Stepping-Stone Paths

Lay a stepping-stone path along a curve for a fabulous informal look.


A stepping-stone path is the most informal of paths and looks best when it has as many curves as possible.

The outline of the path doesn't have to be precise. If the edges of some stones fall slightly outside the edge of the path, it merely adds to the appeal.

Stepping-stones are set individually in sand recesses, each excavated to conform to the shape of the individual stone. The path doesn't require a gravel base, just a 2-inch sand base in the recess dug in the soil.

Spacing for the stepping-stones depends somewhat on the purpose of the path and the speed at which you want the traffic to move. Spaced at 6 inches, the stones will slow the walk; at 10 inches, they will speed it up. Use a 1-inch spacing if you plan to run wheeled garden equipment over the path.

This installation is a fun weekend project for the whole family because it doesn't require heavy lifting.


8 to 10 hours to lay and set a 4x15-foot path

Garden hose, 2x lumber, round-nose shovel, trowel, mason's line stakes, marking chalk, 4-foot level

Laying out a path, digging, marking, setting stone

Plan path dimensions and contours

Bedding sand, stepping-stones

Step 1

Lay out the site, using staked mason's lines for straight sections and a charged garden hose for curved sections. (Turn the nozzle off and the water on to help the hose keep its shape.) You can cut lengths of 2x stock to the width of the walk and lay them between the hose sections to keep the width consistent, but a layout for a stepping-stone walk need not be as precise as for other walks. Mark the path with chalk and remove the hose.

Step 2

Pile the stones according to their general size. Then pick stones that will create the pattern you want as you lay them in place within the chalked outline of the walk.

Step 3

When you are satisfied with the pattern of the stones, mark the outline of each one with chalk. Avoid using spray paint, which stains stones.

Step 4

Remove each stone and set it aside. Use a round-nose shovel to dig out the sod along the chalk marks. Dig a recess deep enough for the stone thickness plus 2 inches of sand. Make adjustments in the excavation with a trowel as needed. Put 2 inches of sand into the recess; level it with a trowel.

Step 5

Set the stone back in the recess and level it. After you've laid several stones, check them in groups to make sure they are at a consistent height at or slightly above grade. Take up any stones that don't conform and reset them, adding or removing sand.

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