, about 1 cm, and level it off before laying the stone.
Lay the stones on top of compact sand
Alternately, simply lay the stepping stone onto the compacted sand. This creates a looser stone than one secured with cement. Those opting to forego the cement step should add an additional 1 cm of sand during the levelling process to raise the stone up from the ground.
Assessing the finished product
Regardless of the method used, the DIY Network stresses the importance of making sure the stones are located slightly below grass level. Generally, about 1 cm is enough. This makes it possible to mow the lawn around the stepping stones without fear of damaging the lawn mower's blade.
How to buy stepping stones on eBay
When gathering the materials to lay your own stepping stone path, the sellers on eBay are a great resource that offer different designs and, ultimately, allow you to purchase everything you need. The gardening section on the site offers everything from the stepping stones themselves to the handy tools necessary to complete the job. If you are looking for a specific item, however, it is best to use the main search bar, located on every page of the eBay site.