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How to make natural pebble mosaic and stepping stones for your garden

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Plain, striped or spotted, long and thin, thick and round or flat like a coin – Mother nature has worked a lot, giving a unique shape to every river rock or pebble. She also checks its strength: the raging waves of the sea or the river floods once ripped angular stones and polished them as the best jeweler in the world did with gems. Only after a long and careful workmanship for a perfectly smooth surface, they appear on the river or sea shore. Only the most resistant stones,”the wrestlers”, are worthy of the test! Indeed, durability, patience and variety make natural stones an ideal material for creating stunning pebble mosaic compositions for your patio or pathway.

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Stones in different colors, sizes and shapes – an excellent foundation for creative outdoor projects. What is pebble mosaic? Pebbles arranged in different patterns and set in mortar. Even if the natural stones are identical in color and size, it looks like a work of art. The process of laying the mosaic itself is very fun, but it requires patience, imagination and time. That  doesn’t scare you? Then do it! The potential applications of pebble mosaic are amazingly diverse: stepping stones, pathways, patios, walls, steps, ponds, fountains are just some of them.

We recommend practicing on a small project like a stepping stone to get used to the technique before undertaking more ambitious projects like a walkway or a patio. Big projects regire a lot of pebbles and mortar, as well.

How to lay a garden pebble mosaic

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Mortar mix for pebble mosaic

Mortar, rather than concrete, must be used in mosaics. It’s a dry mix of 4 parts sand to one part cement. However, for creating mosaic stepping stones you can use premixed concrete from the gardening or hardware store.

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In order to create a mosaic that will last for many years it is important to take care of a reliable foundation. Dig out to the subsoil level. The depth is approx. 22 – 25 cm (for the driveway must be more and you will need a more robust construction). So 4 -5 inch (10 – 15 cm) crushed rock base and a 3-inch (7 cm) bed of mortar.

Edging in cement footing also adds strenght and stability. This could be slabs, stone, bricks or pavers.

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Once the edging is in place,  spread the crushed gravel over the bottom of the hole and tamp it down by stomping with your feet until it’s firm.

Prepare your dry mixture of sand and cement. Wear your gloves when working with cement as it burns the skin. When the mortar is ready, pour a 7 cm layer over the compacted gravel. It should be about a 3/4 -inch (2 cm) lower that the finished grade so that when the pebbles are pressed in, they will be at the desired hight.

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Mark the mosaic’s shape using a nail. Lay the stones upright in the mortar in a pattern you like. Depending on the size of the stones, some mortar will be displaced. So just scoop some mortar out. Lay out the biggest or deepest stones first. Most of each stone needs to be beneath the surface with just the top edge showing. They should be also packed together tightly. Mosaics look best if the stones are spaced closely and there is as little mortar as possible showing.

Pebbles between brick pavers

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On top of the finished mosaic, put the wooden board and press the pebbles to level the surface. Once all the stones are laid and it’s level, scatter topping mix of 3 parts fine sand and 1 part cement and use a paint brush to spread the mix into the gaps between the stones. Then gently pour your masterpiece with water from the sprayer and allow the mix to absorb the water. Use a stiff-bristled brush to wipe away any displaced mortar until that area of mosaic is clean. Cover the mosaic with a plastic tarp to hold in moisture while it cures and leave it covered for three weeks. The slower the mortar cures, the stronger it will be.

Patterns for river pebble mosaic

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There are lots of patterns that you can use for creating your pebble mosaic: mandalas, spirals, flowers even a recreation of a classic Persian carpet. In addition to pebbles, you can include colored glass marbles or porcelain pieces, as well.

On the image above for example you can see bees composed from beige-colored river rocks and black and grey glass pebbles.

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Further, you can combine natural stones in different colors for more interesting appeal. Black and white pebble mosaic for example would suit perfectly to a contemporary landscape design. Brown pebble mosaics can be integrated smoothly into the overall picture and blends harmoniously with the ground.

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The image above shows a great example of combining pebbles. Next to the white stone flowers are flowing ribbons of red, brown, beige, gray and black pebbles. Such a bizarre drawing gives the garden landscape elegance and sophistication.

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Two beautifully matched materials – shards and elements of frost-resistant ceramics – will make an effective contrast to small rounded cobblestones of earthy and grayish colors.

Pebbles fill the spaces between large flat stones

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How to make pebble mosaic stepping stones

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Using a mold and mortar mix you can first try making these beautiful stepping stones. Prepare the sand-cement mixture and dilute with water. Rub the mold with oil or use nonstick spray to ensure that the hardened concrete can be easily removed. Fill the mold with the wet concrete. The layer should be about 2 to 3 inches thick (5 cm). Loosen trapped bubbles by gently swirling the mold. Even the surface using a paint stick or other scrap wood.

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The pattern can be thought up spontaneously or made using printed out pattern. Press the stones sideways into the mortar mix.

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Let the stepping stones set inside, away from direct sunlight. Wait at least 48 hours before removing the mold. After that brush the stone off to remove any loose mortar and rinse it with clear water. If there is still a film of mortar on the pebbles after the mosaic dries, remove it with muriatic acid and a rag. Note that the cement mix completely dries after 14 days.

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Here we offer you 5 easy geometric patterns that you can try out. Using pebbles in contrasting colors makes a pattern more visible. Have fun making your pebble mosaic!

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