Step-by-Step: 10 Tips to Plan the Perfect Stepping Stone Path

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated March 28, 2022
children running and playing in garden
Photo: Johnny Greig / E+ / Getty Images
Difficulty

Intermediate

Learn a new skill while beautifying your home.

Time to complete

6 hours

180 minutes to 360 minutes per day. Plan to spend up to a week on your walkway project, depending on the length of the path, the state of the yard, and your fitness level.

Cost

$500–$1,000

$500–$1,000; You’ll spend a lot on supplies, but you may still save money by DIYing

If you want to skip the gym, try installing a stepping stone path

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.

What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Tape measure
  • Shovels
  • Spade
  • Hand tamper
  • Steel rake
  • Garden hose
  • Cart, wheelbarrow, or dolly for moving pavers
  • Rental equipment: Plate compactor

SUPPLIES

  • Pavers
  • Gravel road base
  • Polymeric/jointing sand
  • Stakes and string (for marking your walkway design)
  • Plastic paver edging

Stepping stones provide the perfect walkway for the hop, skip, and jump from the back gate to the back door. Or through the garden. Or to the deck. The possibilities for adding charm and color to your backyard are endless. Here’s what to do to prepare for your stepping stone path.

  1. Plan Your Project

    Large front yard or garden of house
    Photo: Mint Images / Mint Images RF / Getty Images

    The first step is to choose where your walkway should lead. This will help you determine what clearing needs to be done and what supplies you need.

    Will it be a winding path through the garden to nowhere in particular? Or will it be a utilitarian path leading to the outdoor kitchen? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan:

    • In the summer months, dark-colored stones will be hot on bare feet.

    • Stones with some texture will be less slippery when wet or carrying food and drinks to the outdoor kitchen.

    • If you’re planning side-by-side strolls through your property, you’ll need a wider path of 48 inches to accommodate two.

  2. Lay It Out

    Before you get to the heavy lifting, use wooden stakes and string to plan out where your walkway will be. Just plant a stake and wind the string around it to get an idea and work around any obstacles.

    Once you’re happy with the path, determine how far apart you want your pavers spaced to figure out how many you’ll need. Aim for a width of at least 36 inches, or around 48 inches, to allow space for two people to walk side-by-side.

  3. Clear the Way

    Depending on the ground cover, you might need to clear any grass, weeds, or bushes in the pathway. Use an herbicide to keep the plants at bay. You might need to reapply a day or two later. 

  4. Dig a Trench

    Before digging, call 811 to get the locations of buried utility lines marked, so you work around them. This might mean adjusting your pathway.

    Dig a trench about 7 to 8 inches deep, using a spade to remove rocks and sod.

    This step requires quite a bit of physical labor. Give yourself several days to complete the work, so you can take breaks as needed. If possible, grab a friend or two to help you out. And don’t forget to hydrate! If you find this part to be too much of a lift, you can call a local landscaper to help you out.

  5. Compact the Soil

    Man using spade for old lawn digging
    Photo: andreaobzerova / Adobe Stock

    Once you’re finished digging the trench, you’ll need to flatten down the soil. The easiest and fastest way is to rent a plate compactor for about $60. Once your muscles recover from digging the trench, you can use a hand tamper. You’ll probably need a hand tamper to hit any small areas. 

  6. Add a Layer of Gravel

    Add a layer of gravel at least 3 to 6 inches deep for a base. This will help level your pathway and lock your pavers in place. Because anything else would be unstable and dangerous. Use a steel rake to spread an even layer.

    Once your base layer is laid, you’ll need to compact it down. Wet your gravel with a hose and use your plate compactor and hand tamper to tightly compact it down. Repeat as necessary until you have a solid layer that is slightly below ground level.

  7. Add a Layer of Sand

    Getting closer to stone time! Dump a layer of sand about 3 inches deep on top of your compacted gravel. Then, get out your plate compactor and hand tamper again to pack it down. Create a slight slope, so rainwater runs away from your home and doesn’t pool up in the middle of your walkway.

  8. Lay Your Pavers

    Rectangular sections cut into a lawn with concrete bases
    Photo: Christine Bird / Adobe Stock

    It’s time! Use your hose’s mist setting to slightly wet the sand, then lay your paver stones down in the desired pattern. Add extra sand to make any necessary adjustments and maintain the slope.

    Remember that pavers are heavy. If you can, use a cart, dolly, or wheelbarrow to move the pavers to your work area. Stretch first, lift with your knees, and take frequent breaks.

  9. Install Plastic Paver Edging

    Keep your carefully laid pavers in place with plastic paver edging. Most kits will contain spikes to secure the edging.

  10. Fill in the Joints With Sand

    A stone stepping pathway
    Photo: nuwatphoto / Adobe Stock

    Add a final half-inch layer of sand over the pavers and grab your tamper one last time to compact it down to fill in the spaces between pavers. This will help keep them snug in place.

    Then just sweep up any loose sand and go for a stroll down the newly installed path.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.