a progress example of some of my mesh penny sheets. I picked really shiny pennies and faced the heads in the same direction because I'm completely insane :)

Copper Penny Floor Template (Part 2 of 4): How-To #pennyfloor

There are a lot of websites out there that go over the various processes for creating a penny tile floor from regular old pennies, however, I have yet to find one that actually provides a penny floor template to use. I’m going to explain MY process in detail, so that you will have something to go by if you decide to take on this project!

Materials List

  1. Pennies (obviously)
    I made a Facebook event and invited my friends to “donate” to my project. I got more than half of what I needed for my penny floor template from doing this. The rest I got in quantities of $10-$20 from the bank as I worked on it.
  2. Weldbond Glue
    It’s about $6/bottle and I went through about 6 bottles to do 16 sq. ft.
  3. Mosaic Tile Mesh
  4. A penny floor template 
  5. Clear Packing Tape (for your penny floor template)
  6. Scrap Cardboard– at least a 1x1ft square (for your penny floor template)
  7. Latex/Rubber Gloves
  8. Cement board (to create a level, sturdy surface to lay your tiles on, about $10 for a 3x5ft piece)
  9. Thin-Set Mortar Gray, 25-Pound
  10. Unsanded Grout  (I used a charcoal color to make the pennies stand out, but chocolate would also be a good option, about $25 for a 10lb bag)
  11. Polyurethane Sealant
    This will keep your pennies from getting damaged. I’ve also read about people using an epoxyto seal the pennies. I actually used the polyurethane but in this post I cover several options for sealing the penny floor.
  12. Patience :)
copper penny floor template mesh

Here’s a photo of my template. You can see in the middle of the picture where I actually pieced 2 8.5×11″ printouts together, then used packing tape over the whole entire piece of cardboard to keep the glue from sticking. My cardboard is too short, so I have to make the squares in 2 applications.

Creating a Penny Floor Template

Creating a penny floor template was the key to my success in this project. Now… why would you use a template instead of just gluing down the pennies right on the floor? Well, if you want to glue your pennies right to the floor, you need to work very quickly. I chose to do this project on weekends when I had free time, so the penny floor template was essential to my success.  Using the mosaic tile mesh allowed me to work at my own pace, creating each “sheet” as time allowed.

The penny floor template allows me to still have full use of my front door and foyer area instead of having it blocked off for weeks (or months) while I’m laying the pennies. The template really makes it more manageable to work on at your own pace.

Download the exact penny floor template from my project (PDF) for only $2.00

I printed two 8.5 x 11″ sheets of paper with the penny floor template on it, then carefully cut along the purple line on each piece of paper. This allowed me to make a penny floor template to accommodate over 1 sq foot of mesh at a time. I carefully overlapped them so they lined up together, and layed them onto the cardboard.

Now, you don’t want the glue to stick to the cardboard template when you are gluing your pennies, so I found the best way to prevent this is by covering the ENTIRE piece of cardboard with packing tape. Just tape the sh!t out of it. That way, when your glue is dry you can use a putty knife or a butter knife to carefully peel away the mesh from the penny floor template without very much effort at all.

* Note: I made two cardboard penny floor templates for myself so that I could work on more than one square foot at a time. It was much easier for me to do this, and allowed the other piece to adequately dry without me getting impatient and wanting to start a new square. Highly recommend!

penny floor template with pennies on mesh

My first batch of pennies on the mesh! So exciting!

Prepping the Mesh

Once I created the penny floor templates, I cut the mosaic tile mesh into 1 foot squares. The mesh is just a plastic material so a simple pair of scissors did the trick. I pre-cut the whole piece so that I wouldn’t have to keep going back to measure.

several sheets of the penny floor template

a progress example of some of my mesh penny sheets. I picked really shiny pennies and faced the heads in the same direction because I’m completely insane :)

Applying your Pennies to the Penny Floor Template Mesh

It’s all in the prep-work, so from here you are home free. Simply line up the mesh on top of your new template, and use the Weldbond glue to adhere each penny to the tile one at a time. I found that using a rubber glove is really, really important. If you don’t, the oils from your fingers will tarnish the center of the penny where you pushed it down into the glue. You won’t notice it right away, but in a day or so there will be black dots in the middle. I didn’t think to pay attention to this and basically ruined 4 square feet. Everything has been perfect since I began using the rubber glove for the application.  After you’ve finished that square, let it sit over night. I used a metal paint scraper the next day to carefully separate the mesh from the cardboard template. It’s inevitable that some of the pennies will come loose. Just save them, and when you are installing the floor you can use a dab of the Weldbond or the thinset mortar to put them back in place.

