Content of the material
- The Cost of Making Your Own Concrete Pavers
- ‘Float’ the Surface
- Cost Comparison
- Tutorial Steps For Making Concrete Stepping Stones
- Step 1. Prep The Space
- Step 2. Put Together The Stepping Stone Mold
- Step 3. Mix The Concrete
- Step 4. Cast The Concrete Stepping Stone Molds
- Step 5. Coloring The Base Layer
- Step 6. Fine Tune The Shape And Prep For Accent Coloring The Concrete Stepping Stones
- Step 7. Artistic/Accent Coloring Of The Top Layer
- Step 8. Add Stone Texture To The Concrete
- Step 9. Let The Concrete Cure
- Step 10. Seal The Concrete Stones -Recommended
- Build the Forms
- The Best Type Of Concrete Mix To Use For Making DIY Stepping Stones
- Pocket Guide to Concrete & Cement Mixes For Crafts
The Cost of Making Your Own Concrete Pavers
From the getgo, you will need more materials than just concrete. You will also need materials for the mold and some form of release agent just to make the pavers.
All these things add up and change the immediate price of the project. So it is not only a question of which one is objectively cheaper, the most important thing, as always, is the cost-efficiency of the entire project.
When choosing between buying or making your own concrete pavers, the first thing you need to consider is how much your time is worth. If you are spending an entire weekend making a few pavers, how much are you really saving on the process?
It takes a lot of time to make concrete pavers, at least one day just for them to dry out. That is not necessarily an issue when you need few pavers, but if your project is big, you’re going to spend a huge amount of time making all the pavers you’ll need.
The second thing you need to consider if you have already worked with concrete before. If you haven’t, forget it, you’re setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment.
Pouring concrete is hard, especially in a sort of “delicate” work like the one involved in creating pavers. Your pavers need to be uniform, technically identical to each other.
The mold helps, of course, but the most important thing is the skill involved in pouring the concrete and working with it. So if you have never worked with concrete before, you’re better off simply buying pavers.
‘Float’ the Surface
- After the bleed water has disappeared, float each section with a magnesium float. Floating embeds coarse aggregate particles and smooths the surface without sealing it.
- Pro tip: Before our concrete set up too much, we measured for the post anchors and installed them for the pergola.
Let’s make a quick calculation.
Let’s say you have a 200 sqft patio to work with. At best, your mold will cover around 4 sqft, which will require a 60 lb bag of concrete, which costs around US$6. In order to cover the entire patio, you will need 50 bags of concrete, making you have to disburse US$300.
Pavers cost, on average, US$3 per sqft. So, in order to cover the entire 200sqft patio, you will spend around US$600. That is not counting the price of delivery.
Of course, these calculations are very basic, but they summarize the overall correct idea that making your own pavers is usually 50% cheaper than buying.
Tutorial Steps For Making Concrete Stepping Stones
Step 1. Prep The Space
Now that you have a good understanding of the coloring, you can prep the space.
I didn’t have too much prep to do for this path.
The path was already there but was covered in pebbles, so I shoveled all the loose pebbles out the areas I would be placing the stones.
The ground was not in the least bit level, but I didn’t worry about leveling because I knew the concrete would self-level to some extent.
Plus I didn’t mind if they weren’t perfectly level. You can always do the leveling at the top of the concrete stones.
Step 2. Put Together The Stepping Stone Mold
Use tape to join the ends of the vinyl straps together.
Depending on the size, I sometimes overlapped the straps rather than butting the ends into each other.
Toward the end of my stone making, I skipped taping the ends together. The reason is that the mold held its shape without the tape.
This is because I was able to push some extra pebbles up against the sides.
I even started pulling the mold off right away. It’s up to you and how comfortable you feel.
Take the garden stakes and push them into the ground. Place them around the outside of your mold wherever you feel it needs support.
These are what you will manipulate to get the general stone shape.
