DIY Sea Glass Stepping Stone
How to make garden stepping stones using colorful sea glass. It’s incredibly beautiful, especially when wet with rain! This project requires only a few inexpensive materials including glass pieces.
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Sea glass can have romantic origins — it could come from old Victorian bottles or broken glass from a shipwreck. Most of the time it comes from modern-day bottles. Most of the rubbish that ends up in the sea doesn’t have a happy ending, but glass is a different story. The motion of the waves and the grinding from stones and sand polishes each shard into a soft and jewel-like piece. You can display it in jars or cases but it’s fun to use in creative DIY projects too. One of the best garden projects I’ve ever made is a sea glass stepping stone.
You can easily make sea glass stepping stones with a few materials including cement, recycled mold, and beautiful sea glass. The resulting piece is garden art on a whole other level. Each softly colored piece of glass shines brightly in the light as if it were still wet from the sea. It’s practical too since you can use it to access the back of a border without getting your shoes dirty or to create a path through the lawn. If you don’t have access to sea glass, you can purchase it, or use other materials like broken crockery, shells, stones, and colored glass like marbles and aquarium glass.
Collecting Sea Glass
I recently had an old friend visit me here on the Isle of Man. I hadn’t seen her in over a year and we spent the time listening to music from our teenage years and catching up on our lives. Though the weather wasn’t that great we also spent some time camping on the beach and scouring it for sea glass. There’s something so fun about hunting for colorful shards of glass. Something that satisfies the hunter-gatherer instinct in you. In an hour of hunting for our sea jewels, we collected quite a pile of colored glass, bits of pottery, and small shells and rocks. Now to make something beautiful and useful for the garden.
First off you’ll need a few materials
This project will take you about two days to complete (most of that time is letting the stone dry) and costs about $25-30. That cost includes enough material to make five or more stepping stones though. When you’re working with cement, always wear gloves and work in an airy outdoor place.
- An old pan or plastic tub to use as a mold. A plastic plant pot saucer is perfect.
- Cement and builders sand. Or get a ready to go pre-mixed bag
- Flat/matte white spray paint and clear glossy spray paint suitable for outdoor use
- Sea glass and any other hard stones, shells, pottery, or objects you’d like to embed into your stepping stone.
- Optional: a square of chicken wire or mesh that will fit inside your mold. Only necessary for big stepping stones.
Step 1: Paint The Sea Glass White on One Side
Using your matte white spray paint, paint one side of the beach glass you want to embed in your stone – the side that you want to be pushed into the concrete. If you don’t paint one side then the dark color of the concrete will make your glass look dark and murky since the grey color will come through the glass.
Step 2: Cement Mix
For this step, you’ll need to be wearing gloves and have a bucket and a stirring implement. A simple stick will do the trick! Mix one part cement with 4 parts builders sand, or use the material from the pre-mixed bag I have listed above. For one stepping stone sized about 9.5″ in diameter, mix 1.5 cups of cement with 6.5 cups of sand. Larger or smaller molds will need more or less mix so I’d recommend filling the container with water first and measuring how many cups it can hold. Then work out your amounts using the 1:4 ratio. Next, add enough water to make it wet but not soupy. If it’s too wet then the decorations will sink.
Step 3: Fill the Mold
Fill your mold halfway with your wet concrete mix. You can use a metal pan like I’m using or opt for a plastic plant pot saucer. Next, place a square of wire on top. The mesh helps keep the stepping stone from breaking since it adds inner structure. It’s only really necessary for stepping stones over a foot in diameter though. Fill the rest of the mold with the concrete mix and completely cover the wire. After all the concrete is out of your mixing container, wipe it out with paper towels and give it a good rinse. Do this before it hardens and the bucket will clean up nicely.
Step 5: Add the Sea Glass
Place your mold undercover now, such as on the floor of a garage. Someplace to leave it to dry undisturbed for two or more days. Create the sea glass design by pressing pieces into the wet cement. Push them in firmly or they may come off eventually. If there’s any water puddling on the top after you’re finished, soak it up gently with toilet paper or a soft rag. Make sure to wear rubber gloves whenever you might touch the wet cement.
You’ll see some gold in the photo below. It was an experiment that I tried with this sea glass stepping stone that didn’t last. I had the idea to spray the wet cement before placing the sea glass on. It looked great at first but wore off over a short time of being outside.
Step 6: Taking the stone out of the mold
When you’re finished with the design, allow the stone to set for at least two days before you take it out of the mold. Waiting a week will be even safer. To get the stone out, turn your mold over something soft (like grass) and shake it out – it should pop out easily. If you’re having trouble getting it out, leave the stone to dry for a few more days. You can also gently tap the sides to get the stone out but be aware that some glass pieces may fall out. The video included in this piece covers how to put them back into place.
Step 7: Spray the Sea Glass Stepping Stone with Clear Varnish
Clean the glass in the stone off with water and an old toothbrush. When it’s dried, spray the top with clear spray paint to give the pieces that wet look. This last step is really important if you want those pieces of sea glass to really shine! It also helps to give them a top-up spray each year.
This varnish step is also optional but if you don’t spray the sea glass they will be matte in texture until they’re wet. It might be something extra special to look forward to when it rains! If you’re looking for more ways to add interest to a wet and rainy garden, head over here.
