Here are some tips, tricks and advice that can help you while choosing and using a concrete for your stepping stones. After reading these tips, peruse ideas on selecting concrete.
- Your cement should be the consistency of thick brownie batter. You should be able to scoop it into your mold, not pour it.
- If you are using cement dye, keep in mind that the wet product will always be a shade or two darker that your finished product.
- If your cement mixture is too dry, the stepping stone can crack.
- From Dave: "I found the best way to get the air bubbles out of the concrete: Once you've poured the concrete in the mold and added some hardware cloth through the middle of the concrete and then roughly smoothed out the surface, set your mold atop your washing machine and put the machine through two spin cycles, one right after the other, even with the machine empty. This pretty much shakes all the air up out of the concrete and has a self-leveling effect on the surface of the concrete, giving you a nice, smooth surface to work with."
- From Dave: "With experimentation, I achieved a smooth stone with good structural integrity by using the Quikcrete Sand Topping Mix mixed in about a 3:1 ratio with Portland Cement. Since we have relatives who live halfway across the country that we wish to send some of these stones to, the stones can be made lighter for shipping by replacing some of your concrete mix with vermiculite (available in gardening shops) which is heat-expanded mica. It makes the stone lighter without sacrificing structural integrity, although it gives a grainier look to the stone."
- From Vicki: "One tip I'd like to share that I haven't seen mentioned much: Put your mold on a movable flat surface. I have a large cutting board that I put my molds on. That way, when I'm not working with it, I can put it aside. I'm going to ask my husband to cut up some plywood for me so I can work on and move several stones in a day."
- From Jamie: "The Lowes guy told me that I could use mortar mix instead of concrete. It has a smoother texture and costs about the same."
- From a visitor: "One thing I would like to point out--I did find it easier to mix the concrete in small batches. It seemed we had a more even consistency. I have tried to do this project making just one large batch, but by I noticed by the end the stones have a very gritty effect."
- From Amy C: "We used Sacrete Sand Mix; it's like concrete without the pebbles. They turned out very smooth and nice."
- From Taffy: "Once the cement dries and you are letting it set (one to two weeks), water it down once or twice a day. Cement continues to harden when it is wet down daily. This must be done after it FIRST firms to a hard form. Many commercial businesses will do this daily watering of the cement for a month. The more it is watered, the harder it gets!"
- From Diana V: "I have just a small little tip that my uncle told me since he has his own cement laying business/ I asked him what steps I need to do in order to add some color to my cement stepping stones. He explained that when adding color to cement, ALWAYS wait until it sets a little while (around the time when you add gems or beads). Add the color by using a float (scraper or spreading like tool) and just spread it into your steeping stone; the harder you push, the more color you will get. Of course you have to push somewhat to get the color mixed in. You could add it to the cement mix but it will cost you twice as much because you'll have to add double the amount of color (which is not cheap) to the cement mixture to get the same if not better results by adding it later or stenciling the color on after."
- From Aggie: "One thing I tried, which was kind of fun, is mixing acrylic paints from Hobby Lobby into the concrete. If you water them down it gives a really cool "broken glass" look. Since they are water based, I am going to seal them so maybe it will last longer."
- From Sally: "I made three 12-inches stones and added about 4-5 cups of white latex paint to the concrete and it really made a difference. It's a much nicer color than the plain gray cement color."
- From pbjvinyl: "For our stepping stones, we used Quikcrete Pro that had fibers in it instead of using the hardware cloth or mesh and we found that it worked really well. It was only $4.50 per bag, which is only about a dollar more per bag than regular Quikcrete, and we got three large (approx 15" + in diameter) 2 1/2" stepping stones from each bag. We also used the Quikcrete liquid color which really worked great and it could be used for 2 to 80 pound bags."