Ok, if you really want to get into the fun spirit of Halloween, a graveyard complete with tombstones can be a really creative decoration that can be done inexpensively. I made simple DIY Halloween headstones for our graveyard using pre mixed fast setting concrete… and thats about it! Since the idea is for them to look rotting and old, I just created my own “molds” right in the ground, and mixed them in the dirt holes. It doesn’t get any more simple! Follow these instructions for how to make authentic looking gravestones, and then check out the other Halloween DIY graveyards we have to inspire you!
Step One: Supplies: Buy an appropriate amount of quick dry cement at your local hardware store such as Quikrete. For example, for a 2ft by 1ft headstone, one bag generally does the job to about 3 inches deep. You will also need a shovel or trowel to outline and dig the mold for your headstones. Once the headstones are completed, you will need support to hold them up. I like to use 1/2inch-3/4inch diameter wooden dowels that you can find at any home improvement store, or even Wal-Mart.
Step Two: Making the Molds: Find an area in your yard where digging small holes won’t disrupt anything. I generally like to use the back corner of my backyard where there it is a bit more open. Once you find a good spot, trace an outline of how you want your headstones to look with a stick, or even your gloved hand. Once you’ve done that, Its time to start digging. Take your shovel or trowel, and dig out the outline you have just traced. It doesn’t need to be too deep; 4-6 inches should be fine. Once you have it dug out, lightly step in it to compact the dirt as best you can. (Don’t worry if the dirt is still loose. It will stick to the concrete, but once dried, it brushes right off!)
Step Three: Pouring the Cement: Carefully place a bag of quick dry cement close by to each of your molds. Use the sharp edge of your shovel to break open the end of the bag. Once you’ve done this, carefully pour the bag into each of the molds. Pour slowly or concrete dust will fly everywhere, and you do not want to breathe it in. Smooth out the mixture as evenly as you can (doesn’t have to be perfect.) Using a spray nozzle, gently wet down the cement until it is thoroughly saturated. Depending on the temperature of your region, it will probably take a couple of days for your headstones to cure.
Step Four: Cleaning: After a few days have passed, you can pull up your headstones. They will be heavy, so be careful and lift with your legs . Once you get them out of the ground, you will need to clean off the excess dirt and ground material before you can paint. I used a wire brush that many people use to clean the grill of a barbeque. If you don’t have access to that, a steel wool pad or a cleaning pad should work just fine. Allow the headstones to dry before your move on to Step Five.
Step Five: Painting: Once the headstones are dry, it is time to paint. There are so many options for this step. You can use the classic “RIP”. Or you can find other phrases on the internet such as “Gil T Conscience” or “Sonny Cydeup Buried face down.” The possibilities are endless. Once you have decided on what your headstones will say, use a paintbrush and free hand the wording. (It gives the spooky effect of a cemetery. No need to have perfect handwriting, remember, this is supposed to be spooky, rotting and scary . However, you can always use an alphabet stencil of choice if that better suites you.
Step Six: Putting your Graveyard together: Now comes the fun part, making your headstones into a spooky graveyard! As we talked earlier in Step One, you will be using the wooden dowels to prop up the headstones. I’m sure there are better ideas for this, but this one worked for me. I find it easiest to sharpen one end of the dowels to a point (not too sharp, just enough to get it into the ground with ease.) The best way to do that is to carefully use a razor blade and use a fluid motion and take little strips off at a time. Like I said, you don’t want them to be to thin or a sharp point. Also, the dowels are pretty long, so you can cut each one in half and save some money by only needing one dowel per headstone. Once you have your dowels ready, gently tap them into the ground at an angle with a hammer, careful not to split them. Once you have them sturdily in the ground, gently lean the headstone against it and Ta Da! You have yourself your very own tombstone for your graveyard!
Need more ideas on how to use your tombstones to make a Halloween graveyard worthy of the scariest zombie movie? Try these great ideas and projects!
From ‘Flamingo Toes’, this DIY outdoor tombstone display is a great option of you don’t want to set up a whole graveyard, or if you don’t have a yard to set it up in! She also shows you how to make the DIY tombstones themselves, with Mod Podge and simple supplies… Cute for a porch!
Want to make a cheap but authentic looking Halloween graveyard fence? ‘Saving by Design’ has a great tutorial for you using PVC pipe and cheap furring strips…
Need a coffin for your display? Check out ‘Wikihow’ for complete coffin plans for a prop you can use year after year!
From ‘DIY Network’, make these human size ghosts for your graveyard with just chicken wire and an old sheet…
That should get you started, have an amazingly spooky Halloween! Share your ideas in comments!Image Credits: Flamingo Toes, Saving by Design, WikiHow, DIY Network