Stepping Stones: 6 Steps to the Perfect Path

Stepping stones leading to swing.

Typically, you think of a pathway as nothing more than the shortest distance between two points. It’s the map that gets you from here to there. Frankly, I think that’s rather dull, particularly if the two points in question are in your own backyard. Left alone, an often-traveled pathway can lead to a worn rut filled with dead grass, so creating a pathway is the logical thing to do.

Instead of a full-blown pathway, though, consider creating a path of stepping stones. There’s actually less work involved to install them and, aesthetically, stepping stones can give your yard its own unique personality. Here’s how to go about it.

Step 1: Decide Where Stepping Stones Will Go

Stepping stones that look like throw pillows

Take a good look around your yard and find those areas where the grass has been worn down because it is a frequently traveled path. This is the best candidate for a stepping stone path.

However, don’t feel like you are tied to just those areas. A stepping stone path is also a great way to accent a secluded section of your yard or the perfect pathway within a flower bed to provide a place to step when pulling weeds!

Step 2: Layout the Walkway

You’re going to want your stepping stones to be placed as far apart as your comfortable walking stride is. I’ve seen some people use spray paint to mark the path, but I like using gutter spikes instead.

Once you know where you want your path, walk that area and place a gutter spike in the ground where the center of your arch lands. The spike is going to represent the center of each stone. The nice thing about using the gutter spike is that once you’re ready to place the stone, you simply pull out the spike. No muss, no fuss.

Step 3: Decide on Materials

HomeBrite solar powered stepping stones

There are a lot of choices for stepping stones and it all depends on your personal taste. A more traditional look can be obtained with a simple square patio paver. These can be found in plain concrete or a washed aggregate. You can get the same material in a round paver or, perhaps, use several brick pavers to create each step.

Another choice would be to use a man-made paver like a solar stepping stone from the HomeBrite Corporation. These steps are made from a rugged plastic and have a solar cell embedded within the paver that charges up a battery during the day and automatically lights up at dusk creating a really unique path. They are available at The Home Depot for about $25 each.

Flagstones make a really nice walkway because each stone is unique in appearance. Speaking of unique, I’ve even seen some concrete stones that are made to look like throw pillows! I wouldn’t want them in my yard, but they are definitely one-of-a-kind.

Step 4: Dig Out the Sod

Remove the gutter spike and place your stone in that spot with the center of the stone where the gutter spike stood. Using a long blade utility knife or a garden trowel, cut out around the perimeter of the stone. Remove the stone and continue cutting out the sod.

You’ll also want to dig down about an inch more than the actual thickness of your stepping stone. Try to make the bottom of the hole as flat as possible.

Step 5: Put in Crushed Stone and Pack

The reason for digging the hole deeper than the thickness of the stone is because you want to place a crushed limestone or a coarse sand in the bottom of the hole first. This will ensure against any sinking over a period of time. Spread the crushed stone or sand in the hole and pack it down making sure it is as flat and level as possible. If you’re using coarse sand, wetting it down first will help pack it tightly.

Step 6: Lay Stepping Stone

Now it’s time to place the stepping stone into the hole you created. Press it into the packed material and then pack in some of the loose sand or crushed stone around the stepping stone to give it some added support. Stand on the stone to help set it in place.

Now all you have to do is repeat these six steps for every stone or paver. Make sure you don’t forget to add some sand or crushed stone around the stepping stone after you set it in place. Also, by taking the time to dig out the extra soil and setting the stepping stone at the same height as the ground will guarantee that you don’t create a tripping hazard. It also makes it a cinch to cut the grass without having to worry about the mower blade striking the stone.


  1. Don’t forget, that when working with cement use very little water, do not get cement on your skin- wear latex gloves if you might, and don’t breath in the dust.

    Cement dust and wet cement are extremely caustic and causes burns not unlike sunburn.

    Years ago before I learned the trade, I mixed cement with my bare hands as I did plaster all the time, within hours my hands were burning and had microscopic cuts from the sand in the cement, it was very uncomfortable and chapped the skin like nothing else.

    Randall’s Lost New York City, a sculpture studio and web gallery of demolished 19th century NYC buildings.

  2. Good point Randall. It’s so tempting to dig right into cement with your bare hands but it can hurt. Latex gloves are a good idea.

  3. Thanks Danny.
    I should add that besides using very little water and making the concrete very stiff not runny, once it sets within a couple of hours or so and the excess water on the surface goes away, this is when you can trowel it or rake it with a broom. Once that is done you will want to keep the concrete piece covered with plastic sheeting for several days to cure.
    If you’ve ever seen concrete that crumbled, cracked or spalled, chances are it was lousy concrete, too much water and dumped in place then allowed to dry out rapidly. Such methods to making concrete result in concrete about as hard and strong as chalk. It’s critical to keep the concrete well covered with plastic and periodically- at least once a day pull the plastic off and put some clean water on the entire surface of the concrete, then lay the plastic back.
    When I pour concrete outside around the house, the basement floor, dog run etc as I have, I leave the new concrete under plastic and kept wet for 7 days. Once it’s dry, about 30 or 60 days later you can apply concrete sealer.
    None of my concrete has ever cracked or spalled with this method and 7 day regimin.

    Randall’s Lost New York City, a sculpture studio and web gallery of demolished 19th century NYC buildings.

    • Hi Anita,
      The sound on the video worked fine for me, so try it again. This is an embedded video from the CBS site, so they might have been having technical difficulties on their end. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. Hello,

    Could you please recommend a grass variety that would suit crazy pave where pavers are randomly spaced and grass grown between each paver. The grass variety would need to be drought tolerant and fairly hard wearing (moderate trafic plus dog),yet reasonably soft. The home is in Melbourne Australia. Thank you.

  5. Hello,

    I live in Charleston, SC and have a old Dogwood tree in the center of my front yard. It is rather ugly because of a lot broken limbs at the top. Is there a method to prune the tree back on the top removing limbs? Will it grow back or would I be damaging the tree. Thank you!!

  6. Your tips on placing stepping stones were great. I thought of getting someone to do it for me but after following the steps, it was so easy & worth it. Bravo!

    Thank you:)

  7. These are awesome! I have two spots I can already think of in my parents yard that needs these. I know that it will literally save the ground in those areas. How deep do the stones go into the ground?

  8. Hi, my new garden is still pretty empty: no path, nor lawn yet. What’s the best order to work in? Do you have to have the lawn first and then follow the steps above or can you place the steppingstone first and the start on the lawn?

  9. Thank you for this article, 6 steps to the perfect path. I was in the process of digging the holes for my stepping stones. Surely would have forgotten about lining the hole with the sand to keep it from sinking. These steps will save me maintenance work in the future.

  10. Notice the big difference between the grass in the cover photo for this article and in Step 6. How do I keep the grass trimmed like Step 6? With pavers I already have elsewhere, neither mowing over them nor using and edger works.


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