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How to install a stepping stone path that won’t kill you

We’ve all walked on a badly built stepping stone path. The first couple of stones rock or wobble a bit, and then suddenly you take a step and WHAM you’ve hit the lever arm perfectly, and the stepping stone flies up and you take a tumble. Or maybe the stones are an awkward size, or you’re taking giant steps to get across. Once you know how to install a stepping stone path, though, you won’t have to deal with any of this.

How to install a stepping stone path: selecting the right stone

I have a simple rule for hardscapes: the more mortar we’re using, the thinner the stone can be. That’s why for a flagstone walk on a concrete slab, we’ll use 1” thick stone. The whole point behind a stepping stone path is to not need concrete and mortar though, so you’re naturally going to need to go bigger. At the least, you want to use stone that averages 1.5-2” thick, and you want to use more of the 2” pieces.

how to install a stepping stone path
Garden steppers

Of course, if 1.5-2” is good, thicker is better. RIght? Heck yeah! Which is why, as long as the budget allows it, I use what I call garden steppers. Instead of dinky little pieces of flagstone, they’re slabs of fieldstone that usually start at 3” thick. These just don’t move.

How to install a stepping stone path: the base

If you think that all you have to do to create a stepping stone path is plop some flat-ish stones on the ground and walk away, congratulations. You are part of the problem. Don’t do that. Instead, you want to dig down a few inches and make a leveling bed of stone dust. This way, even if the bottom of the stone is a little uneven, it won’t rock or shift.

How to install a stepping stone path: spacing

I’m 6’4 so I can’t remember the last time stepping stones were too far apart, but I’m told it’s not fun. So don’t do it. Closer together is better, but there comes a point where suddenly you’ve gone from stepping stones to a walkway, and that’s a whole other post. 3-4” apart is generally good if you’re looking to do gravel or groundcover between the stones. 4-6” is what we shoot for if doing sod between the stones. The best thing you can do if you’re unsure is to lay out some of the stones on the grass and actually walk on them. It’s your landscape, tailor it to what feels good to you!


One Comment

    February 26, 2020 REPLY

    It’s great advice to always keep the stones closer together, rather than further apart. My partner and I are renovating our home and yard this year and I want to add some paths like this. It would be great if we could find a contractor that will do a lot of these stone projects for us so that we can focus on other things.

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