Stepping Stones: 6 Steps to the Perfect Path
By: Danny Lipford
Typically, you think of a pathway as nothing more than the shortest distance between two points. It’s the map that gets you from here to there. Frankly, I think that’s rather dull, particularly if the two points in question are in your own backyard. Left alone, an often-traveled pathway can lead to a worn rut filled with dead grass, so creating a pathway is the logical thing to do.
Instead of a full-blown pathway, though, consider creating a path of stepping stones. There’s actually less work involved to install them and, aesthetically, stepping stones can give your yard its own unique personality. Here’s how to go about it.
Step 1: Decide Where Stepping Stones Will Go
Take a good look around your yard and find those areas where the grass has been worn down because it is a frequently traveled path. This is the best candidate for a stepping stone path.
However, don’t feel like you are tied to just those areas. A stepping stone path is also a great way to accent a secluded section of your yard or the perfect pathway within a flower bed to provide a place to step when pulling weeds!
Step 2: Layout the Walkway
You’re going to want your stepping stones to be placed as far apart as your comfortable walking stride is. I’ve seen some people use spray paint to mark the path, but I like using gutter spikes instead.
Once you know where you want your path, walk that area and place a gutter spike in the ground where the center of your arch lands. The spike is going to represent the center of each stone. The nice thing about using the gutter spike is that once you’re ready to place the stone, you simply pull out the spike. No muss, no fuss.
Step 3: Decide on Materials
There are a lot of choices for stepping stones and it all depends on your personal taste. A more traditional look can be obtained with a simple square patio paver. These can be found in plain concrete or a washed aggregate. You can get the same material in a round paver or, perhaps, use several brick pavers to create each step.
Another choice would be to use a man-made paver like a solar stepping stone from the HomeBrite Corporation. These steps are made from a rugged plastic and have a solar cell embedded within the paver that charges up a battery during the day and automatically lights up at dusk creating a really unique path. They are available at The Home Depot for about $25 each.
Flagstones make a really nice walkway because each stone is unique in appearance. Speaking of unique, I’ve even seen some concrete stones that are made to look like throw pillows! I wouldn’t want them in my yard, but they are definitely one-of-a-kind.
Step 4: Dig Out the Sod
Remove the gutter spike and place your stone in that spot with the center of the stone where the gutter spike stood. Using a long blade utility knife or a garden trowel, cut out around the perimeter of the stone. Remove the stone and continue cutting out the sod.
You’ll also want to dig down about an inch more than the actual thickness of your stepping stone. Try to make the bottom of the hole as flat as possible.
Step 5: Put in Crushed Stone and Pack
The reason for digging the hole deeper than the thickness of the stone is because you want to place a crushed limestone or a coarse sand in the bottom of the hole first. This will ensure against any sinking over a period of time. Spread the crushed stone or sand in the hole and pack it down making sure it is as flat and level as possible. If you’re using coarse sand, wetting it down first will help pack it tightly.
Step 6: Lay Stepping Stone
Now it’s time to place the stepping stone into the hole you created. Press it into the packed material and then pack in some of the loose sand or crushed stone around the stepping stone to give it some added support. Stand on the stone to help set it in place.
Now all you have to do is repeat these six steps for every stone or paver. Make sure you don’t forget to add some sand or crushed stone around the stepping stone after you set it in place. Also, by taking the time to dig out the extra soil and setting the stepping stone at the same height as the ground will guarantee that you don’t create a tripping hazard. It also makes it a cinch to cut the grass without having to worry about the mower blade striking the stone.