With one week to go in the One Room Challenge, it feels So. Good. to say we’ve finally got our penny tile installed! It was a crazy week of progress, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result. Technically, it’s not “done,” because we still need to grout the tile, but the hardest part is behind us! A full-blown DIY penny tile post will be coming soon (gotta push through week 8 to get this room ready for reveal week first!), but in the meantime, I did post a bunch of stories on Instagram detailing the penny tiling process and saved them to a penny tile highlight, so if you want some tips and tricks, head there for now.
Here’s a recap of what we accomplished for week seven:
–demo’d the linoleum floors
–demo’d layer of plywood under the linoleum
–installed hardie board (cement board)
–installed white penny tiles
–designed the border and pattern for the black penny tiles
–installed the black penny tiles
First, we had to get rid of the old to make way for the new. The linoleum came up easily, and was installed on top of a 3/8 inch layer of plywood, which also needed to be removed. (You don’t want to install tile on plywood; tile and wood don’t mix because the wood can ultimately damage the tile.) Instead, you want to use hardie board (or cement board) on top of your subfloor as the base for your tile.
Once the hardie board is in, you can begin to lay your tile. Penny tile comes in square sheets with a mesh backing that you can easily cut with scissors, a box cutter, a pair of snips, or even just your hands. We opted to install our white penny rounds wall to wall, and then dry fit the black pennies over it to finalize our border and inlay pattern. This meant we had to pop out each white tile to replace it with a black one, but since we weren’t set on the border yet, it made the most sense for us. By the way, these gorgeous penny rounds are from the Alexander James Tile Shop, and using code Homeonharbor15 will save you 15% off your order!
We also used a cordless oscillating saw to remove wood from the door casing to ensure the tile would fit underneath the casing.
The most important part of this process is to make sure you start with a square, level line of tile so that you don’t end up with crooked installation. Our laser level certainly came in handy for this project! We started from the door and worked our way back to the shower tub in a straight line against the wall. After installing two lines to make sure they were straight, we worked backwards from the tub side and then worked our way out to ensure we wouldn’t have to step on the tile to get out of the room.
Then we let the mortar dry for about a day before getting started with the pattern design. We had a general idea of what we (erm, *I*) wanted, but honestly, this process involves a lot of trial and error. The penny tiles have a straight side and an uneven side, so in one direction, they will travel in a straight line. In the other, they will have a jagged appearance. This is something to keep in mind if you are planning a border, because the sides won’t be the same. They just won’t. And if that’s too much for you to handle, maybe don’t do a border. But I do love the character they give, it’s all in the details with penny tile.
We did have to problem solve what to do around the door casing (remember, we removed the second door from the original bathroom to give us more breathing room, but left the casing intact in case we ever wanted to reinstall it). I wanted the border to follow the casing (another option would have been to run it into the door/wall and keep the border in a rectangle) because I thought it gave more visual interest. The hiccup here is that the door is offset and the borders are not symmetrical with one another because the vanity side has 4-5 more penny rows than the wall side. So we played with options until we found the best solution. It’s not objectively perfect, but it’s the most perfect for the look we wanted.
The inlay pattern was another design dilemma itself, which involved lots of counting tiles, but the diamonds/asterisks we chose ended up working out perfectly, with even white spaces on all sides. (Insert confetti emojis here).
To install the black penny tiles, we had to remove each white tile where the black tiles would go. For the most part, the tiles popped out with a little leverage from a flathead screwdriver. Sometimes they took a little elbow grease. We removed all of the whites first before installing the black tiles. Place a small amount of mortar on the backside of the penny tile and then press it into place. Laborious, but satisfying. A quick tip if your eyes play tricks on you like mine do? Mark the tiles you want to remove with a pencil to make sure you remove the correct ones! (Robert did not need to do this, for the record.) But I found it helpful for the corners and angles!
And that’s that for week SEVEN! We’ve come a long way, baby. On tap before the BIG REVEAL next week: grouting, installing countertops, installing the vanity backsplash (should be a piece of cake after the pennies!), installing new lights, vanity mirrors, cabinet doors and drawer fronts, and hardware. Plus a few extra décor projects I might have up my sleeve. (Or not, if time doesn’t allow!)
I’m off to check out the other One Room Challenge participants’ projects now; I suggest you do the same!
Please leave any questions or comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts! And as always, head over to Instagram for the real time updates and some good video stories of how this installation process went.