Spend A Penny?

When I first started this project I had no idea what I was doing, how long it would take, or what the finished product would look like. Now, I can add professional penny floor layer to my CV!

While decorating our downstairs WC I decided that our freshly painted walls (grey) no longer matched our vinyl flooring (also grey), so I spent a hard three minutes thinking about what I could do to improve the look. I'm not one to do things by the book, and if I want something I'll do my best to get it. In this case, what I wanted was unique, bespoke flooring that would wow our guests, create a talking point for our neighbours, and be cheap to create - not much to ask, eh! 

I remember seeing a photo of a floor covered in beer bottle tops a few years ago and it's stuck with me ever since. I loved how creative and unique it was, and I always wanted something similar installed when I had a house of my own. However, since I don't drink at all it would take me forever to save up all the bottle caps I'd need, and would be pretty irrelevant in my home! But I knew I wanted to do something similar, so I wracked my brain for all of sixty seconds and came up with pennies! English pennies have a lovely copper colour which would go perfectly with our new grey walls. Sorted - now to go penny hunting!

After raiding our loose change jars, asking family and friends, and a trip to the bank, I finally had enough pennies to get started. I scrubbed the floor to remove any dirt, and began individually glueing each penny to the floor. I used 3 tubes of Super Tough, Waterproof Gorilla Glue for this, but I'd think any waterproof superglue would do. (Note: you can make penny 'tiles' and lay them all in one go, but after some research I decided I didn't like this look as you can see the joins between the tiles. It is less stress on your back as you can do all of the penny glueing at a table before laying, but it just wasn't the particular look I wanted).

Tip: If you're using Gorilla glue, you need to wet the pennies before glueing as that's how the glue bonds best. I just kept the pennies I was going to use for each section in a tub of water to save wetting each individual coin. This also helped to clean any leftover dirt off them. 

I wanted the pennies to be as neat and uniformed as possible, so I glued them row by row, making sure they were all perfectly aligned before pressing them down with a heavy object (in this case, a tin of paint). Each penny slotted into the gap between two pennies on the previous row to help leave as small a gap as possible. 

Tip: It’s much easier to start in one corner and go row by row than it is to do a whole section at a time. I tried to jump ahead and work around the base of the toilet and sink first as I thought they’d be the most troubling areas. However, I quickly regretted this when I found they didn’t match up so I had to scrape them all up and start again!

It is a lot of hard work and you feel like you’ve done hours of work for little reward, but once you get into a rhythm time flies by – and the finished product is totally worth the back ache! I worked with one little bank bag of pennies at a time (100 coins) which made it easier to keep count of how many pennies I had used altogether and meant I could section of the rows to spread to work over a number of week nights and weekends.

When the final penny has been laid, it’s time to varnish! For this I used Wickes’ Ultra Durable Interior Floor Varnish. Polyurethane based varnish works best as it’s hard wearing, waterproof and easier to use than epoxy resin, and it’s also much cheaper! (Note: Wickes’ floor varnish is milky white when first applied, but don’t panic like I did, it does dry clear!) I found it best to spread the varnish with the flat edge of a Tupperware lid rather than the recommended paintbrush as there was so much space to cover. It took around 6 hours between coats, and I applied four coats in total.

I could have stopped here if I wanted to, but I didn’t. Originally I loved the idea of all the different shades of copper, but the varnish slightly darkened the pennies and it didn’t ‘pop’ like I hoped it would– not how I wanted to feel after spending so long piecing it together! To lighten the floor I scrubbed each and every penny using a mix of nail varnish remover (it really worked!), white spirit and wire brushes. This took foreverrr and if I’d have known I was going to want shiny pennies across the whole floor, I’d definitely have cleaned them all before I started, it would have saved SO much time!

And well, that’s it! The only thing I had left to do was clean and polish them. I did this using hot water, a wire dish scrubber and a steam mop. I couldn’t possibly count the total number of hours I spent on this project, but I can tell you that I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I absolutely love it, and it certainly does have the ‘wow’ factor I was hoping for!

The best part? The entire project cost under £60!


English pennies: 3644
US pennies: 6
Euro 5 cents: 1
Total coin count: 3651

Oldest penny: 1971
Newest penny: 2016