DIYers and bargain-hunters, did you know that for as little as 30 cents each you can make very cool pavers for your garden? You might have seen expensive kits for this purpose at the craft store but there's no need to buy them because with a bag of cement mix and some cake pans or other household items, you're good to go.
And besides being cheap, it’s really FUN — for adults and kids alike.
- Use “Mortar” or “Sand Mix”, which are both combinations of sand and Portland cement. Quikrete, a product that also contains pebbles, is okay to use, but produces a rougher texture. A 60-pound bag costs $3 and makes about 10 pavers.
- Plastic gloves
- Mold possibilities are cake pans or other aluminum baking container, plastic garbage can top, any plastic container, mold from a craft store, flashing cut in strip and taped together to form round shape of any size, etc. For stepping stones, the mold should be at least 2 to 2 ½ inches thick.
- Nonstick agent like vegetable spray for cooking, or WD-40.
- Decoration possibilities are marbles, flat glass, shells, toys, hand or paw prints, leaves, vines or other natural materials, coins. Another trick is to just write in the wet mixture with a popsickle stick. Cookie cutters can be used if embedded 1/4 inch. If the end result is something to step on, however, all decorations have to be flush with the surface (no shells or toys sticking up!)
- The easiest way to measure is to just fill the mold you’ll be using with the concrete mix, then transfer it to a mixing bowl of some kind, like a bucket or a kitty litter pan. Add enough water to create the consistency of dough or thick mud pies, adding it gradually so the mixture isn’t TOO wet, which would mean adding more concrete mix and wasting it. Stir with stirrer of some kind or hands (gloved.)
- Spray with Pam or some other nonstick spray inside of the mold thoroughly. Fill it halfway with the wet mixture, beginning in the middle, then jiggle to remove bubbles. Then fill the rest of the way.
- Wait 5 minutes, mop up excess water with a paper towel, then insert decorations on top.
- Wait 20 minutes before writing or drawing in cement.
- Or wait 30 minutes before doing hand or pawprints in the cement.
- To use as a plaque that will be hung, insert a metal hook into the wet cement. Picture frame hangers can be used, and I’ve been known to use a 4-inch piece of wire bent in the shape of a hanger.
- OR use my preferred technique, which produces the smooth surfaces you see here in pavers I made, by placing your decorative elements on the BOTTOM, then carefully placing the wet cement on top of it.
- Wait 36-48 hours, then remove mold by inverting and tapping gently.
- If your decorative elements were placed on the surface, use a brush to remove excess cement and brush or file to smooth the sides. You also may need to remove excess cement from the goodies on top (using a stiff brush). This is your only chance to make improvements; the next time you uncover the paver it’ll be too hard to file or smooth in any way.
- Spray or mist with water again and cover with plastic.
- Wait 2 weeks before uncovering again to paint the paver or (especially) to step on it. If paver is flush with ground it’s less likely to crack. It’ll break if dropped on a hard surface.
Pavers can be painted using any outdoor paint or a wash of 50/50 paint and water. The entire surface can be painted one color, or different colors can be used to accept leaf impressions (top photo). Let your imagination run wild.
Extra Info about Size, Durability
Durability in winter and overall strength are enhanced by slowing the curing process (the slower, the stronger). This can be done by making the paver when the temperatures are lower or by adding colder water. It’s also accomplished by keeping it moist on the outside for at least 2 weeks, or by reinforcing (see below).
If you’re making a paver larger than 12″ across, it needs to be thicker, 2 ½ to 3 inches, and reinforced with chicken wire. Cut the chicken wire slightly smaller than the mold. Fill halfway with cement, lay chicken wire, then fill the rest of the way.