Step 3. Mix The Concrete
Using the hoe, mix the concrete with water. It will be easier and less dusty if you first add some water to your mixing bin or wheelbarrow.
Then pour in the dry concrete mix –but do this in small batches.
If you try to do it all at once, it will make it very difficult to mix in such a large amount.
Mix the concrete and adjust by adding more water or concrete. The right consistency to aim for is a peanut butter-like consistency.
It will probably be easiest if you mix what you think you’ll need for the whole stone, but separate a section that will be the top ½”.
Just don’t color it yet, you’ll do this after the base layer is in place.
Step 4. Cast The Concrete Stepping Stone Molds
My methods evolved over time. I finally decided that just dumping the concrete into the mold was the best way to go.
If this is easiest for you then go ahead and just pour it directly into the mold.
Otherwise, you might find it easier to use a shovel to place the concrete.
Only pour in the mix that is reserved for the 1 ½” base layer.
Spread the concrete around with your gloved hands first, and be sure to get it right up to the strap edges.
Next, use the trowel to level the concrete. Keep the trowel at a slight angle and just sweep it back and forth.
Step 5. Coloring The Base Layer
Now go ahead and add the charcoal colorant to the remaining mix you had separated and mix it in well.
The amount you add will have been determined from the two pieces you tested before beginning the project.
Once the coloring looks even, pour it on top of the base layer.
Use the trowel again to get it level and smooth. Hold off on applying the brush on color for now.
Your timing will be more efficient if you start your next stepping stone.
Since I did most of this project by myself, I found it was easiest to go mix another batch and set up the next mold, pour it and lightly level it.
Then come back to the previous mold and remove the strap.
The reason for my timing on this is because the concrete will have started setting and will be moldable enough. The set time should be about 15-25 minutes.
Your workability time (the time before it becomes too difficult to mold or add colorant) for these stepping stones should be about an hour, depending on climate conditions.
Step 6. Fine Tune The Shape And Prep For Accent Coloring The Concrete Stepping Stones
After you have started the next stone mold, feel the concrete to see if it has some form to it. If so, then remove the vinyl strap.
Now use your gloved hand to shape the edges. Round them a little, and push them inward to create more of a curve if you want.
You may also want to slant to the edge.
Now you will want the following supplies near the stone you are coloring.
Plastic bags; a coarse paintbrush; a small bucket of water; a rag for clean up and various colorants of your choice, along with a bowl or cup for each.
In addition, for each color you have, you should also have one cup of water, plus you may find it helpful to have one more extra cup of water.
Pour some of each colorant into its own bowl/cup. If your pigment is a powder, then mix some water in with it.
Place the extra bowl/cup of water next to each color.
Accent coloring the stones is kind of like painting watercolors, they require lots of blending.
This is why you have extra cups of water. The small bucket of water will be for cleaning up the brush and your hands.
The main colors I used for this brush-on coloring technique were charcoal, red and a little blue.
Step 7. Artistic/Accent Coloring Of The Top Layer
Take the coarse paintbrush and dip it into the first color and then into the water.
Apply this in a brushing motion to the stone where you want to add color. Blend it into the top layer of wet cement and just play with it.
If you are using red, then go lightly with it because it tends to be highly pigmented and you only need a little to get the color to come through.
Blend these colors into the stone and into each other the way you might with a watercolor painting.
You can dip your brush back into the water to help with blending. Don’t forget to get the edges.
You can play with this by adding water to help mute the color.
Step 8. Add Stone Texture To The Concrete
Now you will use the plastic bag to achieve two things, one is to blend the colors more and the other is to create the stone-like texture.
Place the bag on your hands and pat the top of the concrete. Keep patting until you like the way the texture and blending look.
The bag really ended up being a great way to get a nice rippled texture of natural stone into the wet cement.
Step 9. Let The Concrete Cure
Now continue these steps with the rest of the stones. Technically, the stones will reach their full cure in 3-4 weeks- meaning their full strength.
