Hey Friends. I was working on coming up with a good gift idea for my mom for Mother’s Day, and stumbled upon an idea from a random online list. Mom spends nearly every minute all spring and summer in her garden, and there was a very generic looking ‘personalized’ garden stepping stone. You could choose a larger one with grandma’s name, and smaller ones with the names of individual grand kids. That reminded me of various DIY Stepping Stone projects that have come up on Pinterest over the years, including some with handprints. I have a cute little baby that my mom is obsessed with, so how about a paver with Ada’s little hand print?
There are commercially available kits, but each one is $25-45, to make just one stepping stone. I’m thinking I’d like to make one for my mom and Jim’s mom, so two kits would be between $50-90.
But… a full bag of concrete is about $6, which could make about 8-12 stepping stones. We just moved into a new house, and the garden needs some love, and could probably use some stepping stones too, so I think I could use up the whole bag of concrete. Of course I’d probably want to get some glass marbles or mosaic tiles to embed in them, which would be about $20 $5 more with items from The Idea Store (thanks @endymion!). And a set of letter stamps to write in them ($11) plastic bucket ($5), drill mixer attachment ($20), and plant saucers ($8) to use as molds would bring the total to about $36.
So has anyone ever tackled making stepping stones? Any advice? Best type of concrete to use? How to not make an awful mess you will regret?
The tutorials I saw mostly mentioned using Quikrete. Some of the videos I watched recommended the mixer attachment to a drill, but it seems like you guys think it’s not needed, so I cut that off my estimate.
hi @MistressJennie. I’ve made cement birdbaths using rhubarb leaves and some stepping stones. YouTube has tons of cement projects and I would watch a bunch of them for ideas and techniques. I mix by hand, you are mixing small amounts and a drill mixer isn’t really needed. Many people just mix the cement on a plastic sheet, cheap and easy. You can also use planting bed edging material to create the shape you want directly on the ground or again on a plastic sheet.
And pay attention to the type of cement you purchase, there are so many options these days. I don’t have much experience except with straight Portland cement which needs sand in the mix. Again YouTube can help.
But go for it! I would start with just the cement and make a trial stepping stone using a takeout container or plant saucers. Get the feel for it. Then move ahead with other purchases once you are sure you want to continue.
I would think you’d prefer cement rather than concrete (concrete has pre-mixed gravel in it), and if you have any plastic tubs in the recycling those ought to be fine for mixing. If you’re worried about sturdiness, you can put a layer of wire or mesh or whatever you have handy in the middle of the stone for reenforcement.
Also if you have any dishes or other ceramics that broke in the move but haven’t been tossed yet, those could be a good addition for more personalized mosaic bits.
Clean-up with a hose is super easy so long as you get to it before the cement sets.
I don’t have any experience with this, but over the summer my sister made a stepping stone from a kit. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is that the directions recommended coating the mold with Vaseline in order to get a clean release.
(Linda -2023 is a use the good stuff year! :us:)
Quikrete Concrete Mix is what I used…if you buy plain cement, then you will also need to buy sand and mix it to get something strong enough to walk on…Quikrete is premixed cement and sand, very smooth…and you just add water.
I didn’t buy anything special…used an old trowel and shovel to mix it right in our wheelbarrow. Rinsed the wheelbarrow out, but you can use an old bucket or lay down some landscape plastic (thick kind). Warning: it sets up pretty fast!
I don’t have advice other than to remember that cement and concrete are not the same thing, even though most people use the terms interchangably - cement is an ingredient in concrete as is an aggregate of some sort - often gravel. The aggregate gives the cement strength and for something like a stepping stone would eliminate the need for a mesh or other reinforcement.
ANYWAY, what about buying a premade stepping stone/paver and adding a layer of cement with Ada’s handprint and mosaic bits? It would be a bit less sturdy, but probably quite a bit less costly and laborious.
I know nothing about concrete or cement, but thought I’d mention that the IDEA Store usually has some fun decorative mosaic tiles. In fact, I have some from there in my current stash that have yet to find a project. Would be happy to gift to you, any of mine that you may want.
Also suggest you put whatever is used for a mold on a board that is slightly raised. Pour concrete in the mold and then drill a hole in the board to force the board to move rhythmically. Jostles everything to release air and level the concrete.
Most of the tutorials and videos mentioned using Quikrete, so that was what I was looking at, though there are a bunch of varieties of that too, so I’ll have to do more research and narrow down those options.
Oddly enough, the person who wrote this tutorial is near me, about 30 miles away.
Though she laid down her glass and tiles, facedown in her molds, then poured over them. Much like a pineapple upside down cake. The technique I’m going for has the mix partially set up, before you press in hand prints or marbles, etc.
@endymion, thanks for the reminder about the Idea Store! I almost forgot about them. I have a piece of art I need to take the International Galleries to get framed, so I should go over to Lincoln Square this weekend to hit them both!
For a natural texture place a large leaf or several leaves with the underside or more ribby side up and cover with cement. After 24 hours, turn over and peel the leaves off. If some plant material is left in the grooves, don’t worry, it will dry up and crumble away in time.