Make natural looking DIY concrete stepping stones or pavers. Color the concrete and mold it into the shape of real fieldstones or flagstones.
Finally, the DIY concrete stepping stones are finished!
It’s a project I wanted to do last year because when we moved into this rental home, we quickly decided that we wouldn’t use the front door to go in and out of the house. Why?
Because the existing path from the driveway to the door was 6” deep with pebbles.
To walk on it, I kid you not, this so-called stone path was like trudging through quicksand or even like walking in deep water.
Someone didn’t have their thinking cap on when they made that path. ;0) We truly needed functional stepping stones.
Now if you aren’t looking to make your own concrete stones, then you may want to check out my post How To Build A Concrete Paver Patio, where I purchased the pavers.
In the paver patio situation, it was cheaper to buy than to make.
Stepping stones are sometimes referred to as garden stones, paving stones, or pathway stones.
Regardless of the term, they have one important objective –to help get you from spot A to spot B.
Video For Natural Looking DIY Concrete Stepping Stones
So I decided I’d make stepping stones that would look like real fieldstone, using concrete of course.
It’s much cheaper to make your own stepping stones using concrete than it is to buy stepping stones, especially if you have them installed.
Making my own concrete stepping stones and choosing a pour-in-place method required less prep work with the ground because the concrete is self-leveling.
If you make a concrete stepping stone mold and then install them separately you’re going to have to level the ground first.
This is because the bottom of the mold would have been flat.
This pour-in-place method saved me quite a bit of time and labor –especially considering how large these concrete stepping stones were.
You’ll still have to level the top of them, but it may not be necessary for you to do anything to level the ground beforehand.
The Best Type Of Concrete Mix To Use For Making DIY Stepping Stones
The best type of concrete mix to use for stepping stones is going to depend on the thickness you are making them.
I made these stepping stones 2″ thick and so I went with Quikrete’s Sand Topping Mix.
If your stones are thicker, then this is not the proper mix for you –as Quikrete specifies only for thickness of up to 2″.
Just be sure to read the labels and always stick within the recommended thicknesses.
But Don’t I Need Reinforcement For Concrete Stepping Stones?
Quikrete’s Sand Topping Mix doesn’t need to be reinforced as long as you don’t go over the 2″ thickness. It does not need chicken wire, wire mesh, nor rebar.
I verified this with Quikrete’s customer service department before starting the project.
The cement itself is strong enough to hold up, even under freezing conditions.
UPDATE 1 ½ years later : The concrete stepping stones have held up and look as good s when I first made them, except for a slight lightening and staining from leaf debris.
Of course, you don’t have to make concrete stepping stones that look natural.
You can follow much of this tutorial and make regular round stones, using the same stepping stone mold I used for these.
Also, many people like to make decorative stepping stones like garden mosaic stepping stones.
They are usually made by adding mosaic glass or other embeddable materials into the concrete.
If you’re not convinced about making your own stepping stones, then check out my article discussing all the pros and cons of making stepping stones vs. buying them and having them installed.
I can say this has been my favorite DIY to date because of how amazingly practical the stepping stones turned out to be for us.
And using the materials we did, really ended up being the easy way to make these.
I’ve got a lot of information here because I really go into a lot of details, but don’t let the length of this tutorial intimidate you, it is a fairly easy project and parts of it are especially fun.
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Pocket Guide to Concrete & Cement Mixes For Crafts
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DIY Difficulty Level | Moderate
The techniques are actually quite easy, but since the concrete is heavy to deal with, and this project will require a lot of crouching and squatting on the ground.
Due to the physicality of it I’m rating this project as moderate.
Materials For Natural Looking DIY Concrete Stepping Stones
- *Sand Topping Mix – I used (7) 60lb bags- see Materials Details below
- Dust mask
- Fabric pegs/stakes
- Vinyl furniture strapping or vertical vinyl blind slats
- Large mixing bin or wheelbarrow
- Black, red and blue colorant
- Yellow or blue tape
- Coarse paintbrush – 1″ or 2″
- Disposable cups or bowls
- Plastic bags
- Rubber gloves or durable nitrile gloves
- Work gloves
- Sealer –optional but recommended
- Wheelbarrow –if you have one (for carrying the concrete to the stone location)
*Reminder –In addition to reading the tutorial, I highly recommend watching my diy concrete stepping stones video before you make these.
Some of the steps and techniques I used, especially for molding and coloring are a bit difficult to explain in writing and even photos.
