How to Install Penny Tile Backsplash

Installing a penny tile backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom by adding an eye-catching decorative accent. Penny tiles are small, round ceramic tiles that look like actual pennies when installed. They create a fun, vintage look and come in a variety of colors and finishes. Installing them on your backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can be completed in a weekend. Here is a detailed guide on how to install penny tile backsplash.

Materials Needed

  • Penny tile sheets or individual tiles
  • Tile adhesive
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Trowel
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter (if cutting tiles)
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask

Preparing the Surface

Before you can install the penny tiles, you need to make sure the backsplash surface is properly prepared.

Clean the Surface

The backsplash area should be free of any dirt, grease or soap residues. Clean the surface thoroughly with a general household cleaner and rinse well. This allows the tile adhesive to properly adhere to the surface.

Remove Any Old Backsplash

If there is already an existing backsplash installed, you will need to remove it completely before installing the new penny tile backsplash. Carefully pry off the old tiles with a putty knife or chisel. Be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves during this step to protect yourself from flying debris.

Once all the old tiles are removed, scrape or sand the surface underneath to remove any remaining mortar or adhesive. Wipe it down to remove dust.

Check for Damage

Inspect the bare surface carefully and make any necessary repairs. Fill any cracks or holes with spackling paste. The surface needs to be as smooth as possible for proper installation.

Apply Primer/Sealer

For surfaces like bare drywall or plywood, it’s a good idea to apply a coat of primer/sealer before installing the tiles. This helps protect against moisture damage. Allow the primer to dry completely as per manufacturer’s directions before tiling.

Once your backsplash surface is prepped and ready, you can move on to installing the actual penny tile sheets.

How to Install the Penny Tile Sheets

Step 1 – Plan the Layout

Penny tiles create a more interesting look when they are arranged randomly rather than in straight rows. Lay out a few sheets on the backsplash area and shift them around to come up with an appealing layout that works for the space. Pay attention to the grout lines and try to create a staggered brickwork pattern.

Also take measurements and sketch out a layout plan that shows where you will need to cut partial tiles. Planning it out will make the actual installation much easier.

Step 2 – Cut the Penny Tile Sheets

Use a tile cutter to cut your penny tile sheets according to your layout plan. You may need to cut partial tiles to fill in around outlets, corners or edges. Cut the tiles face up to get clean even lines.

You can also use a glass cutter to score and snap off smaller pieces. Wear safety goggles when cutting tiles.

Step 3 – Prepare the Tile Adhesive

Follow the manufacturer’s mixing instructions to prepare the thinset adhesive you will use to apply the penny tile sheets. Make sure the consistency is slightly sticky but still easy to spread. Load some of the adhesive on your trowel.

Step 4 – Spread the Adhesive

Apply a thin layer of the thinset adhesive on a small section of your backsplash area, using the trowel to spread it evenly. Apply only as much as you can cover with tiles within about 15 minutes before it dries.

Step 5 – Apply the Penny Tiles

Press the penny tile sheets gently but firmly onto the adhesive, working in the section you applied it to. Use tile spacers between sheets to keep grout line spacing even. Check periodically that the back of each tile is making good contact with the adhesive.

Step 6 – Continue Installing Tiles

Continue spreading thinset and installing penny tile sheets section by section until the entire backsplash area is covered. If the adhesive dries out between applications, scrape it off and apply fresh thinset before proceeding.

Once all penny tiles are applied, be sure they are pressed flush into the adhesive. Allow to set overnight before continuing with grouting.

Grouting the Penny Tile Backsplash

Grout fills the spaces between the tiles to create a smooth finished look. Select an appropriate grout color that complements your penny tile pattern.

Step 1 – Mix the Grout

Prepare grout mix according to package directions, to a thick but spreadable consistency. Normal sanded grout is often used for penny tiles. Apply grout release agents if needed.

Step 2 – Spread Grout over Tiles

Use the grout float to spread grout over the surface, forcing it into the joints between tiles. Spread diagonally across the tiles to prevent dragging grout out of the lines.

Step 3 – Clean Excess Grout

Allow grout to begin to harden in the joints, usually 10-15 minutes. Then use a damp sponge to gently wipe diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout without pulling it out of tile joints. Rinse sponge frequently.

Step 4 – Seal the Grout

Once grout is fully hardened (after 72 hours), apply grout sealer according to manufacturer’s instructions. This will protect grout from staining and damage. Allow to dry completely.

Step 5 – Seal the Tiles

It’s also a good idea to seal the penny tile surfaces with a tile/stone sealer for added protection. Carefully apply the sealer with a paintbrush and wipe away any excess.

That’s all there is to installing beautiful, eye-catching penny tiles on your backsplash! Proper planning, careful tile-cutting, and attention to detail as you set and grout the tiles will lead to a successful finished project. Maintain your new penny tile backsplash by using gentle cleaners and re-sealing as needed over time. Let your copper-hued tiles develop their own vintage patina for years of stylish performance.

Frequently Asked Questions about Installing Penny Tile Backsplash

Here are answers to some common questions about installing penny tile backsplash in your home:

What kind of tile adhesive should I use?

For penny tiles, we recommend using a white polymer-modified thinset adhesive. This type of thinset provides a strong bond and some flexibility to prevent grout cracking. Make sure the adhesive you choose is suitable for the tile material and wall surface.

Should penny tiles have spacers between them?

Yes, tile spacers are highly recommended when installing penny tiles. The spacers keep the spacing consistent between tiles so your grout lines are straight. Spacers also prevent tiles from shifting during installation.

How long does it take for the tile adhesive to set?

The adhesive will be dry to the touch in 6-8 hours. But allow the installed tiles to cure for 24-48 hours before grouting so the bond strengthens. Check the adhesive package for recommended curing times.

What color grout should I choose?

A darker grout can make copper penny tiles pop visually. Black, dark grey, or chocolate brown grout are great options. Or choose a white or light gray grout for a subtle contrast. What matters most is selecting a color you like that complements your tiles.

Should I use sanded or unsanded grout?

Sanded grout is the better choice for penny tiles, as it is less likely to crack compared to unsanded. The sand particles allow for greater flexibility. Make sure to use grout release powder if needed.

How soon can I get the tiles wet after grouting?

Avoid exposing the grout to moisture for at least 72 hours as it needs time to fully cure and become water resistant. After that you can get the tiles wet, but avoid harsh cleaners for another week that could stain the grout.

What’s the best way to cut penny tiles?

The best tool for straight cuts is a manual tile cutter or wet saw. For irregular cuts, score the tile and snap it using tile nippers. Use a ruler and pencil when scoring to guide the cut. Safety goggles and gloves are a must!


Installing a penny tile backsplash provides a simple yet dramatic way to add vintage flair to your space. By following the techniques described in this guide, you can achieve professional-looking results. Pay close attention to preparing the surface, carefully laying out and cutting the sheets, properly applying adhesive, and cleanly grouting the tile joints. Sealing the grout and tile surface will help your new backsplash maintain its beauty.

With proper installation and care, your copper penny tile backsplash can provide many years of stylish charm in your kitchen or bathroom. The dazzling texture and light-reflecting quality of the tiles will upgrade your space with personality and visual interest. Get creative mixing penny tile colors and patterns to design a backsplash that fits your decor perfectly. Show off your DIY skills and create a stunning focal point!