Making your own concrete stepping stones is a fun summertime activity that adds a personal touch to your garden. Once you've selected concrete and have an idea of what you want your cement stepping stones to look like, you might think it's smooth sailing from there, but concrete can be tricky to work with. Here are some tips on how to use concrete for stepping stones.
Use the Best Materials
For concrete stepping stones, you have a few different options, depending on the look you're going for and the amount of work you want to put into mixing your cement. You can purchase stepping stone kits at most craft stores, but if you're making more than one or two stepping stones, it's more economical to skip the kits and mix your own concrete. Some options include:
- 3 parts Quikrete Sand Topping Mix to 1 part Portland Cement
- Quikrete Pro
- Sakrete Sand Mix
- Mortar Mix
If you'd like your stepping stones to be lighter, replace some of the concrete mix with vermiculite. This heat-expanded mica will make your stones lighter without sacrificing structural integrity, although they will be a bit grainier than if they had been made with pure concrete.
Get the Consistency Right
This is the step that makes or breaks your cement stepping stones––literally. If your cement mixture is too dry, your stepping stones might crack. If it's too wet, it may not set properly. Here are some tricks to getting the right consistency.
- 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're making a lot of stepping stones, mix the concrete in several small batches rather than one big one. This will give you the best consistency.
Color Your Cement
You may want to add some color to your cement. If so, keep these tips in mind:
- If you are using cement dye, remember that the wet product will always be a shade or two darker than your finished product.
- Instead of coloring your entire cement mixture, you can color only the visible part on the top of the stepping stones. Let the concrete set for a while, then use a float to spread the color onto the stepping stone.
- You can use liquid concrete color or mix in latex paint. Acrylic paints can also be used to color stepping stones, but because these paints are water-based, you will need to seal your stones after they have set.
Let It Set
This is where your patience pays off. Once you've poured the concrete in the mold, set your mold on top of your washing machine and put the machine through two spin cycles, one right after the other, to get any air bubbles out. This shakes the air out of the concrete and has a self-leveling effect on the surface.
Some people recommend watering down your cement once or twice a day for a month after it has set. The result is a harder concrete that is more resistant to chipping.