Use this written tutorial as a supplement to the video.
Information On Stepping Stones Thickness When Using Concrete: Size And Quantity Needed
You’ll need to figure out how much mix you will need for your concrete stepping stones project.
I used Quikrete’s online calculator before the project, but it didn’t end up being accurate, so the calculator is probably worth skipping- I’ve linked to it just in case you are curious.
To simplify my quantities, I figured I had the equivalent of 9 large stepping stones.
Technically I had 5 large concrete stepping stones, but if I combined the small ones together, I could see that they would have made 9 large ones.
By “large”, I mean approximately 3’ x 2’ and they were approximately 2” thick.
Each stone used a little less than a full bag, and I think the existing pebbles that were already in the ground took up some of the space.
So it’s possible I needed slightly less concrete mix than you may need at the same size.
It’s safe to calculate 1 bag per large 3’ x 2’ diy concrete stepping stone.
So how do you know how many stones you will need for your chosen path location?
First I sketched out how I wanted them to look. Then I was able to get a pretty good idea by using ropes as temporary molds.
I placed pieces of rope onto the path and wrapped the rope into the shapes and sizes I planned my stones to be.
These basically acted as templates.
This method made it easy to see that I would have a mix of 5 large stones and several small stones –again, which if combined, would make 9 large stepping stones.
Hint: If you purchase the bags of concrete mix through a big box store, they are returnable. So I recommend buying 1 more bag than you think you’ll need.
The Best Mold To Use For DIY Stepping Stones
For my reusable concrete mold, I used vinyl chair strapping.
These straps are replacement straps that are used to repair vinyl strap outdoor chairs.
However, there may be a cheaper alternative, such as vertical vinyl blinds slats.
With my vinyl straps, I was limited to making only three molds at a time.
However, since the concrete sets in an hour, it would have been physically difficult to work on more than three at a time, so the three molds sufficed.
Besides, you’ll see in the tutorial steps that you should actually be able to remove the straps after about 10-20 minutes and move on to making the next stepping stone.
All in all, these straps worked out great because of how easily you could mold it into different shapes.
Information On Coloring Concrete Pathway Stones To Look Natural
My main goal with these stones was to make them look just like actual stepping stones. I wanted the shape to look natural, as well as the coloring –mostly like real fieldstones.
Fieldstones come in many sizes, shapes and colors, so what is natural looking to me, may not be natural looking to you.
You may want to do a Google image search on fieldstones or flagstones to see which ones float your boat.
When it comes to color, it’s important to know that this Sand Topping Mix cures to a frosted pale grey –almost a frosted white.
I actually included this Sand Topping Mix in the Cement Tests post where I compared the colors of various cement mixes.
Even in my tests, the concrete cured to a frosty grey/white.
But for some reason, when I made these concrete stepping stones, I didn’t think the color of the pavers would turn out light –like the bowl in my tests did.
For this one I used a marbling technique with acrylic paint –Fall DIY Concrete Pillar Candle Holders.
This was the shade of grey I had intended on.
I must have thought that maybe because the stones were so large, they would naturally turn out a more medium grey.
I was wrong. Just be aware that when the cement is wet, it looks quite dark, but will cure to quite a light shade of grey that almost looks white.
So to avoid having any surprises with color, I strongly recommend that you make two test pieces before starting this stepping stones project.
You don’t need to use your vinyl straps, just plop your wet mixture onto the ground where your stones will go and make them into any shape.
Make one test piece that is approximately 1’x1’ and 2” deep.
Test the coloring by brushing the colorant on top of one side of the colorant and leave the other side natural for comparison.
On the second test stone- this one can be 6 x 6” and 2” deep, but add charcoal colorant into the mix –rather than brushing it on.
This will give you a sense of how the techniques work and whether you need to adjust the amount of colorant. For a 6 x 6” piece, half a tablespoon (if using the liquid colorant) should be your starting point.
Please refer to Steps 4-6 for instructions on coloring to make the test pieces.
Let these test pieces cure a minimum of 3 days –a week is better. This will show you what you have to work with.
You don’t want to end up having to buy expensive stains or dyes, along with etching products and sealants, to correct the color if the color isn’t what you were going for.
This will save you time and money by doing some testing first.
Again, don’t let this scare you from the project, the stones are easy to make and ridiculously fun to color.
You also will have plenty of time to adjust the color as you are working on them.
Really the issue is just having an understanding of how much lighter they will look when fully cured.