I was able to carefully walk on them after about 24 hours, but you should wait 3-5 days before you allow any foot traffic.
If you are wondering about needing to cover these with plastic while curing, per the concrete representative at Quikrete, it is not necessary.
You also do not need to water cure these.
I had my concrete covered because it was the height of pollen season and I didn’t want the yellow pollen staining the stones.
I only left the plastic on for one day. They were dry enough that I wasn’t worried about color permeating them.
For detailed information on how to you may want to check out my Concrete Crafts Pigment Tests article.
Step 10. Seal The Concrete Stones -Recommended
I didn’t seal these -in part because I didn’t want to add an extra expense for a home I don’t own.
They are porous, so you will likely encounter staining if you don’t seal them.
One month post-project I can see stains from berries and other foliage, and when scrubbing them, some of the stains go away, but not all of them.
It would also help protect against fading.
Look for an outdoor concrete or stone sealer.
And be sure you do a test patch first to make sure it doesn’t change the color or darken the concrete stones in any undesired way.
If you want to make your own stone that’s personalized, consider adding decorative elements to the top. Items you can embed would be:
- sea glass
- pebble mosaic
- glass beads
- mosaic tiles
- pieces of china
Build the Forms
- Assemble the form in sections.
- Stake the forms in place using 1-by stakes between the 2x4s. The stakes created a gap to get the width we wanted, and we also used them to level the forms.
The Best Type Of Concrete Mix To Use For Making DIY Stepping Stones
The best type of concrete mix to use for stepping stones is going to depend on the thickness you are making them.
I made these stepping stones 2″ thick and so I went with Quikrete’s Sand Topping Mix.
If your stones are thicker, then this is not the proper mix for you –as Quikrete specifies only for thickness of up to 2″.
Just be sure to read the labels and always stick within the recommended thicknesses.
But Don’t I Need Reinforcement For Concrete Stepping Stones?
Quikrete’s Sand Topping Mix doesn’t need to be reinforced as long as you don’t go over the 2″ thickness. It does not need chicken wire, wire mesh, nor rebar.
I verified this with Quikrete’s customer service department before starting the project.
The cement itself is strong enough to hold up, even under freezing conditions.
UPDATE 1 ½ years later : The concrete stepping stones have held up and look as good s when I first made them, except for a slight lightening and staining from leaf debris.
Of course, you don’t have to make concrete stepping stones that look natural.
You can follow much of this tutorial and make regular round stones, using the same stepping stone mold I used for these.
Also, many people like to make decorative stepping stones like garden mosaic stepping stones.
They are usually made by adding mosaic glass or other embeddable materials into the concrete.
If you’re not convinced about making your own stepping stones, then check out my article discussing all the pros and cons of making stepping stones vs. buying them and having them installed.
I can say this has been my favorite DIY to date because of how amazingly practical the stepping stones turned out to be for us.
And using the materials we did, really ended up being the easy way to make these.
I’ve got a lot of information here because I really go into a lot of details, but don’t let the length of this tutorial intimidate you, it is a fairly easy project and parts of it are especially fun.
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Pocket Guide to Concrete & Cement Mixes For Crafts Grab the free pocket guide. It has a handy chart for choosing the right mix for your project. Grab The Guide!
DIY Difficulty Level | Moderate
The techniques are actually quite easy, but since the concrete is heavy to deal with, and this project will require a lot of crouching and squatting on the ground.
Due to the physicality of it I’m rating this project as moderate.
Your first step should be considering if you’ve got the time and money to DIY patio pavers. Concrete is relatively cheap, but depending on the project’s scope, costs can add up quickly. Mixing and pouring concrete is also pretty laborious.
Plan the kind of pavers you want and the size of the area you’re installing them.
Once you’ve done that, measure and clear off the building site and make your molds. Finding molds for smaller pavers can be easy, while you may have to get creative with odd-shaped molds. Once you’ve done your prep work, mix and pour the concrete.