Easy Concrete Stepping Stones
Gee, most people think of beaches when summer hits; I think of what I can do with concrete. Make some Easy Concrete Stepping Stones! Silly, maybe, but I like the permanence of these projects and the rather inexpensive supplies. It’s also time to admire the wonders of nature and make use of the gardens bounty; my Rhubarb plant!
I am sure you realized that you need concrete, but it’s even easier as you don’t need to mix separate components. This ready-made “Quikrete” mix is perfect for the job, and it comes in a size that I can lift! It’s available at most home improvement stores like Home Depot And Lowes.
If you don’t have access to any Rhubarb, you can also successfully use the large leaves from the thistle weed. They are in huge abundance at the side of the roads. They are just a bit fuzzier in final texture. I’ve used them when I didn’t want to sacrifice too much of my plant.
Some basic gear you will need:
- Quikcrete Sand Topping Mix (not mortar)
- A bucket of some kind to mix concrete in (plastic is best as dried concrete can be knocked out when dried)
- Rubber Gloves & Dust Mask
- Stir Stick or shovel
- Rhubarb Leaf or other large suitable leaf with deep vein texture
- Place to form leaf (I have an old garbage can lid full of sand, but you could use the ground in a pinch)
- Drywall Fibreglass Mesh & Scissors
Start by getting your “form” ready. To get the natural curvature of the leaf form the damp sand under the leaf. Be careful don’t break the leaf. Build up the sides to have a rounded edge. At this point you can use a mound of sand if you want to make a bowl.
To have a nice smooth curve at the edge, I form the sand around the shape. Don’t get sand on the leaf. The veins should be facing up.
Wet sand is quite easy to form. More fussing now equals great results later.
I also get the drywall mesh ready so that I have it at hand when I have “concretey” hands. I cut a bunch of strips that are about the length and width of the leaf.
Now it’s time to get the concrete mixed
I add enough Quikcrete that looks like it would cover the leaf, ½ bucket or less. You’ll get the feel after doing one. This concrete is meant to be used in rather thin applications. I have some stones that are barely 1” thick and many years old.
Add water slowly, mixing deep into the bottom. At this point you probably would like a labourer, depending how many you are making.
It is usually ready when it doesn’t have standing water on top, and holds shape a bit when stirring. It should have some slump (meaning that it will flatten itself by flowing outward) but not be too wet as to leak much water. Over watered concrete is weaker. Squish a bit in your hand and it should not crumble, hold a bit of shape and not be runny.
It’s now just a matter of glopping the concrete onto the leaf. No rocket science here! However, the trick to a very detailed imprint is the “slapping”(vibrating). The pros have agitators that vibrate the cement to get rid of voids and air bubbles. You have your hand! Slap, slap, slap… It also makes the water come to the top, which is a good thing, I’ve been told.
Stay just within the edge of the leaf and keep it on the thin side as you will be adding another layer. Perhaps about ½” or more.
Once covered, criss-cross the mesh paying attention to getting it over the main stem area. Since the main stem (artery) is thick, it is also the weak point since it will leave the biggest void. It’s even best to mound up extra thickness there.
Now just add your other layer, covering the mesh enough and smoothing out.
Good job! Now it’s time to let it do it’s thing. If it’s going to rain, cover lightly to prevent washing away prematurely. After a few hours you will feel that it has hardened. It may not be ready to lift, but if you wet it, it strengthens the concrete. It also helps if it’s too sunny. Apparently concrete likes to be wet. I usually wait til the next day to flip it over. Better safe than sorry…
Note the sandy texture on this one. I should have slapped (vibrated) it more! I use some dental tools to aid in the removal of the veins, but they will eventually decay away anyways.
You can continue to wet it to strengthen and help ease the veins out. Isn’t nature wonderful and now it’s permanent! Concrete leaf stepping stones perfectly suite the garden, always look right and will also get a patina over time. Look into some of my other concrete projects…
Wonderful texture! If you would like to consider making your own reusable mold take a look here:
Barb, your tutorial on making a concrete stepping stone using a rhubarb leaf is very well done. We’ve made several bird baths using a similar method but found that the leaf is easier to remove if you spray it with cooking oil spray before applying the concrete. We also used the shredded fiberglass fibers available in the construction area of Lowe’s or Home Depot. These are mixed with the wet concrete so you eliminate the step of adding the strips of drywall mesh. If any of the little fiberglass hairs stick up after the concrete has hardened, they are easily removed with a propane torch or BBQ lighter. Thanks for all your wonderful garden projects.
