This is a simple job to do and shouldn’t take more than a few hours. But it can be hard work (see video below). A lot depends on the size of your garden, how many steps you want to lay, the weather and the ground conditions.
Once the slabs are down, you’ll need to allow 24 hours for them to set in place before walking on them.
Work out where you want the stepping stone path to go
The first thing you want to do is work out where you want to lay the stepping stones. Do this in your head at first by walking from point A to point B.
Count the steps as you go so you can estimate how many stepping stone slabs you’ll need. Consider buying a few more than you need in case of breakages and damage.
Choosing suitable stepping stones
There are lots of different styles of stepping stone available online and in DIY stores. Some of them are advertised as stepping stones, but you can use standard decorative paving slabs if you prefer. Both types will do the job. It’s all about how they look and the kind of path you want to create.
Lay the slabs down to test your path
Once you have the slabs, lay them down atop your lawn and walk the path. Make sure your stride is comfortable and you’re not overstretching as you go.
Once you’re happy with their positions, use a tape measure to make sure there’s an equal distance between each one. The path will look much neater if the stones are equidistant. Make adjustments if they’re not.
Use a temporary line marker to mark the positions of the slabs. Then put them to one side until you’re ready to lay them into their final position.
Remove the grass to make way for the stepping stone slab
Using a straight spade, remove the grass from inside the marked lines and put to one side.
You want to dig down to roughly 20mm deeper than the depth of the slabs.
Once you’ve removed the soil, lay the slab in the hole to check the depth. You’ll want it to sit just below or level with the lawn’s surface so you can easily mow the lawn when the path’s in place.
Repeat this process for each of the slabs.
How to create a firm base for each stepping stone
To create a firm base for the stepping stones, use a mortar mix of three parts sand to one part cement. You’ll know the consistency of the mix is right when it sticks to the spade.
When you have the right consistency, place around 20mm of the mortar mix into the bottom of the hole making sure it’s evenly distributed.
Place the stepping stone slab into the hole and use a spirit level to make sure it’s level, either with the ground or just below the surface. If it’s not, use a rubber mallet to tap it into position. Never use a standard hammer on paving slabs or stepping stones as you could crack or break them.
Repeat this process for each of the slabs.
Once they’re all in position, check around the perimeter of each one to make sure they’re a snug fit. Chances are, they’re not. So you’ll need to backfill the small gaps with soil from the pieces of lawn you cut out to make the path.
Use a garden sieve to create finer pieces of soil that will fit into the gaps between the slab and lawn.
Step back and enjoy your work!
Now that all the slabs are down and the holes filled in, it’s time to take a step back and admire your work! Don’t walk on any of the slabs just yet, though. They’ll need at least 24 hours to set.
Tools required for creating a stepping stone path
- Sand/cement for mortar (or buy a bag of ready-mixed mortar)
- Spot board (for mixing mortar)
- Rubber mallet
- Spirit level
Frequently asked questions
Can I lay the slabs directly onto the soil?
Technically, you could do that but in most cases, it’s not advisable.
Without the mortar base to hold the slabs in place and provide a strong foundation, they’ll come loose and start to wobble when stood on.
They may even start sinking if the ground gets too wet.
This isn’t the kind of job you want to do twice, so it’s worth taking the extra step of providing a solid base for your slabs.
How much do paving stones cost?
Stepping stones usually start at around £5 each and increase in price depending upon the decorative pattern and material. Buying in bulk usually makes the price cheaper.
What kind of pattern should I use for my path?
This is all down to you, your personal taste and the size of your garden. Sometimes a straight path is best (for example, leading to a shed). And sometimes a curved or meandering path is best (for example, wandering around borders to enjoy the flowers).