Tutorial Steps For DIY Concrete Stepping Stones
Step 1 | Prep The Space
Now that you have a good understanding of the coloring, you can prep the space.
I didn’t have too much prep to do for this path.
The path was already there but was covered in pebbles, so I shoveled all the loose pebbles out the areas I would be placing the stones.
The ground was not in the least bit level, but I didn’t worry about leveling because I knew the concrete would self-level to some extent.
Plus I didn’t mind if they weren’t perfectly level. You can always do the leveling at the top of the concrete stones.
Step 2 | Put Together The Stepping Stone Mold
Use tape to join the ends of the vinyl straps together.
Depending on the size, I sometimes overlapped the straps rather than butting the ends into each other.
Toward the end of my stone making, I skipped taping the ends together. The reason is that the mold held its shape without the tape.
This is because I was able to push some extra pebbles up against the sides.
I even started pulling the mold off right away. It’s up to you and how comfortable you feel.
Take the garden stakes and push them into the ground. Place them around the outside of your mold wherever you feel it needs support.
These are what you will manipulate to get the general stone shape.
Step 2 | Mix The Concrete
Using the hoe, mix the concrete with water. It will be easier and less dusty if you first add some water to your mixing bin or wheelbarrow.
Then pour in the dry concrete mix –but do this in small batches.
If you try to do it all at once, it will make it very difficult to mix in such a large amount.
Mix the concrete and adjust by adding more water or concrete. The right consistency to aim for is a peanut butter-like consistency.
It will probably be easiest if you mix what you think you’ll need for the whole stone, but separate a section that will be the top ½”.
Just don’t color it yet, you’ll do this after the base layer is in place.
Step 3 | Cast The Concrete Stepping Stone Molds
My methods evolved over time. I finally decided that just dumping the concrete into the mold was the best way to go.
If this is easiest for you then go ahead and just pour it directly into the mold.
Otherwise, you might find it easier to use a shovel to place the concrete.
Only pour in the mix that is reserved for the 1 ½” base layer.
Spread the concrete around with your gloved hands first, and be sure to get it right up to the strap edges.
Next, use the trowel to level the concrete. Keep the trowel at a slight angle and just sweep it back and forth.
Step 4 | Coloring The Base Layer
Now go ahead and add the charcoal colorant to the remaining mix you had separated and mix it in well.
The amount you add will have been determined from the two pieces you tested before beginning the project.
Once the coloring looks even, pour it on top of the base layer.
Use the trowel again to get it level and smooth. Hold off on applying the brush on color for now.
Your timing will be more efficient if you start your next stepping stone.
Since I did most of this project by myself, I found it was easiest to go mix another batch and set up the next mold, pour it and lightly level it.
Then come back to the previous mold and remove the strap.
The reason for my timing on this is because the concrete will have started setting and will be moldable enough. The set time should be about 15-25 minutes.
Your workability time (the time before it becomes too difficult to mold or add colorant) for these stepping stones should be about an hour, depending on climate conditions.
Step 5 | Fine Tune The Shape And Prep For Accent Coloring The Concrete Stepping Stones
After you have started the next stone mold, feel the concrete to see if it has some form to it. If so, then remove the vinyl strap.
Now use your gloved hand to shape the edges. Round them a little, and push them inward to create more of a curve if you want.
You may also want to slant to the edge.
Now you will want the following supplies near the stone you are coloring.
Plastic bags; a coarse paintbrush; a small bucket of water; a rag for clean up and various colorants of your choice, along with a bowl or cup for each.
In addition, for each color you have, you should also have one cup of water, plus you may find it helpful to have one more extra cup of water.
Pour some of each colorant into its own bowl/cup. If your pigment is a powder, then mix some water in with it.
Place the extra bowl/cup of water next to each color.
Accent coloring the stones is kind of like painting watercolors, they require lots of blending.
This is why you have extra cups of water. The small bucket of water will be for cleaning up the brush and your hands.
The main colors I used for this brush-on coloring technique were charcoal, red and a little blue.
Step 6 | Artistic/Accent Coloring Of The Top Layer
Take the coarse paintbrush and dip it into the first color and then into the water.
Apply this in a brushing motion to the stone where you want to add color. Blend it into the top layer of wet cement and just play with it.
If you are using red, then go lightly with it because it tends to be highly pigmented and you only need a little to get the color to come through.
Blend these colors into the stone and into each other the way you might with a watercolor painting.
You can dip your brush back into the water to help with blending. Don’t forget to get the edges.
You can play with this by adding water to help mute the color.