Ultimately, I decided to lay all the pennies heads-up and facing the same direction. The only exceptions were Canadian coins or wheat pennies, which I put face down. I also collected the birth dates of friends and family who contributed, along with a few other important years of my life. For those “special” pennies, I’ve scattered them throughout the squares, but kept them heads up facing the opposite direction. It’s really subtle, but my friends had fun trying to find their birth year. I also added ones for the year I graduated college, the year my house was built, the year I bought my house, my parent’s anniversary, etc. Special years to me.

Tip: Don’t Clean the Pennies

Just a tip from experience, don’t try to clean your pennies after you’ve glued them. I read all these techniques for cleaning/shining up a penny and thought it would be a great way to get a consistent look. I ruined a few sheets trying this method out. This is what I’ve tried that you SHOULDN’T try.

  • Ketchup. I’ve always heard that ketchup works wonders to shine up a penny. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for me. It barely took the tarnish off, and made the cracks in between all red and gloppy and gross.
  • Baking soda + water. Again, I tried this to get the tarnish off some of the pennies using a paste that I rubbed on using a toothbrush. It ended up scratching a lot of the pennies, and took the orangy shine off of them. Now they are more of a pinkish/dull color… so I ended up not using that batch.
  • Vinegar. This didn’t work for me either. Maybe try soaking them beforehand to see if you like the effect?

The problem with shining the pennies is that the pennies are all from different years, therefore contain different amounts of copper and other metals. Because they aren’t consistent in what they are made of, they all react to the cleaning methods differently. My best advice is to be picky about which pennies you use from the start, and once they are on the mesh LEAVE THEM BE!

*Update* 3/12/13: I found a really great product for cleaning the pennies (and believe me, I’ve tried everything). Although I like the idea of having old and new mixed together, if you want a super even look, or just need to clean some of the really dirty pennies, try Wright’s Copper Cream. It’s amazing!!! And it’s available at Walmart in the aisle with the Tarnex and Brasso (or online through the link above).

*Update* 3/14/13: I received a message from one of my readers and she’s used Bar Keepers Friend on the pennies with great results. Thanks for the info, Nance!

*Update* 3/17/14: I received a message from a reader who used pineapple juice as a cleaner with great success.

Installing your Penny Tile Floor

The penny floor is installed just like any porcelain tile floor would be laid down.  Here’s a video/instructions from DIY Network on how to lay a tile floor. Once I get to this stage, I will post a more detailed guide on how I personally installed my floor.

Other ideas

You don’t necessarily have to use a penny floor template. If the place you are putting them is out of the way, and you’d prefer to lay the pennies all at once, you can put them directly onto the floor using a paper thin coat of plain old wall mastic applied with a 4″ spackle knife. The bond doesn’t need to be incredible because grouting them and sealing them will hold them in place.

I came up with some really different ideas for laying the pennies, so I thought I’d share with you.

  • Do one whole sheet heads up, and one whole sheet tails down, creating a checkerboard effect when you lay them.
  • Any wheat pennies put face down, while the rest of the pennies are face up.
  • Add a dime every so often for some variation… it gives people something to look for!

While I created a penny foyer out of this project, there are many, many different things you can create. I’ve seen a full kitchen floor created with just pennies. There’s even a bar in NYC that has a penny floor!  How about using the pennies as a backsplash, or table or a bar top? Or on a vanity or a tub surround? The possibilities are endless!

Good luck, and I hope this penny floor template helps to make your process easier. Please feel free to post your pictures when you are done. I’d love to see them!

Download the Penny Floor Template here: 

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56 thoughts on “Copper Penny Floor Template (Part 2 of 4): How-To #pennyfloor”

    1. Hey Ann,
      You grout the pennies just like you would any tile floor then coat it with polyurethane. So you can clean it just like you would any other tile… Mr. Clean, mop and glow, swiffer, etc!

  1. Amy – your “how to guide” has been really helpful, thank you for sharing your process. I’ve just started to glue pennies to the mesh and have found that some of them are falling off 24 hours after they have been dried. I feel like i’m using enough glue (any more and the glue would bubble up around the sides of the pennies -did you encounter this issue too? I’m thinking about using a paint brush and brushing a second coat of Weldbond on the mesh side after the pennies have been individually glued/dried. Any thought/ideas would be welcome!
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Alicia! Other than a couple pennies falling off here or there, I haven’t really had that problem. I kept them on the “template” for at least 24 hours before trying to move them… and when I did that I used a paint scraper to sort of loosen the sheet from the backing. I think a metal spatula would probably work too. I installed the floor last weekend (post coming soon), and when I did that I just filled in the pennies that had fallen off right as I was installing it. I hope that answers your question… let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll try to help you more. I know it’s really time consuming and finicky but it really will look amazing when you’re done!

