a stepping stone path made of stone pavers

How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path

A pathway made of stone pavers is a great way to save your lawn from being trampled and compacted by foot traffic

Q: We want to lay a stepping-stone path in our yard. Can we do it ourselves?
—Lorraine Idson, Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Roger Cook replies: Absolutely. A pathway made of stone pavers is a great way to save your lawn from being trampled and compacted by foot traffic. And it certainly is an easy, one-day project for most DIYers. The hardest parts of the process are the labor of mixing the wet stone dust that serves as the pavers' base and then lifting and moving the stones.

Go to your local stone yard and look for pieces at least 1 1/2 inches thick and about 24 inches wide. Pieces that size aren't likely to crack, and no cutting is required; you simply adjust their spacing to fit a natural stride and to make the path curved or straight.

Once you determine the spacing, the digging and the setting go quickly. Start in the morning, and invite guests over that evening for a stroll across your handiwork.

Shown: Roger Cook determines the spacing between each stone before doing any digging.


Steps // How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path
1 ×

Establish the Grade

 
Step One // How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path

Establish the Grade

using a stake and mason line for a fixed reference for pavers' height in stepping stone path
Photo by Kindra Clineff

Drive one stake next to the path's starting point and another a few feet beyond its end. Tie a mason line around the first stake where it touches its connecting surface—a patio, in this case. Pull the string to the other stake and tie it off about 1/2 inch above grade. Now you have a fixed reference for the pavers' height.

 
2 ×

Position the Pavers

 
Step Two // How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path

Position the Pavers

measuring to lay out the distance between each paver in stepping stone path
Photo by Kindra Clineff

Measure the stride of the shortest person in the household, and lay out the pavers so that there's a stone underfoot for each step. Start with 3 to 6 inches between courses and adjust from there to fit the last paver without cutting it. To create a curve, tighten the space between inside corners and open it up on outside corners.

 
3 ×

Cut the Sod

 
Step Three // How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path

Cut the Sod

using a half-moon edger to cut around base of each paver in stone stepping path
Photo by Kindra Clineff

Set a half-moon edger alongside the paver, then step down on it to cut completely through the turf's roots. Repeat along the perimeter of each course of pavers.

 
4 ×

Excavate for the Base

 
Step Four // How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path

Excavate for the Base

stripping out sod for place of paver in stone stepping path
Photo by Kindra Clineff

Flip each paver to the side of its outline, then strip out the sod. Dig down along the edge to a depth equal to the stone's thickness plus 1 1/2 inches. Use the mason line to check the depth. Repeat this process for each remaining course.

 
5 ×

Add the Setting Bed

 
Step Five // How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path

Add the Setting Bed

filling setting bed for paver with stone dust for a stable base in stone stepping path
Photo by Kindra Clineff

Stone dust provides a stable base that won't shift or sink. In a wheelbarrow, mix the dust with water to the consistency of cake batter. Add about 2 inches of the mix to each hole, enough to bring the paver up to the mason line.

 
6 ×

Set the Pavers

 
Step Six // How to Lay a Stepping-Stone Path

Set the Pavers

placing the paver stone in the setting bed and pounding it with a rubber mallet for a stone stepping path
Photo by Kindra Clineff

Wiggle the stone into the setting bed and pound it with a rubber mallet to collapse any air pockets. Use a level to set each stone even with its neighbor. Pound one side of the paver until it's pitched slightly, to shed water away from the house.

 
 
 

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