How to Install Penny Tile

We’re into Week 3 of the One Room Challenge and this bathroom renovation is moving right along. You can’t see it but I’m doing a victory dance…I can finally see how things are coming together and it’s so exciting!!! Once I finished the subway tile on the wall, I moved onto the penny tile floor.

Let me start off by saying, I didn’t expect it to be hard when I bought all of the penny tile for the floor – for some reason I had it in my head that installing small tile was much easier than large tile. Then I told a handful of people that I was using penny tile and they would say, in so many words, “you’re brave!”….wait…what!?! Finding out that it wasn’t, in fact, easy gave me a mini panic attack so I took to Google and read a million of tutorials (just like the subway tile) except this time I didn’t get overwhelmed…this time I was like F*CK IT! LET’S DO THIS!

What I learned installing penny tile

To get a sense of how everything would look, I did a dry run and laid most of the tile sheets out. I wanted to see where the sheets would end on the wall and because I couldn’t get 5 full sheets across the floor, I cut the last sheet down to fit. Doing this during a dry run made laying it a whole lot easier – I didn’t have to worry about cutting it while I had thinset on the floor and risk it drying out before I could lay the tile on top.

Once I had the width of the sheets figured out, I cut the beginning row of sheets at random lengths to stagger the pattern (see pic below). I staggered the sheets so that I wouldn’t have a straight line showing up in my pattern. When you buy a sheet of penny tile, the sides have staggered tiles (where you join the next sheet) and the top and bottom are just straight. If you don’t stagger that top and bottom straight line, you run the risk of being able to see where you laid each square sheet of penny tile. Out of everything that I read, that was the biggest complaint with penny tile.

If you look at a sheet of penny tile, you’ll see how a cluster of the tiles form a “flower”. When you’re laying each sheet beside the other, make sure your flowers line up and are evenly spaced. When you have your thinset down, the tile is very easy to manipulate. Its kinda like when you’re gluing together 2 pieces of wood – when you put the wood glue down, it causes the 2 pieces of wood to slide against each other and move really easy. Making sure you have evenly spaced flowers help you evenly space the tile sheets and hide the lines. Doing this does slow down laying the tile, but its worth it. What’s that saying – slow and steady wins the race! That’s what you’re looking for when laying penny tile – go slow and make sure everything’s evenly spaced and your tile will look awesome.

Every couple of sheets, I would stop and step back to make sure you couldn’t see any lines in the tile. The best way I found to do this was by standing up, stepping back a couple of feet, and squinting. Squinting blurred all of the tile so that all I saw was shadows – that really helped with seeing if there were darker spots (the thinset) that were bigger than the rest of the thinset.

The toothbrush worked great again on this tile job (I definitely used it on the subway tile too). I used it when I had too much thinset ooze up between the tiles. I cleaned as I went on this tile project too – always keeping a bucket of water next to my thinset bucket. Having a water bucket close by has been a lifesaver several times on these tile projects. I would “dig” the thinset out from between the tiles with the toothbrush, then wipe the area down with a sponge to keep it clean.

Cutting penny tile

Before I mixed my thinset, I pulled whole tiles off of a sheet and cut some penny tiles into different sizes – 1/4, 1/2, 3/4. These were used against the walls and around holes in the floor, like where the floor register goes and around the toilet. Prep is key for laying this tile! The more you prep the quicker and easier it will be. I put each size in a tiny cup and kept the cups close by so I could just grab and place as I went.

**TIP: When you cut the penny tile into sizes, use snips and only put the snips on like 1/3 of the tile. I learned that 1/2 and anything above that made it very difficult to cut the tile. The less of the tile that’s covered by the snips, the easier the tile is to cut. (In the pic, I’ve got the snips covering 1/2 of the tile…ignore that. Do less than that. I promise it makes it easier!) Also, be careful when you’re removing the cut tile from the mesh back. I thought I was being careful when I was removing them and ended up slicing my thumb open on a cut edge. It hurt like a bitch!! I ended up having to put gloves on when I laid the majority of the tile so I wouldn’t get thinset in my cut. Not fun!

If you’re not going to lay all of the time in one go, make sure to scrape up the excess thinset from around the tiles. The more you can get up, the easier it will be to put fresh thinset down and the less you have to scrape out when its set and impossibly hard to scrape out. Once I laid down the first couple of rows, I got into the groove of things and it seemed to go a little faster. Its far from perfect and there are spots that I wish I could redo, but I think that for my first time laying penny tile, I did a pretty good job! Just remember, DIY is never perfect and it doesn’t have to be perfect. No one will ever see the flaws that you see! You got this!

Don’t forget to check out the progress everybody is making over on the One Room Challenge’s blog. There is some amazing stuff going on! Its hard to pick a favorite.

If you want to see more of my progress on this project, make sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook – I’ve saved a lot stuff in my IG Highlights.

**Disclaimer: I’m sharing with you what I’ve learned on this DIY journey and what I know, but I’m no expert. Following tutorials, you’re doing so at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a professional if you are in doubt of the safety or validity of my claims.**