Penny Kitchen Countertops: An experimental idea

Continuing down the rabbit hole of my Kitchen renovation — the next step was to complete a countertop and backsplash makeover. I went through a variety of options and settled upon something that was DIY friendly, unique, and relatively inexpensive.

I chose to remake my countertops out of pennies. That is correct….I said pennies.

To make things interesting, I’ve included a “before” picture below. This was with me beginning to clean out the kitchen and prepare for the new countertops.

Countertops Before 2018
Starting the process!

Summary of steps:

  1. Clean the laminate countertops and backsplash with a grease remover.
  2. Rough the laminate up with sandpaper.
  3. Paint & Primer the countertops black for a good backdrop behind the pennies.
  4. Layout main section of pennies in the style/pattern of your choosing.
  5. Cut edge pennies to have them “end” at the edge of the countertop
  6. Pour 3 layers of Epoxy over the countertops to seal everything in place
  7. Install finishing touches as desired; edge trim and backsplash

Summary of Countertop Costs:

  1. $95.00 = Pennies
  2. $135.00 = Epoxy
  3. $15.00 = Paint
  4. $15.00 = Glue & Tape & Caulk
  5. $35.00 = Misc Items
  6. $20.00 = Edge trim board

Total Project = $315.00


To begin, I started cleaning off years of grime and cooking grease that inherently builds up on countertops. Household cleaners work great to start and then wipe the laminate down with a mixture of ammonia and water.

Next, I took a rough sand paper and sanded the laminate countertops to give it texture. You should be able to feel the texture by hand after wiping away the sanding dust. After another round of cleaning (to remove all sanding particles), I began painting the countertops using a black paint + primer.

Countertops Painted 2018
Paint + Primer brushed onto countertops

After removing the sink, it was time to start laying some pennies. This is a relatively time staking process and involves placing each penny independently by hand. Insure the edges touch the neighboring pennies and that you place you coins with the side up of your choosing. Personally, I chose all pennies with tails up.

One trick I used was to brush on some fresh paint before laying a section of pennies. Rather than gluing each individual penny; the paint served as a temporary holder until my epoxy sealed everything in place. The only places I used glue was on the edge pennies.

Countertops Penny laying 2018
Using wet paint to get pennies to stay in place

Next, I got out my handy Tin Snips and began cutting pennies in half. I found there is no way to do this besides a few hours of “sit and snip.” It makes for a sore hand, and I recommend a variety of sizes to help fill all gaps around the edges and up to the lip of the countertop. After collecting a large number of half pennies and quarter pennies, I glued these securely to the back and front edges of the countertops. If you have perfectly straight countertops — this might not be required on both the back and front edges.

Countertops Before Tape and Epoxy 2018
Pennies on, sink removed, and edges snipped: Right before Epoxy

Before finishing the pennies, I had to remove my sink to make a clear countertop space. I also snipped half pennies to reach all the way underneath where the new sink would overlap. Using a drop in sink vs a under mount sink makes this much easier. I’m not sure how I could’ve used an under mount sink in this particular scenario.

After all my penny edges were done, It was time to epoxy over my new penny covered surface. Use foil tape (in the HVAC section of your hardware store) to make edges to hold in the epoxy. The epoxy is self leveling and will run off the countertops if you don’t put up an edge barrier to hold it all in. Also, don’t forget to make a tape edge around the sink cut out. Put the tape about 1/2 inch above the countertop surface to prevent any epoxy from overflowing. You do not want epoxy dripping on your cabinets or floor. Be liberal with drop cloths and plastic to protect everything just in case.

Countertops With Tape No Epoxy 2018

Finally, its time to do the only “difficult” part of this project. You need to prepare for covering your penny surface with several layers of self leveling epoxy. I purchased mine from Amazon and chose the “Pro Marine Supplies: Crystal Clear Bar Top: 2 Gallon Kit.” Using Epoxy involves exact reading of the manufacturers directions and precise timing. I had one batch come out a milky hazy tone, and pitched it rather than trying to see if cleared up after the pour.

