Hello my friend! If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to installation of a penny floor, you’ve come to the right place.
I installed a penny floor foyer in my home in 2012-2013 and since then, hundreds of others have read this blog and created their own penny projects (masterpieces) using these instructions.
This post will give you all of the information that you need to get this done right without having to scour the internet for additional information. The methods explained in this post are tried and true — completed by myself and many, many others with success.
So, if this is a project that you’re really interested in tackling, welcome to the club. I’m sure you will find solace in knowing that you are not alone. And that you are not the first crazy person to attempt this… nor will you be the last!
For your convenience I’ve included a table of contents that you can use to reference this page. Don’t forget to bookmark the page too, so you can come back to it as you work on your penny floor or other penny project!
Table of Contents
- Why a penny floor?
- Why a penny template?
- Step 1: Create your penny floor template
- Step 2: Install the pennies onto mesh
- Step 3: Preparing your floor
- Step 4: Lay the penny tile
- Step 5: Grout the pennies
- Step 6: To clean or not to clean the pennies
- Step 7: Seal the pennies
- How does a penny floor hold up over time?
- Penny Floor FAQ
When I first moved into my house, I found pennies everywhere! Seriously, in every little nook and cranny of my house there was a penny wedged. I found them in the cracks of the sidewalk, along ledges, in floor and sink drains… They’d even hit me in the head when I slammed a closet door.
I did some research to find out what this could possibly mean. Why are there pennies all over the house?
Some people say that finding coins or feathers in repetitive numbers is a message from the angels. Others say it’s to keep negative spirits away.
I saved the pennies as I’ve found them, always thinking I’d find a way to do something creative with them. Then, one day I stumbled upon this photo. And that’s where my penny foyer idea was born.
I liked Amanda’s method, although I didn’t want to rip up my floor for weeks or even months as I installed the pennies. I needed another solution… a template of sorts.
A template and a system would allow me to create individual square foot “sheets” of pennies. And, once I completed 16 sheets of pennies I could THEN rip out the floor and install the floor.
This is where my penny floor template will help you with this project. You can make the “sheets” whenever you have free time (while watching tv) and you don’t have to live in a torn up mess of a house while you’re hunched over on your hands and knees gluing each individual penny to the floor.
see Brandon’s penny bathroom floor
“It can be done. If you’re here researching whether you should do it or not, you can and should!” – Brandon
Penny floor… or another penny project?
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!
Ready to get started and be the “latest nutcase” who decides to install a penny floor? This is how you do it.
First things first, there are 304 pennies in one square foot. If you plant to make a 4’x4′ foyer like mine, you’ll need 16 square feet of pennies; or 4,864 pennies; or $48.64 in pennies.
- Pennies (304/sq ft): You can collect these, ask your friends or grab rolls at the bank. I made a Facebook event and invited all my friends… I had the pennies in no time.
- Weldbond Glue: I went through about 6 bottles to do 16 sq. ft. I’d recommend Weldbond but the type of glue is up to you.
- A penny floor template: Optional but your back will thank me. If you go the template-route, you’ll also need:
- Latex/Rubber Gloves: If you touch the pennies, the oil from your skin may discolor them.
- Cement board: This will create a level, sturdy surface to lay your tiles on. You’ll also need:
- Thin-Set Mortar: This will install the pennies onto your floor.
- Unsanded Grout: This will fill in the spaces between your pennies. I used charcoal- chocolate would also be a great option. I do not consider the grout to be an “optional” step unless you plan to use epoxy to seal your floor.
- Metal Paint Scraper: Recommended if you are using the penny floor template.
- Penny Floor Sealant / Clear Coat: There are many options for sealers; mostly epoxy and polyurethane. I used Minwax Polyurethane for Floors. I don’t have any experience with using the epoxy although several readers have used it successfully.
- Patience ?
Here are the steps to create your floor. If you aren’t using the penny floor template, skip to Step 3.
- Print a few copies of the penny floor template.
- Carefully cut along the purple line on each piece of paper.
- Overlap the pieces so they line up and seam them together. You can then cut out an exact 12×12″ square.
- Lay your template paper onto a piece of scrap cardboard.
