This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in September 2014.
Put plywood and stucco to new use when you make these creative (and very authentic-looking) tombstones for your outdoor Halloween decorations!
Pair them with a spiderweb door decoration and DIY ghosts like those shown above (wrap a styrofoam ball in white fabric!) and your whole neighborhood will enjoy your creative curb appeal.
- Circular saw
- Paint roller
- Stucco mix
- 5 gallon bucket
- Mixing drill bit (optional)
- Projector (optional)
- Moss green and dark gray spray paints
- List of your hauntingest (or silly) names
- Pipe fitting (tube strap)
1. Source Plywood
Thin underlayment plywood traditionally used for flooring is an inexpensive and durable base for your DIY tombstones. They are sold in 4′x8′ sheets, and for convenience, have the sheet cut lengthwise in-store so that you arrive home with two 2′x8′ sections.
2. Sketch Your Tombstones and Cut Them Out
I found that each 2′x8′ sheet is long enough to create three tombstones (each approx. 2-3′ in height). Sketch the shape of your tombstones end-to-end on the board, and use a jigsaw to cut them out.
3. Seal the Wood With Primer
To seal the wood and create a surface for the stucco to lock onto, I painted both sides and the edges with a white primer.
4. Attach Pipe Fittings to the Back of Each Tombstone
At this point, before you add stucco, you’ll want to consider how you’re going to be anchoring these tombstones in the earth for your outdoor Halloween display. I chose to use a piece of rebar, which feeds through the pipe fitting (also known as a pipe fitting or tube strap) screwed into the back of the tombstone.
Attach the fitting onto the center of the backside of the tombstone.
5. Mix Stucco
Mix your stucco according to directions. You’ll want to do small batches (because it hardens quickly). Each batch should be the consistency of peanut butter, so that you can trowel it onto the surface of your tombstone. It should be tacky enough so that, if positioned upright, you can “butter” the tombstone without the stucco sliding off.
6. Spread Stucco on Tombstone Surface
Apply the stucco to one side of each of your tombstones. It should be a thin layer (1/8″ – 1/4″) but it will have some raised texture, since it’s stucco and can’t be evenly smoothed as easily as a product like portland cement. The variegated texture lends to some of the appeal of the finished product!
7. Allow the Stucco to Dry
Once you complete one side of each tombstone flat, you should find that you can apply the stucco to the other side of the tombstone if it is leaning upright. The stucco has already begun to harden, and by nature, if it was mixed thick enough, should not have the tendency to crumble away from its surface, so lean it up against a tree, add stucco to the backside of the tombstone, and allow it to dry completely (minimum: overnight). Note: Don’t worry about trying to stucco the sides of the tombstone – we’ll disguise the visible white primer in the future step.
8. Transfer Names to the Tombstones
If you weren’t already having fun and being creative, here’s where you can get really clever. Make up funny/scary/terrifying names for your hand-crafted tombstones. You can download many “punny” grave markers in this photo gallery, or come up with some of your own (we also have a “Terry Bulldeth,” “Frankie Stein,” and “Barry DeLive” in our collection). If you’re making your own names, you can create Word art in Microsoft PowerPoint.
Once your names are chosen, create a stencil, or project the name onto the surface of the dried stucco, and trace the lettering by hand using a sharp pencil.
9. Fill in Outline of Names With Black Paint
Use a thin craft paintbrush and black paint to carefully fill in the names on your tombstones.
10. “Age” the Tombstone Surface
Finish off your design by “aging” the tombstone a little bit. A mossy green spray paint does just the trick, and also completely covers up the white edge. You won’t need to add a lot of spray paint, just add enough to cast a nice shadow, as if it were a real tombstone gathering moss under a shady tree in a cemetery.
11. Anchor the Tombstones With Rebar
Stake the finished tombstone into the ground by securing the 4′ rebar vertically, and sliding the pipe fitting on the back of the tombstone over it.
Undeniably fun and creepy Halloween decor! Pair them with a doorway spiderweb for instantly creepy curb appeal.