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What is Penny Tile?

By Kate Monteith
Updated May 16, 2024
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Penny tiles are very small tiles, usually about .75 inches to 1 inch (1.9 to 2.54 cm) across. Penny tile can be used to decorate kitchens, bathrooms, pools, and other wet areas. Sometimes called penny rounds, these tiny tiles are available as square, round or hex tiles. Penny tiles are meant to make a decorating statement, and the visual effect is one of classic beauty.

Penny tile is usually made of shimmering porcelain, ceramic, or glass. The small tiles are secured in neat rows to a durable fiberglass mesh material, leaving just enough space between each tile for grout. The sheets of netting are easy to cut to any desired shape. The penny tile sheets can be set and grouted in a very short time, yet the overall effect looks as if a great deal of labor was involved. Sheets of porcelain penny tiles cost approximately $5 to $7.50 US Dollars per square foot.

Penny hex tiles can offer an authentic historic style in an older home. Unglazed, hexagon-shaped penny tiles were a popular decorating choice in early 20th century homes, but fell out of favor after World War II. The style of the penny tile is making a resurgence in today’s decorating choices, especially with homeowners who desire an authentic, retro look in kitchen or bathroom areas. The small tiles are available in typical patterns from the past, such as basket weave and checkerboard patterns. Consumers can choose a classic palette of color, or a contemporary spectrum to reflect today’s sensibilities.

An unexpected material used to make penny tile is cork, a natural substance that has been harvested for years to make floors. Cork penny rounds are exceptionally beautiful and durable, and they are found in some of the finest homes and public buildings. Surprisingly, cork penny tiles are water resistant, and when a proper sealant is applied, cork tiles may be used in tub and shower areas without concern. Cork penny round tile comes attached in rows to sheets of heavy paper, and costs around $15 USD per square foot.

Metal penny tile is an extravagant decorating choice, but the look can provide a sleek and modern backdrop for any room. These shiny little tiles may be made of silver alloy, stainless steel, copper, zinc or aluminum. At a cost of $65 USD per square foot on average, metal penny rounds are a budget buster for most people. Simulated metal penny round tiles can be found at a fraction of the cost.

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Discussion Comments
By SZapper — On Feb 22, 2012

I have seen some older home with unglazed hexagon penny tiling. I think it looks pretty cool, but I can't think of any newer homes that I've seen penny tiling in. However, I don't have any friends with houses decorated in a retro style either!

I'm not surprised that this tiling is making a resurgence in popularity, because it seems like a lot of decorative trends do. Maybe in a few years penny tiling will become the norm again instead of being considered retro!

By JaneAir — On Feb 21, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I guess you could make some pretty cool floor tile designs with penny tile. They're so small they could almost work like pixels do in a digital photo!

I have to admit I'm very surprised these tiles come in cork. I would never have thought of cork as a water proof choice for tiling. However, cork is a pretty hardy substance. I'm sure with a sealant on, it's even more hardy. I could definitely see the allure in using cork tiling for decoration.

By JessicaLynn — On Feb 21, 2012

I think glass penny tile is one of the best choices for decorating a kitchen or bathroom. You can use it to make a lot of really neat looking designs, because it's so small. It's easy to make a shaded pattern of some sort when you're working with smaller building blocks.

Also, most types of penny tile aren't that expensive compared with some other kinds of tile. I'm pretty sure making a kitchen backsplash or tiling a portion of a bathroom floor would be a pretty economical do it yourself project.

Unless you decided to use one of the more expensive kinds of penny tile, like the metal kind. I think in that case I would just let a professional do it rather than risk ruining such expensive tiling.

By StarJo — On Feb 20, 2012

@cloudel – I think that marble penny tile would meet your requirements. I have this type of floor in my kitchen, and it masks dirt and scars rather well.

Since it is marble, it consists of a background color swirled with black and gray. So, I have to remember to sweep or vacuum once a week, because the dirt on the floor hides from me so well that I don't notice it's dirty!

I have seen marble penny tile that comes in a honeycomb pattern. The gaps between these tiles were the smallest I have seen, so you might want to go with this to keep dirt out of the grout area. However, you will have to look very closely to even see the dirt.

By cloudel — On Feb 19, 2012

Can anybody recommend a good type of penny tile for my floor? I am wanting to rip up the old linoleum in my dining room and replace it with something stylish.

I have children and dogs in the house, so it needs to be something that can stand up to lots of foot traffic. It would be great if it could somehow camouflage dirt, too, but that might be asking too much.

Should I go with round or square? It seems like round would look cool, but I'm afraid the gaps between the tiles might be too big and capture dirt.

By wavy58 — On Feb 19, 2012

I have a penny tile backsplash that matches the paint on my kitchen walls and cabinets. The penny tiles are a mixture of off-white, light green, and sky blue, and they are placed at random for a casual effect.

My kitchen walls are light blue, and my cabinet door handles are light green. The countertops are off-white so that stains won't show up so badly, and I think it's good that the penny tiles are not pure white for the same reason.

Everything in the kitchen seems to accumulate grease very easily, so colored penny tiles are best. I like the fact that they don't actually absorb the grease, so it is easy to wipe it off with some cleaner and a wet cloth.

By kylee07drg — On Feb 18, 2012

My bathroom walls are covered in penny tiles. I mixed up green and blue little squares for a cool sea water look.

The tiles are naturally shiny, and they look even shinier right after someone takes a shower and the moisture is clinging to them. I think that the colors are very appropriate for a room where water is used so often.

You might think that penny tile walls would be a pain to clean, but they really aren't. I can just rub them with a towel while they are still moist from condensation, and they regain their shine.

By anon116066 — On Oct 05, 2010

Good article - especially about one subject.

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