- Use the packing tape to cover all of the cardboard and the template. Basically, you’re “laminating” the front side of the cardboard so that nothing sticks to it.
- Cut your mosaic tile mesh into 1 foot squares.
Here’s a photo of my template. You can see in the middle of the picture where I pieced two 8.5×11″ printouts together. Then, I used packing tape over the whole entire piece of cardboard to keep the glue from sticking.
Quick Tip: I made two cardboard penny floor templates for myself so that I could work on more than one square foot at a time. It allowed one square of pennies to dry without me getting impatient and wanting to start a new square. Highly recommend!
Hooray! Time to install these bad boys. If you are using the penny floor template, you’ll install the pennies onto the mesh backing. If you’re installing them onto the floor or another surface, you’ll be gluing them directly to it. This photo is my first batch of pennies on the mesh! So exciting!!
If you aren’t using the penny floor template, skip to Step 3.
Install pennies onto the mesh backing
- Put on your rubber gloves. You cannot handle the pennies directly from this point forward. The oil in your skin will tarnish the center of the penny where you push it down into the glue. The worst part is you won’t immediately notice the huge black dot that will appear in the middle of your penny… it will happen overnight.
- Line up the mesh on top of your new template.
- Use a dot of glue to adhere each penny to the tile one at a time. You can also pre-glue a small section to make it easier.
- Push your penny down into the glue on top of the mesh backing. Use the penny template underneath the mesh to guide you.
- After you’ve finished a full square, let it dry overnight.
- When dry, use a metal paint scraper 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 glue or mortar to put them back in place (wear your gloves).
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.
“You are an inspiration for our own floor design and a wealth of information! Thank you for your brilliance and pathfinding ways to this design idea. Otherwise we’d still be trying to figure out how to start.” –Jay
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.
Remove carpet, hardwood or other flooring materials
I didn’t previously have a “foyer” before beginning this project. All I had was a living room space that was carpeted with hardwood flooring underneath. Because I had to “create” a foyer, there were several steps involved before I could actually install the penny floor; removing the carpet and removing the flooring.
Because I was laying my floor in an area where there’s carpet, I had to measure out the space then cut and remove the carpet.
After measuring out my foyer space, we used a line of painters tape and a really sharp razor blade to cut out the carpet.
Next, we had to remove the hardwood flooring. We used a reciprocating saw and chiseled away at the edges. Then, we used a crowbar to peel away at the edges. Once the boards were removed, we had to pull up ALL of the nails that were left behind.
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.
Once everything is removed, sweep and vacuum the floor completely to remove any debris.
The final step to prepare you flooring for the pennies is to install a cement backer board.
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.
So, now that the surface is properly prepped, we are ready to install the penny tile sheets!
Install penny sheets onto the floor (mesh backing)
My dad and I went back and forth between using 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.
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. Trim the mesh when necessary to create the best interlock you can.
- If any pennies have fallen out of your mesh, now is the time to pop those back in!
- Let dry overnight.
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.
Install pennies directly onto the floor (no mesh backing)
Before you start to install the pennies, check out the section on “preparing your floor.”
Once your surface is prepped, use the glue of your choice to secure each penny to the floor. You may need to create some guide lines to help you so you don’t make a wonky, crooked floor. It’s not too late to grab my penny floor template!
After the thinset 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 grout color that would be pretty close to the copper color of the pennies. The grout color is entirely up to you.
Do you need to grout a penny floor?
This question comes up a lot. While the grout does not really do anything to hold the pennies in place, I definitely would recommend grouting the penny floor. This is especially true if you plant to seal the floor using polyurethane. Polyurethane is meant to be applied in very thin even coats. Therefore, trying to fill the holes between the pennies with polyurethane is not a great solution. The poly may not dry between the pennies and that wouldn’t be a good thing.
If you seal your penny floor with epoxy, the epoxy will harden between the pennies in the same way a grout would. In this case it’s not necessary to grout. But, grouting is also an option if you like the look of it — the grout will not affect the epoxy.
How to grout your penny floor
Grout the pennies just as you would any other tile. Mix the unsanded powder grout with water according to the package instructions, and then apply into the seams using a grout float.