  2. I’m starting my collection of pennies for approx. 678sqft. Around 206,112 of them. My added twist is that they are all going to be 95% copper. 1982 and older. Since we are in the great state of Texas, we are going to get enough 1943 steel pennies (circulated) and do a Texas Star in the kitchen. So far I’m yielding about 20% on the copper to zinc penny ratio while I sort. I have a good relationship with the bank in exchanging pennies I don’t want and buying them by the box at a time. Thanks for the instructional post. Will use it for reference when I start. I will do a mockup of the Texas Star and trace it out on the concrete before we start.

  3. Yes that is my email address, my phone number followed by my provider….. lol I was wondering what the actual size of your template was, it doesn’t seem square like 12 X 12. I have decided to lay a penny floor starting with the smallest flooring area I have, the front entrance into my townhouse. I have very quickly been given approximately 14,474 Pennies or 81 lbs….. That should do all or most of the enterance way, depending how it looks is whether or not I will carry over into the next room the kitchen. I am in Canada and we just stopped circulating pennies, so one small area might be all I am able to achieve. Did you clean your pennies?

    Thanks for all your help and inspiration Heather

    1. Hi Heather, It is set at 8.5 x 11″ because that’s the size of paper. You wouldn’t be able to print a 12 x 12″ template on a regular printer, so in the copy I explained how I spliced two printouts together to make a 12 x 12″ one. I did clean my pennies using Wright’s Copper Cream. It worked really well. Good luck :)

  4. Hi,

    I’ve just finished making tiles that are 1′x3′ in length for a bathroom that is 8′x14′, I tried various methods for cleaning my pennies and found that CLR works the best. I rinse the pennies twice with water after using the product on the pennies. Just a caution, do not accidentally leave your pennies soaking in the CLR overnight, it causes the pennies to turn black.

    Good luck!

  5. What do you think of applying pennies to a front door? My husband and I really want to do this? It is a solid wood door. Should we lightly sand, glue them on, then polyurethane it?

    1. Sounds like a really cool idea. I’m not exactly sure how you would do it, but I don’t think that glue would be enough to hold the pennies on (especially because you’ll be opening and shutting it often).

      Grout is pretty good for holding things in place. I would practice first and definitely keep us posted :)

  6. I really don’t want to use grout as it is not the look I am going for. I have read where people have used e6000 to apply then sealed with an epoxy. Do you have any experience with this option?

  7. I had started a penny floor but on plain cheap 12×12 tiles. I got excited and wanted to see what it would look like, so I put 4 of them together and grouted and applied a coat of epoxy. It looked GREAT but was very heavy. I knew that I couldn’t use those when I finally put a full floor down, so I have been using it in front of my sink. It adds a little extra cushion and looks great. I need to get back to work on the rest of the tiles tho. I used E6000 for gluing pennies to tile and have had no trouble. Thanks for the boot in the butt to get back to work! :)

    1. Anytime! We all need a kick in the butt sometimes, haha. I actually just had a comment (right above yours) about the e6000 to be used as a grout. Maybe you can give Wendy some advice :)

  8. Can you use in your shower? This would be a great touch to the decorating style I am trying to do in my bathroom but i don’t know if you can put in your shower area.

    1. Hi Nicole,
      I can’t say I would recommend it getting THAT wet. Copper oxidizes when it gets wet and turns green and yucky. Put a regular penny in your shower for a bit and see what happens to it. Even with a coating over it, I don’t think it’s a good choice for anywhere that will continuously be wet. Maybe you can try just a copper colored backpslash like this one to achieve the look you are going for. There are lots of awesome backsplash tiles available that will still give you the look you are going for without the risk. Hope that helps.

  9. Pingback: Penny Back Splash
  10. What did you use the cement board for? Was it just for a working surface or did you use this as a sub layer before applying the meshed pennies? Love this idea and can’t wait to think of a million ways to enjoy this application! Thanks for the clarification.

    1. Hi Jackie, I used the cement board as a surface to stick the pennies onto. It also was to build the floor up a bit so it lined up with the carpet. You can probably glue the mesh onto other surfaces as well but standard procedure for tiling anything involves putting a layer of cement board down first for adhesion. Good luck and I can’t wait to see your projects!

      1. Thanks Amy. We’ve used other sub floor applications in the past but certainly never used pennies so I’d like to insure that the effort involved produces the best result. You’re awesome. Thanks again!

        1. You could look up the subfloor recommendations for ceramic tile. It is typically 1 1/4 inches of subfloor to support the weight and keep the subfloor from flexing and cracking the finished grout. If you have a 3/4 inch plywood subfloor, then you could add a 1/2 inch of cement board. But if subfloor has been added through the years you may not need anything. If you’re on a cement slab you shouldn’t need any additional subfloor either.

  11. I would LOVE to do the penny floor in my front foyer. Currently it is hardwood flooring (1929) that was refinished pretty badly so have never been in love with it. Can I install the penny floor directly to the poly’ed wood floor? Also, where the wood floor goes into another room – has anyone found a good way of transitioning from the penny covered floor to a different height flooring?

