How to make a path with river rock and stepping stones

Written by nathan mcginty
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How to make a path with river rock and stepping stones
Stepping stones add a touch of class to any path. (mtreasure/iStock/Getty Images)

River rocks lend a natural feel to any kind of outdoor construction. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small pebbles to larger rocks. By combing these rocks with a series of stepping stones, you can make a path that links different parts of your garden, spruce up the area in front of your house or cover a problem area where grass just doesn't want to grow. Because this project requires a bit of digging and heavy labour, plan as much as you can in advance. Knowing some useful tips will make your river rock and stepping stone path construction safe and worry free.

Things you need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Rope/twine
  • Shovel
  • Tape measure
  • Builder's sand
  • Liner
  • Edger
  • Trowel and cement

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  1. 1

    Plan your path using paper and pencil. Take note of some of the possible obstacles in the path you would like to follow. This will also give you the opportunity to play with different designs. Also think about the size of the stepping stones you would like to use and the depth of the path.

  2. 2

    Mark out the design on the ground where you will construct the path. Use rope or twine to mark the edges of the path to give you an idea of how the final design will look. Make any adjustments as necessary.

  3. 3

    Use a tape measure to take the measurements of the final design. This will help you plan for materials. For example, a path that measures 3 metres (10 feet) long by 60 cm (2 feet) wide will require approximately enough river rock to cover 1.85 square metres (20 square feet). The number of stepping stones you will require will vary by the installation. For example, in this instance, five stepping stones measuring 30 cm (1 foot) spaced the same distance apart would make a perfect fit.

  4. 4

    Dig out the planned path with your shovel. The depth to which you dig will be determined by your selected stepping stones and your own personal style. You can have the stones flush with the ground, slightly below the ground, or raised up.

  5. 5

    Smooth out the bottom of the path so that the soil is level. One option here is to install a plastic barrier. This will prevent plants and vegetation growing up through the river rock.

  6. 6

    Spread a layer of builder's sand on the bottom of the dig. This will help cushion the rocks and provide a stable platform for them to rest on.

  7. 7

    Install path edging at this point if called for in your design. This can be plastic, pressure-treated timber, bricks or many other choices.

  8. 8

    Lay the stepping stones out in your desired pattern. Adjust the sand beneath them before you place the stones to keep them level.

  9. 9

    Fill in the remainder of your path with the river rock.

Tips and warnings

  • The river rock can be very dusty and dirty when you pour it out of the bag. Give it a wash with a garden hose to give it a polished glow.
  • Some people prefer to use larger river rocks and then mortar them into place along with the stepping stones. In that case, follow the first seven steps. Instead of pouring the rocks out of the bag and into the path, set the stones down in the sand firmly. Apply the mortar to the stones with a trowel, similar to grouting tile.
  • Protect your hands with work gloves when moving rough stepping stones.

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