How to Lay a Stepping Stone Path Across a Garden Lawn

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This is a simple job to do and shouldn’t take more than a few hours to execute, but you’ll need to do some planning before you start.

Laying a stepping stone path/walkway can be hard work (see the 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 by walking from point A to point B and count the steps as you go so you can estimate how many stepping stone slabs you’ll need.

You might want to consider buying a few more than you need in case of breakages and damage in the future.

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/walkway 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 (unless you’re want a more random layout). 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. If you don’t have a line marker, you could use one of the slabs (see the list below).

Remove the grass to make way for the stepping stone slab

Using a spade with a sharp, straight edge (a half-moon or curved spade will do the job, but you’ll need to work harder), remove the sod from inside the marked lines and put to one side. You can use them in other parts of your garden or backyard or get rid of them altogether. The best way to remove turf is a follows:

  • Use the straight edge of the spade cut inside the marks you made with the line marker. Alternatively, put the slab in place, and use it as a guide. You want the spade to cut deep enough, but not too deep.
  • After each cut, pull the handle of the spade slightly towards you so you lift the grass a little from the ground underneath. This makes removal easier.
  • Once cut around the perimeter lines with your spade and made the initial cuts, put your spade into the newly-cut line and move it to an almost horizontal angle. You want to be able to slide the spade under the sod using a pushing action.
  • Now push the spade forwards under the sod, and up and remove it.
  • You won’t get a perfect finish each time. The edges will need tidying up a little so use the spade to remove the remaining dirt.

When the sod’s removed, what’s left should be a hole large enough to hold one of your slabs. It shouldn’t contain any loose dirt and the edges should be as square as possible.

The slab should be a tight fit around the sides (you can backfill small gaps later) and about 20mm from the surface of your lawn. The 20mm gap under the slab is for the mortar that’ll hold it in place and stop it from rocking.

When in its final position, you’ll want the slab to sit just below or level with the lawn’s surface so you can easily mow the lawn.

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 builders 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

  • Spade
  • Sand/cement for mortar (or buy a bag of ready-mixed mortar)
  • Spot board (for mixing mortar)
  • Trowel
  • Markers
  • Rubber mallet
  • Gloves
  • Spirit level
Check out Teresa’s World on YouTube

Frequently asked questions

You could do that but in most cases, it’s not advisable. The mortar base creates a solid and strong foundation for each slab so they won’t become loose or wobble when you walk on them. 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 instead of laying them directly onto soil.

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.

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).

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