    1. Hi Celeste, personally I wouldn’t really recommend going over the hardwoods. Hardwood, by nature, expands and contracts and can shift with the temperature. Gluing the pennies on top may potentially cause buckling. It’s really up to you but i would hate to see you do all that work only for it to be ruined. As far as transitioning, they do sell wood moldings or those metal transition strips that you could use to level it out.

      1. Definitely appreciate the response. No way I’m going through the hassle of removing those hardwoods (been there done that in the kitchen) so I guess they’ll just be refinished correctly :( Maybe I’ll do the kickboards of the staircase going to upstairs…..hmmmm

        1. Sure, there are lots of other projects you can do with pennies. How about a backsplash for your kitchen or bathroom? Or if you have an island or peninsula you can decorate that with the pennies? Tabletop, gazing ball for your garden, dresser?

        2. Celeste, Just a note for you. My dad is a professional hard-wood floor installer of about 20 years, so I can tell you about going from one floor height to another. I think you can buy (but my dad makes his own), what is called a reducer. It is basically a long piece of flooring that is angled so that when you look at one end of it, it is a wedge shape. This bridges between a higher and lower floor. Also, it can be stained to match your existing floor. I have one or two in our remodeled house from the late 40s. The only problem with the reducer is that it matches SO well that older people may not notice it and if they hit it just right it throws their balance. No, no one has ever fell, except my two kids when they were babies. Hope this helps.

  12. I really adore this floor! The tips and pointers and photographs you leave really give a great insight to the project, and I feel like I’m right there learning with you. Some day I’m going to attempt this project, and I’ll definitely use your instructions as my guide.
    Please feel free to visit the website I participate in, it’s just getting started!

    http://rchreviews.blogspot.com/

    1. Hi Colleen! I’m from PA too! I think outside would be a challenge. I have seen penny gazing balls for the garden that turn green and weathered with the rain, snow etc so my guess is that it would get that look to it. I also think it would get quite slippery outside. Maybe someone else has tried it that can give you some better advice though.

  13. I am getting ready to do this and I have decided to do all my pennys down except the birth years of all my children and grandchildren. Let them hunt for their penny!

  14. I was wondering if you have a picture of the end product close up. I’d love to do a back splash with charcoal or dark brown grout filled.

  15. Hi Amy, that looks good. my question is what type of grout did you use, was it sanded? Was it hard to clean off the pennies after it had set up? you said you coated with polyurethane. Has that held up and does it look like a plastic coating (it doesn’t in the pictures). Thanks!

    1. Hi Kevin, I used an unsanded grout < view link>.

      You can read Part 3 to learn about getting the grout off, etc. It wasn’t hard to do (because you do it when the grout is still wet) but it’s very time consuming.

      The poly has held up really well. Looks just like the pictures. Not plastic-like. There are different sheens of poly if that’s a concern (like semi-gloss, high-gloss, etc).

  16. I have a plan to place a penny wall behind our wood stove. It has a 3ft tall by 5ft wide brick wall behind it now. I figure I would frame a 8ft wide by 8ft high wall under two windows and pitched roof ceiling using 2 by 4 s. Then screw on cement board already covered by evenly spaced, randomly placed (heads or tails does not matter) pennies using tile grout. The screws will be covered by pennies added later. The pennies will not be sorted as I like the look of various tones of different metals. This way I would not have to take the brick down and have an impressive accent wall. Can also wire behind frame to have accent lights on top of wall highlighting the wall at night.
    Does anyone know what I can seal the pennies with taking in consideration it is behind a heat source?

    1. That’s a great question. You’d probably have to find some sort of clear coat for high temperatures (maybe they have something for fireplaces, etc.?) Or, my friend suggested using automotive clear coat that you would buy at Auto Zone.

  17. My dad used to soak pennies in worcestershire sauce overnight and in the morning they came out light, bright and coppery pink. I like the au naturel look myself as I think it would hide dirt better lol

  18. Did an experiment once… fond that pineapple juice actually cleans pennies really well aboveother common juices. Made the penny look brand new. A plot brighter than the other test group. The acid in the juice took the oxidation right off.

    1. Hi Mandy,
      The poly I used only took about 30-60 minutes to set up between coats, and I did about 8 coats of it. It really depends on the product that you use — it should say on the container what the recommended drying time is :)

      1. Awesome! Thanks :-) I want to do the backsplash in my kitchen and was curious as to how long it would take to set up.

  19. I followed your link for the template, paid the $2 and there is no template for me to download or print. Please advise

    1. Hi Lori. I sent you an email. Sorry you are having problems I would be happy to email you the template if the link is still not working for you.

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