stone path in a backyard

How to Build a Stone Walkway: Step by Step Guide

There are many ways in which you can improve the look of your garden or backyard, from planting all sorts of flowers, shrubs, trees, to adding decorative items, creating a seating area, and building a stone walkway. Stone walkways can give your garden a rustic feel, while also allowing for easy access to different areas and/or plants. Building one by yourself does take a little bit of time and effort, but the end result is definitely worth it. We want to help, so we’ve devised a step by step guide to building a stone walkway.

How to Build a Stone Walkway in 9 Easy Steps

Step 1: Gather the Required Materials

The first step to building anything is gathering the materials you’re going to need. In the case of today’s stone walkway, these materials are: stones and sand, a wheelbarrow, landscape fabric,  stakes and a ball of string, a shovel, a spade, garden hoses, spray paint, a carpenter’s level, a tamping tool, some work gloves, and a back brace (if you feel like you need one).

Step 2: Decide on the Thickness of the Stones

Before starting to build your stone walkway, it’s important to determine how thick the stones are, and how thick you want them to be. The thickness of the stones will determine how deep you dig, and we will explain that later. What you have to remember is that the thickness of the stones doesn’t actually affect the thickness of the path itself. It only affects how much you’re going to have to dig. So if you want to get the job done faster, we advise you to buy stones which are 3 inches thick.

Step 3: Decide on the Path

You should never start building a stone walkway before deciding exactly the shape your path is going to have. The first piece of advice we can give you is to avoid building a stone walkway around a large tree. That’s because the roots of the tree might damage it in the future. Plus, the path could also damage the tree. However, not all trees grow their roots so close to the surface as to interfere with your walkway, which is why we recommend doing some research beforehand. Check if the trees that you have in your garden or backyard could potentially damage the walkway.

Step 4: Mark the Path

You have two stone walkway options, a straight one and a curved one. The straight ones are for people who are building a walkway in order to serve a specific purpose. For instance, the purpose could be going from point A to point B. Curves walkways are better for people who are more concerned with the aesthetic of it all. They bring a certain softness to the landscape and are more visually appealing. After you’ve decided on the best choice for you, it’s time to mark the path. For this, you’re going to need the stakes and the ball of string.

In case you chose a straight stone walkway, marking the path is extremely easy. All you have to do is stand at one end of it with someone. Ask the other person to hold the ball of string while you unravel it until you reach the other side. Then, both you and the person helping you, will have to place a stake in the ground in the spot where you’re standing and attach the string to it.

Now, it’s time to decide on the width of the path. This is completely up to you, but if you want two people to be able to walk on it side by side, we recommend a 3-foot width. Each of you will now have to measure 3 feet from the stake you’ve just planted. Then, mark the other spot as well, without forgetting to tie another string in between the second two stakes.

If you chose to build a curved stone walkway, marking it will be much easier with garden hoses. That’s because they’re more flexible, and they’ll allow you to follow the design you have in mind to the letter. Once you’ve marked one side of the path, go back to the beginning. Use another garden hose to mark the other side as well. Remember that when it comes to curved walkways, you’re going to have to pay extra attention to keep the width constant. We also advise you to take some time before deciding on the exact shape of the path. Try walking between the hoses and see if it feels right. Also, check if you’ve placed the curves in the best places you could have. Once you’re sure you’ve reached the desired shape, use the spray paint to mark the lines, and remove the hoses.

Step 5: Excavate the Soil

Using the spade, dig 5 inches into the soil. The reason why we’re set on 5 inches is because we chose stones that are 3 inches thick. This allows for an extra 2 inches that you will later on fill with sand. If you bought stones which are thicker, just add 2 inches to their dimension. Once you’ve chopped the soil with the spade, take the shovel and use it to excavate the soil. One thing that you must remember is that the bottom surface has to be entirely flat. This ensures that your stone walkway will be 100 percent straight. In order to make sure this happens, use a garden hose to moisten the soil. Then, take the tamping tool and tamp it down as best as you can.

Step 6: Add the Sand

If you’ve reached this step, it means that your path is now flat and even. The next step is to take some landscape fabric and cover the entire area of the future stone walkway with it. This will help you keep weeds in check. Then, cover the fabric with 2 inches of sand and use the tamping tool to tamp it down. At this point, you should have exactly 3 inches left in the excavation area. This is precisely how much you need for the stones.

Step 7: Temporarily Align the Stones

Even if all there’s left for you to do now is add the stones and build the walkway, keep in mind that once you secure the stones, it’s increasingly difficult to go back on your idea and try to change the design. This is why you first have to get a feel of the stones and arrange them in a temporary fashion. Especially if not all of your stones have the same shape and dimension, finding the right way to place them will be a bit more challenging, just like a puzzle. Start by using the larger stones first and working in the middle of the walkway. Before adding the smaller pieces, walk on the large ones in order to see if everything feels comfortable or not. If it doesn’t, try readjusting the stones.

Once you’re satisfied with the design of the larger stones, it’s time to add the smaller ones and fill in the gaps. If you were to do that before walking on the path, you would have spent much more time readjusting the smaller pieces as well as the larger ones. Doing that now is just a matter of polishing the final look and adding the finishing touches. When placing the small stones next to the large ones, make sure that there are no visible gaps in between them, and that everything is as compact as it can be.

Step 8: Level the Stones

One of the most important things you have to pay attention to when building a stone walkway is for it to be entirely leveled. This is where the carpenter’s level comes in handy. Use it to constantly check the levelness of your walkway, even as you’re still placing the stones in the desired positions. If you notice stones that are not as raised or as far down as the others, take care of leveling them immediately. With the stones that are placed deeper into the sand, remove them and then add sand under them until level. If you notice stones that are placed too high, you’re going to have to remove some of the sand resting underneath them.

Step 9: Add the Finishing Touches

What we mean by finishing touches is applying some more sand in between the stones, wherever you notice any gaps left. Then, make sure you also tamp the sand down, and you’ve got yourself a brand-new stone walkway.

Summing Everything Up

A stepping stone walkway can spruce up the look of any garden or backyard, while also serving a utilitarian purpose. If you don’t want to hire someone to build one for you, you can always follow these 9 steps and build your own. With a little bit of patience and dedication, you’ll get the walkway of your dreams in no time.

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Bonnie Enos

I spend my time in my garden trying to create the greatest outdoor space possible. My garden is my happy place and where you will always find me on a nice day. I take my experience and share it here for you to read!

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