Patterned penny tile gives a room so much vintage charm! Here's how I did this patterned penny tile floor in our bathroom!
I love this floor. No, I'm IN LOVE with this floor. If it weren't for the fact that the rest of the area is still under construction, I would stand at the doorway and stare at it all day.
If you talked to me during the week I was tiling, I probably said something about, "I don't know why I'm doing this - there are so many easier flooring options." Now that I'm on the other side of it, I'M SO GLAD I DID IT. Seriously. I could cry I'm so proud of this floor.
I will walk you thorough my process and point you to some resources I found especially helpful, but I just have to remind you not to over-think/over-complicate it. Guys were laying floor tile in Rome thousands of years ago and it's still there today. In no way do I say this to knock their sophistication, but to tell you that you have all the benefits of Home Depot employees, and online resources, and Youtube videos! You can do it, too!
Choosing Penny Tile
When thinking through tile options for our first floor bathroom, I knew I wanted something with a vintage look, that would look as if it had always been in our house. Plus, it seemed like a good place to try something FUN.
I loved penny tile for its vintage feel, and had planned on doing white tile with black grout, until I saw this patterned floor from Chris Loves Julia and knew I wanted to replicate it. The delicate details! The border! I loved it all.
As a reminder, our starting point for this room was circa-1965 CARPET, so, while this was my first tiling job, I was comforted by the fact that even if I did a lousy job, it would still be an improvement.
I ordered a box each of black and white penny tile from Home Depot. Whatever tile you choose, you want all the colors you use to be from the same manufacturer to ensure the same depth/diameter of circles.
Special thanks to Josh who when I was like, "hey I have zero tile experience, are you cool if I spend $200 on tile for our bathroom floor?" was like, "sounds good!".
An Important Note About Penny Tile
Right after my boxes of penny tile arrived, I learned that penny tile is a somewhat tricky tile to lay. Apparently, some contractors refuse to work with it because it's hard to get just right. (Google bad penny tile and you'll see lots of examples!)
Penny tile comes in sheets held together by mesh. The major, glaring risk of penny tile is having seams between sheets visible after they're grouted. If you're not hyper-vigilant about spacing while you're laying this tile (it's all done by eye since you can't use spacers here), the seams will be obvious.
I was terrified of this going into it. I thought I would finish the whole project and then start to notice huge seam lines. Now that I'm on this side of it, I really think if you're aware of the issue and pay attention to preventing it, it's really not too hard to avoid.
Designing a Pattern
The fun part! Once you have your tile and your subfloor is laid, you can start experimenting with layouts. I highly suggest starting with your main color (in my case, white) and working from the center out.
I actually started planning the pattern from the border and it was a MESS. I couldn't get tiles to line up, and then all of my black sheets of tile were cut up which was a real pain when I went to lay them. Learn from my mistake! Start from the center!
I eyeballed the space for the larger black border, getting it as equal as I could without being obsessive. I dry fitted everything to make sure it all fit as it should. Then I started playing around with the interior pattern.
You don't need to have all the details nailed down at this point, the purpose of thinking through the pattern is to make sure you have enough tile and all the finer details of the design will work.
As an example, I wanted the corners of my inner border to be on the lower tile on both sides, so I ended up needing to take a row of white tile out to make them equal. Think through every detail!
Do a Dry Fit
I mentioned this above, but it's so important I'm going to say it again - do a dry fit!
A dry fit is where you lay all your tile out on your floor, but without any mortar. This ensures there are no surprises when it's go time and you're racing against the mortar's clock.
Lay the Main Tile
In this case, my main tile was the white interior and the larger black border. At this point, you don't need to worry about the smaller details of the design - you'll add those in later.
Pay VERY CLOSE attention to your tile spacing at this stage. If it's off, it will be obvious once it's grouted.
Here are two things to check to make sure your spacing is good while laying penny tile:
- The "flower" formed by 7 tiles.
- The diagonal lines of tiles.
If you see no inconsistencies, you've done a perfect job! If you do, just gently shift your sheets around until they're where they should be.
Do a final check on the spacing once all the tile is laid. If there's any excess mortar peeking through at this point, wipe it down with a damp sponge.
Then, walk away and let it set for 24 hours.
Finalize the Pattern
Once the mortar is set, go back in with your black tiles (or whatever color you're using!) and lay them out in your pattern. This is where you'll scrutinize and finalize spacing. Take pictures, sleep on it, make sure it still looks good in the morning!
When you know you're happy with your pattern, use a dry erase marker to mark every tile you want to replace. Then, chisel them out! I used a flathead screwdriver and a hammer for this and found it worked best to chisel straight down, all the way around the tile, rather than to try to get under it. This least disturbed surrounding tiles.
Use a vacuum to clean out the areas you just chiseled out - any bits of mortar will add height that you do not want!
Then, mix up some thinset, put it in a ziplock bag, and snip the corner off. (Start small - you can always make the hole bigger if needed). You'll use this like a piping bag to pipe thinset onto the back of the tiles you're adding in. (If any tiles came loose during chiseling, you can pipe a smidge underneath those here, too.)
Pipe and place until the pattern is complete. Again, make sure to check the spacing by looking at the flowers and diagonal lines!
Let it set for 24-48 hours.
Grout The Tile
Penny tile requires a LOT of grout!
I chose charcoal grout here because I think it lends to that this-floor-has-been-here-for-100-years look I'm going for, plus, I don't want to be cleaning THIS MUCH grout. I love the look of white grout, and I could probably keep up with it for large format tile, but not here. Not here.
I actually thought the grouting was one of the most satisfying parts of the whole project. Make sure it gets into every nook and cranny (again, there are a lot of them with penny tile!), then wipe it all down.
Once the grouting is done, go back through and look for any pin holes in the grout. Take a finger full and add more in when you find one, then wipe it all down again.
Let it set for 48-72 hours, then go back and make sure there's no grout haze on your tile still. If there is, it should still be easy to remove with a damp sponge at this point.
Materials I Used:
- Ditra underlay
- Modified thinset
- V-notch trowel
- Penny tile (in matte black + glossy white)
- Lots of grouting sponges
- Grout float
- Sanded grout (in charcoal)
- Tile nippers (any half tiles needed, I cut with this)
- How to grout
- How to lay Ditra on plywood subfloor
- How to lay penny tile flooring
- The John Bridge tile forum
Have I told you I love this floor? I love it! We have lots more to do in the bathroom, but it feels good to have the floor DONE.