Step 7 | Add Stone Texture To The Concrete
Now you will use the plastic bag to achieve two things, one is to blend the colors more and the other is to create the stone-like texture.
Place the bag on your hands and pat the top of the concrete. Keep patting until you like the way the texture and blending look.
The bag really ended up being a great way to get a nice rippled texture of natural stone into the wet cement.
Step 8 | Let The Concrete Stepping Stones Cure
Now continue these steps with the rest of the stones. Technically, the stones will reach their full cure in 3-4 weeks- meaning their full strength.
I was able to carefully walk on them after about 24 hours, but you should wait 3-5 days before you allow any foot traffic.
If you are wondering about needing to cover these with plastic while curing, per the concrete representative at Quikrete, it is not necessary.
You also do not need to water cure these.
I had my concrete covered because it was the height of pollen season and I didn’t want the yellow pollen staining the stones.
I only left the plastic on for one day. They were dry enough that I wasn’t worried about color permeating them.
For detailed information on how to color/pigment concrete crafts, you may want to check out my Concrete Crafts Pigment Tests article.
Step 9 | Seal The Concrete Stones -Recommended
I didn’t seal these -in part because I didn’t want to add an extra expense for a home I don’t own.
They are porous, so you will likely encounter staining if you don’t seal them.
One month post-project I can see stains from berries and other foliage, and when scrubbing them, some of the stains go away, but not all of them.
It would also help protect against fading.
Look for an outdoor concrete or stone sealer.
And be sure you do a test patch first to make sure it doesn’t change the color or darken the concrete stones in any undesired way.
If you want to make your own stone that’s personalized, consider adding decorative elements to the top. Items you can embed would be:
- sea glass
- pebble mosaic
- glass beads
- mosaic tiles
- pieces of china
FAQ for Making DIY Concrete Stepping Stones That Are Natural looking
How thick do stepping stones need to be?
For durability, concrete stepping stones should be 1 ½” to 2 ½” thick.
However, you will need to make sure the mix you use can cast to a thickness between those two numbers. Most mixes will support casting to a thickness of 1 ½”, but 2” is better.
The information on the bag of the concrete mix should provide this information, but if not, you can usually find that information on the manufacturer’s website.
Just look under the general instructions or the Data Sheet.
How do you mix a stepping stone?
When it comes to mixing concrete for a stepping stone, ideally you mix it with a rotating concrete mixer.
But most of us don’t have one of those laying around and they are pricey to purchase for a one time job.
So the next most efficient way of mixing the concrete mix is to use a bucket and a drill with a special concrete mixing bit.
Otherwise, good ole fashioned hand mixing with a hoe and wide bin will work.
How do you make large stepping stones?
There’s not really anything extra to do to make large stepping stones. The most important thing is just to make sure you have the proper concrete mix.
You need a mix that allows for the largest size stone you plan to make and can meet the thickness you need.
For these natural looking concrete stepping stones, I went as large as 3’ x 2 ½’ and a max of 2” thick.
The Sand Topping Mix I used was specified for these sizes and thicknesses.
What kind of concrete do you use to make stepping stones?
The concrete mix to use for stepping stones will be based on the thickness and size of the stepping stones. The three types of mixes you can use are:
GFRC mix that contains fiberglass fibers, for reinforcement
Sand Topping Mix from Quikrete
Crack-resistant- fiber reinforced, this can contain either fiberglass or nylon fibers
Should I seal a stepping stone?
I definitely recommend sealing a stepping stone. Concrete is porous and is susceptible to stains like leaf stains.
The sealer will help prevent some of it and also make it easier to remove.
If you do end up with leaf stains, a pressure washer and some OxiClean, or perhaps tsp will help remove them.
Don’t forget to Pin it for later!
- Sand topping mix- Quikrete
- Vinyl straps for the mold
- Concrete pigment
- Please refer to the FULL materials list above the tutorial steps.
- Prep The Stepping Stone Area
- Create The Stepping Stone Mold With The Straps
- Mix The Concrete
- Cast The Concrete Stepping Stone Molds
- Add Color To The Concrete's Base Layer
- Fine Tune The Shape By Molding It With Your Hands And Prepare For Accent Coloring For The Concrete Stepping Stones
- Now Color The Conrete's Top Layer For The Artistic/Accent Coloring
- Add A Stone Texture To The Concrete With The Plastic Bag
- Let The Concrete Stepping Stones Cure
- Seal The Diy Concrete Stones -Recommended