Thanks! I have used those fibers in many of my concrete projects. I had used the spray as well, but i don’t have any problem getting the concrete off. I also would rather not have any greasiness to the concrete in case of any finishing. Even the many molds I have made work well without the release agents.
Concrete is so much fun and quite forgiving… check out all the projects I have here
That is pretty well how my journey into concrete started! I must have stones that are over 14 years old! (seems like just yesterday)
Barb, thank you so much for sharing your techniques. I’ve wanted to do hyperturfa for so long. You explain things so clearly. Haven’t tried anything yet
But can’t wait to get started. Thank you for sharing. I am also an artist….the kind where i want to try everthing! I have to go buy my supplies. In the future I’d be happy to donate to your website. Right now it’s the crazy time of year, writing out graduation checks, buying plants and now concrete. But i will be happy to donate soon! Do you have any books out on concrete. I’d love to buy it! Thanks so much really appreciate your talent!!! Mel
I think my concrete journey started with those stones! ‘And it’s progressed so much from there. You prob would enjoy this post if you are new to concrete. I much prefer the quickness of the fats setting concrete’s!
When making a mold for leaf stepping stones (I have quite a few castor bean plants with leaves just screaming to be made into stepping stones) do I use the same process with the silicone and corn starch? Would I press the silicon into the leaf? It seems easy enough, with your tutorials, I just want to make sure. Thank you!!!
Yes, it may be easier to just use the leaves for a stone each time. But if you want to make a mold you can. It may be quite flat depending on how you support the leaf. I did it here . Just make sure the mix is worked well until it does not stick and then work quickly to get it on. I like to give the stepping stones some roundness at the edges. Maybe some damp sand will allow some support… Happy making! Let me know how it goes!
Hello, All I can say is “I sure wish I had found your great instructions before I tried and failed my first attempt to make a concrete leaf.” You did a wonderful job of explaining the right way to Work it. Can’t wait to try again. Sharing is caring and I really appreciate you for your kindness.❤️
Awe thanks! I tend to be a bit excessive with pictures. I have been teaching for many years so I know how there can be many questions! There’s a whole Concrete section under the home menu, for much more…
Hi Barb, I plan on using this sand topping mix for a small project. If I wanted to mix a small batch of this what would the volume of quikcrete to water be? Thanks for the help!
I don’t use a recipe; I mix it according to how thick I’d like it. I think humidity may have an impact as well as whether you want it ‘pourable’ or more ‘slumping’. ( On their site they say this: HAND MIXING • Empty Sand/Topping Mix bags into a suitable mixing container • For each 80 lb (36.3 kg) bag of mix, add approximately 8 pt (3.8 L)
of clean water. Work the mix with a shovel, rake or hoe ) I mix it until I see that it will not just run away since I need it to stay put on top of the leaf. It’s a pretty cheap mix and if in doubt do a test. I don’t think I’ve ever seen concrete worker guys measuring…
When you ‘slap’ the concrete to get into the details the water will also rise more to the top so too wet is not good… Happy making
Love this tutorial found thru Pinterest and plan to try to make these this weekend! Curious, how many stones will one bag of concrete make assuming a medium to large leaf (12-18inch) is used? Are these sturdy enough to walk on? I’m making a path to my backyard! Thanks!
I would say 2 really thick ones and maybe 3 or more if smaller and thinner. The deep vein in the middle usually means that section should be thicker to avoid that weak point of the cracking. How well they are installed also makes a difference of where the stress is put on the stone. Quikrete SandTopping mix! So it will look like this
Thank you for the tutorial on concrete leaves. In the last picture, you show the leaf that seems colored and shiny. Can you explain what you used on the concrete for paint and did you use a sealer? Thanks!
Oh, that picture just shows it wet. I don’t paint them, and I don’t seal them either, but that’s my opinion. Mine have aged and gotten some patina on them. I like old looking concrete….
i am a concrete lover. i used to make my own steeping stones but i used the wrong concrete so they all broke, so i abandoned the idea a bought stepping stones already made and i decorate them with mosaics. . now that i saw your post, i feel like going back to make my own stepping stones again. what should i used a a mold for the stepping stones if i want to make them perfectly circular? thank you so much
Oh dear! If you can find a big plastic saucer for the bottom of planters, that would work. I like plastic best, especially if it has some flexibility. You can have much fun with the leaf shapes though…