Step 1

How to Make Preparations for Building Your Walkway

How to Make Preparations for Building Your Walkway

Before you begin building your cobblestone walkway, you must do some preparation. First, design the entryway on paper. You must determine at what angle your walkway will hit your door so that you can order the appropriate materials. Next, check with your city to see if you need a permit. Finally, make sure you have a plan to get your materials to your work site. Once you have made all your preparations, you are ready to begin.

Size Up the Project

The DIYer (and helpers) will design the front entry walkway, set wooden concrete forms, pour a 4” concrete base, drill drain holes, lay a brick border, insert and level 2” - 3” of stone dust, lay sheets of cobblestone, custom-cut cobblestone blocks to fit, mix and apply the joint grout and then finish off the project. Some advanced DIY skills are required to design, secure materials and supplies, prep the area for installation and lay the cobbled pattern with a sanded grout sealer.

Cobble Systems, a stone paver and grouting system, offers the structural performance of concrete pavement with the shape and color of real stones. The system is quick to install and water permeable.

The first step is to design the entry walkway on paper. Will it be a straight shot from the front door? How about a curved walkway? How long and wide will it be? These questions must first be answered before researching and ordering materials.

The next step is to do some DIY homework. Check with the county or city building department. A permit may be needed. If a large area is being designed, a concrete truck may need to be brought in. Will site accessibility be an issue? Look for overhead electrical or telephone lines. If the area is not accessible by truck, a couple of wheelbarrows and helpers will be needed to transport the cement “soup.” Does the DIY project require grading? If so, call the utility company to locate and mark all buried cables or lines where the digging will occur. Will the concrete pour require special reinforcement such as welded wire mesh?

Step 2

Purchase Materials

Cobble Systems features cast cobblestones connected to cast-in grids to make handling and application easy. Cobblestone patterns and color options are available. The calculation of square-foot ground coverage is necessary before ordering from the nearest dealer.

The two-part epoxy grout mixture from EcoSystems is permeable when mixed with silica sand, allowing water to pass through the grout rather than running off into unwanted areas. Silica sand is available at local home improvement centers or block and brick masonry retailers. Bedding sand may not be used as epoxy joint sand. Only clean, dry silica sand may be used. This sand is often called medium-grade or coarse-grade sandblasting sand. Some contractors refer to it as #22 sand.

Material for concrete forms include economy-grade 2x4s, 1/4” exterior plywood or tempered hardboard for curves, grade stakes and screws. A screed board (straight 2x4) levels the concrete to the height of the forms. The amount of cement needed will determine if a cement truck will be ordered for the pour. Call the local concrete company and give them the “yards” of cement needed. They can confirm the yards if the dimensions and depth are provided. Ask the concrete supplier if reinforced wire mesh is needed for the pour. Sometimes a fiber-reinforced concrete mix will suffice.

There is a vast selection of paving bricks available in many colors, sizes and textures. Ask your local brick supplier to estimate the brick needs based on the plan. About 460 bricks covers 100 square feet. One pallet holds 500 bricks. Inside the brick border is stone dust (2” thick). The brick supplier will assist in the quantity of stone dust needed.

Pro Tip

To calculate the amount of concrete needed, use this formula:
(length x width x depth)/27 = cubic yards (or “yards” in concrete pouring language).

Step 3

Preparation of Concrete Base

Using string, sand, stakes, a framing square, a hose or any other creative tool, outline the shape of the area being covered in concrete.

Wooden concrete forms hold the liquid cement in the desired shape for the base. Create straight runs from economy grade, or scrap 2x4s. Use 1/4” exterior plywood or tempered hardboard for curves. Drive wooden stakes (grade stakes) into the ground and screw to the wooden forms.

To assist in leveling the concrete once it is poured, the forms may be built with both top sides being level so a screed board can “skim” the top and level the concrete.

Reinforced wire mesh may be needed (check with your concrete supplier). Cut the reinforced wire mesh with a heavy-duty wire cutter and lay it on the ground, inside the forms.

Pro Tip

Building concrete forms is not a finished carpentry project. Strength is more important than good looks, so brace the forms well. Stakes secure the straight runs every 2' to 3'. Stake the curves every 18”. Keep both sides of the form tops level.

Step 4

Pour the Base

Order the concrete truck, if pouring over a yard. If a small amount is needed, rent a cement mixer (which is different than a mortar mixer).

If mixing the concrete in a DIY fashion, read the cement bag carefully for proper ratios of cement, sand, aggregate and water.

If the concrete comes from the truck, use a shovel or rake to maneuver the liquid cement inside the forms. Climb inside the forms, wearing rubberized mud boots to help evenly distribute the concrete pour. The truck trough can be relocated to uniformly distribute the pour to different locations within the form. Using the shovel or rake, bring the poured concrete up to the 4” level, or to the top of the forms. A screed board will skim the top and level the pour. If a large area is being poured, the reinforced wire mesh should be pulled up from the bottom into the middle of the 4” pour. Use the tines on the rake to pull up the wire mesh throughout the pour area. Keep the forms in place until the concrete has set (usually 24 hours).