Step 8: Siting your Sea Glass Stepping Stone
Once the sea glass stepping stone is dry, find a place to site it in the garden. It could be embedded in the lawn as part of a path, or within a border so that you can easily step inside. Dig a depression in the area you wish your stone to be placed and set it inside. Doesn’t it look beautiful? I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and if you’d like to see more garden projects browse through the ideas here. There are some other ideas that I think that you’ll enjoy too:
- Sea Glass Candle Project
- Make a Sea Glass Succulent Terrarium
- 30 Sea Glass Ideas & Projects
- Make a Fossil Imprint Stepping Stone — this is a shared project from my book, A Woman’s Garden Grow Beautiful Plants and Make Useful Things
How thick is the stone? Not sure how much cement to use. Also, in researching ,I’ve found suggestions for using cooking spray or Vaseline to coat the pan to facilitatecceasy removal. ❤the hint to spray back of glass!
I’d say about an inch thick. Pre-measure your dry ingredients into your mold first to guestimate how much you’ll need :)
Thank you for posting this. I have versions of these my children made for me when they were young. They continue to bring joy in my garden.
I love this idea but I have a question. Do you think I could finish this with resin?
I’ve not tried, and it might be fiddly, but I don’t see why not.
Thank you!! I will let know how it comes out when I try this!!!
Can u use a spray coat in pan before starting so mold will come out easier, or will it compromise cement?
I’ve never tried it, but if you’re worried about sticking, use a large, round, silicone baking dish instead.
I have heard you can use WD40
Going to try this out!
The sea glass shades can match what you are doing in the garden as well with this method.
Thanks for posting,
Sea glass is never home made. It is actually surf tumbled glass. The tumbling of glass in salt and repeated waves create distinguishable markings that differ from tumbled glass. Home made frosted glass can be pretty too. But there is a definite difference and cannot be legitimately referred to as sea glass or beach. It would simply be tumbled glass. One of my favorite aspects of collecting is discovering the history behind the glass pieces and their original uses. Fascinating. My favorites are those dating back over 100 years. Almost passed out today when I found a gorgeously frosted, obviously quite aged RED piece that blew my mind. Best day ever!!!
I, too, make my own sea glass. I go to a local bar and ask for the empty bottles (free and you can get clear, greens, blue, brown and black) and I go to thrift stores to find other colors of glass. Just make sure the color is NOT painted on as it will come off when tumbled. I don’t have a rock tumbler so my husband borrowed a cement mixer. Can do larger quantities and comes out great.
It’s not sea glass is it if it’s made at home?! Seaglass comes from the sea there is a difference.so it can,t be called seaglass it should be called art glass because that’s what it’s used for right? Don,t want to confuse the two.?
I was so excited to make this, but it won’t “pop out” of the mold. Help please.
Hi Susan! This has happened to me on occasion and I’ve figured out what the issue was. It was me measuring the cement directly into the pan I was using and not cleaning it out thoroughly. The little bit of cement made the stepping stone stick when the wet mix was poured on. What I suggest is first letting the stepping stone dry for at least a week. If it still won’t come out, support the stepping stone with a pillow wrapped in a plastic bag. Turn the pan upside down and GENTLY tap the bottom with a hammer. It’s come out every time but be prepared for some sea glass to potentially fall off too. Glue them back down with cement or another adhesive and all should be well :)
Can I use a disposable aluminum cake pan from the grocery store instead of having to purchase the cake pans?
You could try but I’m not sure how sturdy it would be. the sides might bow out from the weight. It would be better to go to a second hand shop and buy an inexpensive pan there.
I’m trying to print the directions, but I’m not able to do it without the photos (too much ink being used). Do you happen to have it is a printable form? Thanks, Teresa
I’m sorry but no I don’t. You could try copying the text into a word document and then printing?
Thanks for all the how to, I’m no way a beach person but am planning to use your technique with river rocks, guess I can eliminate a few steps ?
I think collecting old sea glass very romantic. Those stepping stones are a great idea. I always collect a jar of stones, sand and sea glass whereever I go on holiday. I also own a jar of Douglas Isle of Man sand too. I don´t know yet what to do with it, but with your clever little tricks I am sure I´ll have an idea someday. I have been to the Isle of Man many times before, a truly enchanting Island.
This looks awesome!!
Love this idea! A great way to treasure little keepsakes.
That’s a cool idea to use sea glass in a stepping stone like this. The fact that you made them look wet in there makes them look their best. They always look better at the beach when they are wet. I’ll have to try doing this for our stepping stones in our garden.
I so agree! I love the wet look of pebbles, shells, and sea glass on the beach.
This is a really lovely idea! I am often collecting sea glass and then not knowing what to do with it, Thank you so much for sharing and for the excellent tutorial.
You’re so welcome Debbie! Have a great time sea glass crafting :)
I really like this and have jars of sea washed glass at home as I’m a real beachcomber at heart. Wouldn’t have thought about spraying the back of the glass with white paint so thanks for that tip!
This is so beautiful! I’m a huge fan of sea glass but unfortunately there’s hardly any on the beaches here… You could easily sell these!
I live in land locked Colorado, so I MAKE my own “sea-glass”. I go to the thrift stores and buy any blue, green, or light blue bottles, plates, etc and then take them home and SMASH them! Then I throw them in my rock tumbler I got for a few bucks off Craigslist. For a few bucks investment for the grits you add to the glass and the time it takes for the glass to become smooth, I can make ALL the “sea-glass” I want!
that’s a mega great idea.
I would like to imitate.
On our next trip to the North Sea, I will keep an eye open for such beautiful things.
Even your instructions are very clear.
Many kind regards