Take your time as you grout the floor. Go slowly and make sure you go at a 45-degree angle so you don’t pull the grout out from between the pennies.
Once you have enough grout into the spaces between the pennies, you’ll let it set for a few minutes (follow the instructions on your grout package). 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 you completely dry the floor when you are finished grouting. Don’t let ANY water rest on the penny floor for an extended period of time. It can oxidize the pennies and cause discoloration. In other words, your beautiful pennies will turn black or look really, really yucky.
If you’re new to grouting, here’s a good video on the basics of grouting. It should really help you with the penny floor installation:
I won’t lie to you… grouting the pennies is easy, but it’s 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 at a time, do a small section, then clean it off. Take this step in-stride!
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.
But, 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!
“The extra effort you put forth to document your efforts and knowledge, (from experience), and share it with strangers like me, is incredible and very much appreciated. Thank you very much!”–L.see the beautiful “Lincoln Room” penny floor created by L.
Don’t use these methods for cleaning
- 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?
If you insist on cleaning the pennies, try these instead
If you are stubborn and don’t want to listen to me, at least give these a try when attempting to clean your pennies.
Wright’s Copper Cream is the best solution I’ve found to cleaning the pennies… if you must. It will gently clean and remove tarnish without scratching the pennies.
- Wright’s Copper Cream: 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!!!
- Bar Keepers Friend: From time to time, readers will send in suggestions when they find a successful cleaning agent. The one that several have recommended is Bar Keepers Friend so you may want to give that a try as well.
Protect your floor until you seal it
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!
Polyurethane or Epoxy? The Saga Continues….
Sealing the floor is DEFINITELY the area where I get the absolute MOST questions. What type of sealer did you use? Why didn’t you use X? Can I seal it with Y? Lots and lots of questions.
To boil this down, I chose to use polyurethane to seal my penny floor. Others have followed my tutorial up until this point, then went with epoxy. Both are viable options. But, the process for applying each sealer is completely different.
I only have experience with polyurethane. If you have questions about epoxy I’m afraid I can’t help you. However, there is a lot of great information in the comments section of this post and you may be able to get some help there.
When sealing the floor the process will vary depending on whether you are using epoxy or polyurethane. The process will also be different if you use oil-based vs. water-based polyurethane (I used water-based). Thoroughly read the instructions for the product you choose and ask any questions you may have to the product manufacturer.
If you’re using polyurethane, the application should not differ much from how you would apply it to wood flooring. But, again, read the instructions and check with the manufacturer if you are unsure.
- Read the instructions thoroughly and follow them exactly as explained.
- Ensure that you have adequate ventilation.
- Properly mix the polyurethane before using.
- Apply the polyurethane in thin, even coats.
- Wait for each coat to dry before applying the next coat.
- Lightly sand in-between coats (when dry).
- Give the floor the proper amount of time to dry before walking on it.
Pros and Cons of Epoxy for Penny Floors
Before I get into the process, I have a little more research to share with you about epoxies and other items you may decide to seal your floor with. I found a very old forum post (from 2009) from a tile contractor asking how to seal a bathroom penny floor for a client. You can read the forum thread here, but I’ll also go over some of the conversation because I’m fearful the thread will get deleted someday. The contractor actually purchased several of the materials referenced in the post, and from his results made an educated decision on what to use.
A few of the suggestions given to the contractor were:
- Liquid Glass epoxy resins
- Touchstone T-2000 Epoxy Setting Adhesive -Gallon
- Latapoxy SP-100
- Klear Kote Epoxy
- Bio-Clear 810 epoxy
- Polyurethane: I used the semi-gloss finish of Minwax 13025 VOC Fast Drying Polyurethane For Floor
The contractor actually ended up using Bio-Clear 810 epoxy, which is very clear, very hard when cured and very expensive. He also top-coated with UV Plus, a 2 part coating that prevents the epoxy from yellowing in sunlight.
Because of this and his extensive research, I actually bought Bio-Clear 810. The website epoxyproducts.com, although very old and ugly, has a lot of information and explanations on how to use the epoxy. The item shipped quickly and came with printed out instructions for use as well. I do think this, or even another epoxy listed above, or another epoxy on the Epoxy Products website would be good options if this is the look you are going for. Do your research, and make the decision that works best for your needs.
