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How to Make a Patio Using Stepping Stones

Stepping stones, commonly used to create a path through your garden, can also be used to make a patio. This project requires two main decisions -- size and shape of the patio, and the type of stones. In addition, you also need to decide on the material to use to fill in the gaps between the stones. Common fill options include fine-crushed stone, paver sand, pea gravel and moss. This project can take several days depending on the design of your patio. For example, installing a rectangular patio with square or rectangle stones cuts down on the time required to fit the stones, while an odd-shaped patio with irregular stones requires more time to shape and fit the stones together for the desired look.

Plan and Prepare

Choose the Stones

Select stones with the desired size, shape, texture and thickness. Large, high-traffic patios generally require thicker, larger and flatter stones. Select stones that measure 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick because thinner stones can crack over time.

Mark the Patio's Perimeter

For odd-shaped patios, use a garden hose to outline the area and then spray landscape paint about 2 inches to the outside of the hose to allow for edge restraints. Skip to Step 3.

For rectangular patios, consider the size of your stones when laying out the perimeter. Make the length and width of the patio a multiple of the stones' length and width plus the amount of space you want between the stones. For example, with a 12-inch square stone and a 1-inch space between stones, make the width and length a multiple of 13 inches. Add 2 to 4 inches to these calculations to allow for edge restraints. Use a tape measure and drive a wood stake into the ground at each corner with a hammer. Tie string from corner to corner to mark perimeter.

Remove the Sod

Wear work gloves to protect your hands. Remove the sod within the perimeter with a shovel and save the soil for later use. Excavate to a depth equal to the thickness of the stones plus 1 inch -- with a 2-inch stone, remove 3 inches of sod. Compact the area as flat as possible with a hand tamper.

Prepare the Base

Install landscape fabric along the bottom of the area and run it up the sides at the perimeter. This helps keep weeds and grass from growing up between the stones. Fill the area with 1 inch of fine-crushed stone or coarse sand and pull a long, two-by-four board across the top to spread and smooth out the material. Wet down the stone or sand and tamp it with a hand tamper. Rest the two-by-four on edge across the top of the material and put a 4-foot carpenter's level on the board to check for level. Add or remove material until the base is level. Check for level in several areas.

Installing the Stones

Set the Stones

To set rectangular stones, put the first stone in one corner, 2 inches from the perimeter. Set it in place by tapping the top with a rubber mallet. Set the next stone to the side of this stone, leaving the calculated amount of joint space, and repeat the process.

To set odd-shaped stones, place the first one 2 inches from the perimeter and set it in place by tapping the top with a rubber mallet. For a rugged look, set the next stone next to the first and allow the irregular edges to define the joint, which may vary anywhere from 1/2 to 3 inches. For a more tailored look, try to choose stones with complementary edges and set them next to each other with about a 3/4-inch joint.


You may need to use a hammer and chisel to shape some of the odd-shaped stones' edges for a proper fit. If so, wear safety glasses or goggles for protection.

Check for Level

Stop after every four stones and rest a two-by-four across the stones. Place a level on top of the board and check to see that all of the stones touch the bottom of the board. Tap on top of stones that sit up too high or add more material underneath the stones that sit too low. Continue until all of the stones have been installed.

Fill the Joints

Apply the Material

Brush your chosen material -- fine-crushed stone, paver sand or pea gravel -- into the joints with a long-handled broom. Hose down the joints, allow the material to settle and repeat to fill the joints.

To grow moss in the joints, sweep some of the soil you initially removed into the joints. Hose down the soil, allow it to settle and repeat. Plant the moss in the wet soil and lightly water it every few days.

Stabilize the Perimeter

Install plastic edge restraints along the perimeter stones to help keep them stable. Pack some of the soil you initially removed around the perimeter, filling any gaps between the edging and the surrounding ground.

Hose it Down

Hose down the soil, allow it to settle and repeat. Trim off and remove any excess landscape fabric.

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