Wonderful Play Garden Stepping Stones
Stepping stones are an essential part of any landscape. They serve two main purposes: they create an attractive visual path and are also a map leading to different specified areas. I started making stepping stones a while back when I was building my garden. I needed about 30 or so stones to create the vision I had in my head. There were a couple of problems though.
The first problem was the staggering cost. I was looking at almost $200 just in stepping stones. The second problem was the fact that none of them were what I was looking for…”style-wise”. There were some nice ones, but none that I thought would go with the theme that I had in mind. So I decided to make my own, in here’s how I did it.
What You Will Need:
- a chunk of recycled concrete
- a bag of mortar
- powdered cement color (3-5 complementing colors)
- a large paintbrush
- concrete sealer
- gloves, goggles, dust mask, clothing that conceals the skin (long sleeve shirt)
STEP 1: Finding A Piece of Concrete
Start by finding a piece of broken concrete that is fairly large and somewhat flat in shape. When choosing a piece, keep in mind what a regular stepping stone looks like. Try to find one that would be suitable for a stepping stone. Don’t worry how rough the surface of the concrete is, this will smooth out later with a coat of mortar.
Search your local newspaper, craigslist, dump, places like these to find broken pieces of concrete.
Next, take a hose and spray off any dirt or debris that may prevent the mortar from sticking to the concrete. A regular garden hose and nozzle setup will do just fine, if you want you can use a pressure washer, but is not necessary. Allow a little bit of time for the concrete to soak up the water.
Note: You want the concrete to still be damp but not soaking wet. A little moisture will allow the mortar coat to adhere to the concrete a lot better. You don’t want it too wet or too dry, as the mortar will not stick.
STEP 2: Apply Mortar
Note: Always use proper protection when using cement-based products, the chemicals in cement can irritate skin, cause rashes, and even allergic reactions in some people. Gloves, goggles, face masks, and skin protection is some of the items you must have to provide proper protection from the chemicals.
After the concrete has soaked up most of the water, you can then add a coat of mortar to make the surface smoother. Start by mixing the mortar in a wheelbarrow using a shovel or hoe. I find it is easier to use a wheelbarrow rather than mixing it in a bucket or mixing tub. Start by pouring about a quarter of the bag into the wheelbarrow. Slowly add water until the mortar resembles a dry play dough like consistency.
You want the mortar to be dry but still pliable. If your mortar is too wet it will just slide off of the concrete, too dry and it won’t stick very well.
So keep this in mind when you are applying the mortar to the concrete. If this happens to you either add water or mortar accordingly until you achieve the correct consistency.
Applying the mortar using your hands is the best method. Be sure to have protective gloves on to avoid injuries. Rub the mortar into the concrete making sure there are no sharp edges and the surface is fairly even and uniform. Don’t forget to wrap the bottom edges of the concrete just little ways so you won’t see any of the ugly concrete when you install them.
STEP 3: Add Color
Next, you’re going to sprinkle some color onto your rock. Start by adding a base coat. The base coat will have more color than the rest of the coats as this will be the main color in the rock. The rest of the colors will just complement the base color. Add the remaining colors in descending quantities meaning with every color you use you will use less and less, the last color you add should just be a little bit. Don’t worry about spreading the color evenly over the surface, real rocks tend to have hit and miss color schemes.
Having a real rock by you as a visual aid will help you out.
STEP 4: Add Texture
After you have all of your color added to rock you can begin to dab the surface using a large paintbrush. Be sure you hit every part of the rock to ensure texture is visible on the entire surface. As you are doing this keep in mind you are also mixing the color in with the mortar. Try not to mix too much of the color into the rock, the goal is to try to have lighter and darker tones, without seeing straight lines of color. Basically, you want to blend the color in for a more natural and realistic look. If you blend the color too much you can always add more and repeat step four.
STEP 5: Apply Sealer
The last step is to apply a sealer. Sealers have two main finishes. The first is a matte finish, this gives the rock a realistic look and is the type I use for my rocks. The other is a “wet look” type sealer that gives the appearance that the rock is wet all the time, hence the name.
Whatever type of sealer goes with you want to apply 2-3 thin coats as opposed to one heavy coat. If you were to just apply one heavy coat, the sealer might develop a milky film when it dries. To prevent this, apply multiple thin coats, allowing adequate drying time between each coat specified in the manufacturer’s directions.
Now you know how to make your own stepping stones. Practice different color and texture techniques in order to achieve different results. Each stepping stone you make will be personalized in its own way and will definitely be a one-of-a-kind conversation piece wherever it will be.
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