Stepping stones are the perfect element for executing informal garden path ideas. But are DIY stepping stones a good idea, cost-wise and labor-wise? We've seen plenty of DIY stepping stones on Instagram, some of them plain concrete, others embellished with leftover tile fragments. They do look good, and because they're such an informal element of garden landscaping, it doesn't really matter if they're not all uniform in shape. The question is: isn't it just easier to go to your local garden center and buy ready-made stepping stones?
Blogger and DIY and crafts expert Ellen McLean (opens in new tab) has made concrete stepping stones herself – here's her take on the DIY vs buy question.
Which is more cost effective: DIY or buy stepping stones?
There is no doubt that making your own concrete stepping stones and also installing them yourself is by far the most cost-effect option. When all the costs of materials and equipment have been added up, Ellen says that the cost of making your own stepping stones will come up to around $180: 'For my project, I used 7 bags of concrete. I also needed to purchase a mold, 3 different colorants, a giant mixing bin, and a hoe and trowel.'
That is significantly cheaper than completely 'hiring out your stepping stone path' – that is, buying the stones and having them professionally installed. This option will cost around $780. And even if you choose to install your stepping stones yourself, the cost will still be quite high – around $450 for fieldstone stones, gravel, sand, and more if you need tools.
So, from a cost point of view, DIY stepping stones win hands down. However, Ellen cautions: 'making your own stepping stones will save you the most money, but this may not be the best option for you.' Why? Making your own stepping stones requires 'physical ability and time' – not everyone has those.
Is making DIY stepping stones easy?
This is where it may get complicated. The first factor to consider is that 'stepping stones are going to be heavy': 'If you make your own, keep in mind that concrete is quite heavy, but you can help yourself out and by using a wheelbarrow.' There also will be crouching and bending down involved in making the stones, and then carrying the finished stones and installing them where you want the path to be.
Ellen also points out that there's space prepping involved in making a garden path: this may involve removing existing gravel and/or levelling your path. And don't forget to color test your stones – 'If you are making concrete stepping stones, then be sure to factor in a color testing time several days before you start.'
Learn how to design a garden path – get expert advice on creating the perfect walkway.
In short, DIY stepping stones are a great way to save on your garden path – but be sure that the project will be physically manageable for you, and that you have enough time to work on it.