How to make garden stepping stones using colorful sea glass. This project requires only a few inexpensive materials including glass pieces.
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, a 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 then place the 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: 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 Stone
Once the sea glass stepping stone is dry, find a place to site it in the garden. It could be imbedded 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