The 2 gallon kit covered my 24 sq ft of countertop. It included 1 gallon of Epoxy and 1 gallon of Hardener. I purchased 10 measurement containers from the hardware store; I would highly recommend 24 oz buckets for this project. You need to have the parts mixed exactly for the Epoxy to turn out correctly. My containers were 24 oz each and included measurement lines at both 12 oz and 24 oz.

We poured two containers as a seal coat. Waited 6 hours. Poured another 2 containers. Waited 12 hours. Poured a single third container.

**If I did this again — I would’ve insured we had enough epoxy to do a full two containers on the last/third pour; we ran out and I’ll talk about how we messed that up later in this blog.

  1. Pour Epoxy (A) into measurement container up to 12 oz line. Pour Epoxy Hardener (B) into the same container until level reaches 24 oz line. Try to be very exact with this.
  2. Use a wooden stir stick and began mixing the two semi-liquid compounds together for exactly 5 minutes. Changing the rotation of your stir every 30 seconds. STIR BY HAND.
  3. Now pour the mixed epoxy into a second container, scraping the sides of the first mixing container to get everything out as much as possible. Throw away the first container.
  4. Continue mixing in the new container for 5 minutes.
  5. Have your partner start the next batch while you are stirring the second container.
  6. After you finish the mixing process you should have a clear bucket of glue thickness Epoxy liquid. There will be some small bubbles inside the epoxy, don’t worry about these. Begin to slowly pour the epoxy in large sections on the countertop. I poured it in sections about the size of a dining plate.
  7. Use a foam brush to help spread the epoxy and meet the pours together. Do not spread the material too thin, you should see it roll over the edges of your pennies and drop into the area in between. Try not to pull any pennies up while brushing….we only had that problem in one section and I quickly pushed it back into place. POUR SLOWLY and BRUSH GENTLY!
  8. Take the now stirred second container from your partner and repeat the pouring process in the next area of countertop. Each container covered about 12 sq ft of countertop for us.
  9. The self leveling nature of Epoxy will “settle” slightly over the next 15 minutes and epoxy will drift towards the edges and fill in many of the gaps.
  10. After 15 minutes of leveling; to remove small air bubbles, use a propane torch and hold the flame about 2 inches above the bubble for less than a second. You will see the bubbles disappear instantly from the heat.
Countertops Epoxy Buckets 2018
Cover EVERYTHING in plastic while mixing epoxy!

Your goal for the first pour is not to get a perfect glass sheet over the pennies. You want to get everything sealed into place and have the gaps between your pennies filled. I waited 6 hours and the Epoxy was semi hard. My first pour got everything covered, but you could still see some of the pennies sticking through the epoxy glaze. The second pour fully covered everything in an even sheet, with the exception of a few spots and corners.

Countertops Epoxy Edge Tape 2018
Second Layer of Epoxy poured

After waiting overnight, I had enough epoxy left for 1 single 24 oz epoxy pour. I went around and poured small sections where the previous layers hadn’t full covered. I should have gotten more and done a complete final layer. Without enough epoxy to spread over the entire surface, I ended up with some lines and edges in certain places — essentially you can see where I filled in the gaps because there wasn’t enough to cover the entire surface. Spreading too thin left streaks in my final coat, so don’t try that either. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone would notice these imperfections besides myself…but it is something to watch out for. Only pour enough epoxy if you can cover the entire area.

After the epoxy had fully cured for 48 hours; I removed the foil tape, and sanded the epoxy edges where it met the tape border. I then purchased a 10 ft length of floor trim. This was flexible enough to make the curve in my countertop. My plan is to wrap this edge piece in solid copper, but that will be in a couple months. Before installing the edge trim; I spray painted the edging with Copper color paint and put 2 layers of polyurethane on. I them drilled it directly into the countertop edges and clear caulked between the countertop and the edge trim.

 

Countertops Finished 1 2018
Finished countertops with sink installed

Written By:

Luke Langhals


More Pictures:

Countertop Before & After Edited 2 2018
Before and After picture

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