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This is it! After about 6 months of working on the floor and researching the best way to make it last, we’re {almost} at the final stage. In this post I’ll show you exactly how to complete your penny floor installation and product to use!

Prepping for the Penny Floor Installation

penny floor installation removing the carpet

cut the carpet along a straight line with a sharp razor blade.

So, they say that 90% of the work is in the prep. This theme continues even after you’ve spent countless hours gluing your pennies to the mesh. The key to getting the floor to hold up over time, is the prep work. Since I will be laying my floor in an area where there’s carpet, the first step is to measure out the space and actually remove the carpet. We used a line of painters tape and a really sharp razor blade to cut it out. If you’ve already prepped your surface, or know the basics of laying tile, feel free to jump to the penny part!

penny floor installation surprise hardwood

Surprise! Look at the beautiful hardwoods hiding under my carpet! They’ll definitely be refinished in the future 🙂 #ilovesurprises

After removing the carpet, and discovering the hardwood (still smiling about this!), we came to the next problem: now we have to remove the hardwood. Ugh, never-ending. The reason we removed the hardwood is because hardwood expands and contracts. While we probably could have laid the pennies directly onto it, the shifting of the wood would probably cause the pennies to pop and buckle under pressure. Our philosophy is “do it right the first time” so we took a reciprocating saw and chiseled away at the edges. Then, a crowbar to peel away the individual boards. Then, a larger crowbar we bought that day to make it easier to remove the boards (giant crowbars are so much fun, anyway, right?). Once the boards were removed, we had to pull up ALL of the nails left behind.  We swept and vacuumed the floor completely once everything was removed.

building subfloor for penny floor installation

lay the cement board over the mortar, and screw down using 1 1/4″ cement board screws.

Now that the floor was gone, we needed to build it back up again using cement backer board. I know, it seems really counter-intuitive, right? Well, backer board is pretty easy to work with. We mixed the mortar (for reference we used TotalFlex Universal Tile Mortar, Step 2), applied it with a trowel, and stuck the backer board into it. We then screwed all of the boards down using <8 x 1-1/4-Inch Cement Board Screws. The next step is to use Cement Board Seam Tape to go over all of the places where the pieces of cement board meet. Use the mortar and a Spackle knife (or the flat part of the trowel) to stick the tape onto the cement board.

 Penny Floor Installation: laying the penny tile

So, now that the surface is properly prepped, we are ready to install the penny tile sheets! My dad and I went back and forth between using the thinset mortar vs. a tile adhesive. Our biggest issue was getting the penny mesh to adhere to the floor below since most of the Weldbond glue created a seal near the bottom of the mesh that the mortar or adhesive would not be able to penetrate. It’s really just the nature of the “beast” and I would still recommend using the Weldbond if someone asked me today.

first square of penny floor installation

Here is the first square of the penny floor installation! You can see my roll of pennies I used to fill in any places where the pennies had popped out.

Ultimately, we decided to go with the thinset. It’s self-leveling, and it will also form a waterproof layer underneath in case water ever seeps in there somehow. I did install 1 square section using the tile adhesive and that also worked just fine. So I think either option would work. After the product decision is made, the process is quite simple: lay the thinset and use a 1/4″ trowel to create ridges (just as you would lay any tile). Then, set the penny mesh-side down into the ridges. Work slowly, and try to align each piece to interlock with one another. If any pennies have fallen out of your mesh, now is the time to pop those back in!

penny floor installation laying pennies with thinset

Almost done laying the pennies with thinset mortar!!

Piece-by-piece, the penny floor began to take shape. We worked slowly and carefully, trimming the mesh when necessary to create the best interlock we could. Obviously, it wont be perfect, so don’t beat yourself up about it. I let the mortar dry overnight.

Grouting the Pennies

After the thinset had sufficiently dried, I started the grouting process. I used an unsanded grout in dark grey/charcoal color. I really like the contrast that the dark grout gives to the pennies. However, if you want a more cohesive/seamless look, they do make a reddish brown that would be pretty close to the copper color of the pennies.

penny floor installation grouting technique

grouting the pennies

Grout the pennies just as you would any other tile. Mix the powder grout with water according to the package instructions, and then apply into the seams using a grout float. Go slowly and make sure you go at a 45 degree angle so you don’t pull the grout out from between the pennies. I won’t lie to you… grouting the pennies is easy, but it’s very, very time consuming and labor intensive. Especially when it comes time to remove the grout.  If it’s too much for you to do all at once, just mix a little bit of grout and do a little section, then clean it off. Take it in stride!

Use a sponge with very little water on it and slowly swipe the grout away. It will take several passes before it’s completely clean, and you’ll be on your hands and knees rubbing it off for most of that time. It’s not fun, but it’s very worthwhile to see the beautiful end-result… right? Make sure when you are done to completely dry to the floor. Don’t let any water rest on the pennies for a long period of time, or they will oxidize and get really, really yucky.

Here’s a good video on the basics of grouting. It should really help you with the penny floor installation:

Cleaning the Pennies

Cleaning the pennies is an important part of the penny tile installation.  After you are done grouting, it’s probably a good idea to give the pennies one more quick pass through. There may be some excess grout or glue or just plain old dirt on some of the pennies.  Now… I’ve tried absolutely EVERYTHING in regards to cleaning these little buggers. I have found exactly one product that has worked for me. It’s called Wright’s Copper Cream/Polish. It’s cheap, and it really really works. You can also pick it up at Walmart if you’d like. It’s near the Brasso and Tarnex. I’m not a big fan of having all the pennies shiny and new and uniform, so I worked the copper cream in slowly… only cleaning those that really needed it, and using different amounts of pressure to clean some more than others. I was really methodical about it. This step isn’t 100% necessary to installing the floor, but I thought I’d give you a product recommendation if you are interested in touching it up.

**Update** Just for reference, one of our friends on Facebook has used Bar Keepers Friend very successfully to clean her pennies. Thanks for the tip, Nance!

shiny penny floor installation

beautiful, grouted, shiny penny floor!

After cleaning the pennies up and letting it sufficiently dry, I threw a carpet over top until I figured out how to seal it. Although you can walk on it now, I’d recommend waiting until you’ve sealed it so you don’t ruin it! Happy Installing!

pets hiding the penny floor installation

Quincy and Roxy can’t wait for you to see the penny floor installation… but it’s not ready yet!!

Keep Reading :

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