Pros of Epoxy: Durable, Shiny (looks like glass) – could also be a con?
Cons of Epoxy: expensive, stinky, hard to work with, no margin for error
This is a photo from the contractor who sealed pennies in a bathroom with the BioClear 810 epoxy. It looks like GLASS. This will give you a good idea of what it will look like if you decide to use an epoxy.
Pros and Cons of Polyurethane for Penny Floors
After researching and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to use a polyurethane sealant and return the Bio-Clear 810.
Why? To be completely honest, the Bio-Clear scared the CRAP out of me. I’ve spent so much time, and have so much invested, I couldn’t stomach the idea that if I just screwed one simple thing up (like mixing not long enough, too much, too fast, too slow, etc.) it could ruin the whole thing.
Since the floor is holding up FANTASTIC without any sealant other than the grout, I think the justifying the price of this expensive epoxy just didn’t appeal to me (you’re looking at $200+ for a small foyer area using epoxy, while a full gallon of this poly will be less than $50 and you’ll never use the whole thing).
I stand by this choice 100%. But it’s definitely a personal decision which sealant you use. There’s no “right” or “wrong” answer no matter what the internet trolls may tell you. Do what’s best for you and what will give you the look that YOU want.
Pros of Polyurethane: Easy to apply, not permanent, cost effective, water-based doesn’t stink as much and dries very quickly.
Cons of Polyurethane: Not as durable as epoxy, need to maintain, no “glass-like” look – could also be a pro, less messy, oil-based is stinky and takes longer to dry.
Sealing a Penny Floor with Polyurethane
Polyurethane is used to seal hardwood flooring, so why wouldn’t it work in this application? The answer is, it will work, and it looks great.
I used Minwax 13025 VOC Fast Drying Polyurethane For Floor in a clear semi-gloss finish. I like the idea that I can do multiple layers to add strength and durability to it. Just follow the instructions on the back of the can.
I used a foam brush to apply the poly, and ran a box fan afterwards to help dry it more quickly. After letting it dry for 8+ hours, I sanded very lightly with a 220 grit sandpaper. I dipped a sponge in some Mineral Spirits to wipe away any of the sanding residue.
After that was dry, I’d apply another coat. I applied 5 coats in total.
At the time the photos were taken for this post I had applied 3 thin coats of the poly. I plan to do at least 5 total, but the process for adding additional coats is very easy so I may even do more than that.
“I am curious though, it looks like your last entry and picture of the floor was from a couple years back. Now that it’s been a few years how is it holding up? I’m sure there is your typical everyday wearing down of it but do you think it was worth it that way? Would you do it again?” – Chris
Hey Chris. The poly has held up really well. I have not refinished it although refinishing would be easy (just sand and re-apply). There are areas of wear but it works for me. None of the pennies have been damaged. I hope that helps… poly is the safest way to do it and the easiest to reapply/refinish down the road. I would certainly do it again.
PS: scroll down and you will see a gallery of my penny floor over the years. I also added a video created in January 2018 showing the details of my floor, so check that out too.
Here is a photo of the penny floor after 3 coats of polyurethane. I still had some finishing/trim work to do.
Penny Floor – 2 Years Later
This photo was taken on August 21, 2015 — approximately 2 years and 3 months after the original installation date of May 1, 2013.
I have never resealed the floor and my dog and I walk over it every day. Sure, it shows some signs of wear and dirt and is not perfect, but it certainly has held up.
Penny Floor 6 Years Later
Good luck, my friend. I hope this post and my penny floor template helps to make this process much easier for you.
Check out the following posts to see some unique Penny Projects created by readers of this blog. Seriously, definitely check these out because a lot of their completed projects are way cooler and better than my original floor 🙂
- DIY Project Ideas Using Pennies
- Bathroom and Shower Floor Tiles with Pennies
- Inspirational Penny Floor Projects by Home Owners
- Creative Garden Ideas That Look Way Too Good To Be DIYs
Also be sure to take a look at the Penny Floor Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page where a lot of the most common penny floor questions are answered!