If a large area is being poured, a darby, bull float and finishing trowel will smooth the concrete surface. This surface does not need to be perfect, since it is being covered with bricks and cobblestones.

Pro Tip

Concrete is a mixture of sand, course aggregate, Portland cement and water. The sand used in concrete should be blank-run sand, which is fairly round in shape and of various sizes. The course aggregate is gravel or crushed stone. The aggregate pieces should be no larger than 1/4 the thickness of the pour. Portland cement is made of clay, line and other ingredients that have been heated in a kiln and ground into a fine powder. Choose Type I cement.

Step 5

Lay Brick to Form Walkway Edge Border

The brick at Blog Cabin 2011 formed a border around the cobblestone. The possible brick patterns can be discussed when visiting the brick supplier.

Consult the supplier for the best mortar mix for this DIY project. Consult for proper ratios of sand, cement and water. Use a wheelbarrow or cement mixer to blend the mortar mix. Test the mortar by picking up a small amount with the trowel and quickly turning the trowel upside down. If the mortar sticks to the trowel, it is the correct consistency. If the mortar stiffens before being applied, add water and remix.

Pour the mortar into a wheelbarrow or mortar pan. Getting the mortar on the brick trowel may take some practice. Slice off a gob and shape it so it is about the size and shape of the trowel. Bricklayers talk of “throwing” mortar onto the bricks: In one motion, flick the wrist and pull the trowel toward the body. Furrow the mortar to an even thickness. Lightly draw the point of the trowel across the length of the mortar to make a furrow down its middle. Don't make the furrow too deep or an air pocket may be formed. “Butter” the new brick end by scraping the end with the trowel, depositing mortar to “squish” against the adjacent brick. Place the brick so it can slide into place, pushing it firmly up against the preceding brick, allowing the mortar to “squish” out. Tap the brick down with the handle of the trowel to seat the brick. Immediately slice off the excess mortar oozing from the sides. Use this excess mortar as part of the next brick. Continue laying brick, using the 4' level to keep the border level. After all the bricks are laid, take the joint strike or piece of pipe and smooth the joints when they begin to stiffen. Let the brick set overnight before laying the cobblestone.

Step 6

Prep for the Cobblestone

The cobblestone at Blog Cabin 2011 sits atop a concrete base. Using a hammer drill, drain holes were drilled through the concrete to allow water to pass through and drain out.

The cobblestones need a layer of stone dust to bed down the stones when pressure is applied. Spread 2” of stone dust on top of the concrete pad and inside the brick border. Level the dust before laying cobblestone.

Step 7

Lay the Cobblestone

Lay the sheets of cobblestone down on the prepared stone dust base. Dry-fit all the stones in place. The cobblestones will lay atop the stone dust but must be flush with the top of the brick border. Once a sheet of stone is laid down, it may be walked on gently. Continue laying the sheets of stone until the entire area is covered.

Stones must be trimmed to fit inside the brick border. Use a pencil to sketch the cut mark on the stone. Rent a portable concrete cut-off saw (about $50 per day) and cut the stones to fit, following the sketched line.

To set the stones into the base of stone dust, lightly hand-tamp the entire stone surface. The hand tamper will compress the stone into the dust, stabilizing the sheets. To protect the stones from the tamper, cover them with a heavy towel or drop cloth.

Pro Tip

Using a portable concrete cut-off saw is dangerous. Use caution and follow the directions provided by the rental center. Wear heavy boots, earplugs and safety glasses.

Step 8

Grout the Cobblestone Joints

Once stones are set in place, sweep the cobblestone surface clean. Place duct tape over the brick border to protect the brick from the epoxy grout.

The grout recipe is easy to follow. Empty a bag of silica sand into the mixer. Pour in the two-part epoxy grout. Fill the double container with water and pour it into the mixture. Mix for three minutes. Hand-spray the stones, using a fine-mist sprayer. Do not soak.

Empty the mixed grout onto the stones and squeegee the sand and epoxy grout mixture around to cover all of the joints between the stones.

The sanded grout joints will set up by themselves. No pressure is needed to compress the sanded joints.

Pro Tip

On a hot day, the stones will warm up and the water spray will evaporate. Keep spraying as needed prior to spreading the grout into the joints.

Step 9


Use a push broom to sweep the excess grout from atop the stones. Sweep the stone-covered area clean (Insert Image Jack 8112). Pretty simple isn't it? Remove the duct tape (Insert Image Jack 8099). Allow the grout to set for 48 hours prior to placing heavy objects on the stones.

Backfill the outside of the brick border with dirt, mulch or sod. The backfill may be spread level with the top of the border bricks.