Tuesday, September 06, 2011

DIY: Penny Countertop

Update: April 26, 2012. The store is open again and the penny countertop is back - only far, far better.

Update: January 6, 2012. We built the penny countertop for my friend's store, Shop Adorn. On January 2, 2012, an electrical fire burned everything inside. Read about it here.

My friend, Nicole, is expanding her Portland boutique and decided to go with an eco-industrial decor for the new location. We've both been scouring Pinterest for ideas and she fell in love with the penny countertops and flooring.

I found an amazing step by step guide which provides a complete run down on materials, timing and instructions. We did make some small changes such as using only one coat of resin but our surface didn't need to be kitchen counter-grade.

It's hard to know exactly how many pennies you're going to need unless you're able to do math (ahem, cough cough). We eyeballed it and fell short by around $30 worth which necessitated several trips to the bank.

Then we needed to prep the pennies which were washed and half were then rinsed in Tarn-X and then laid out to dry.

Note: after spreading them out to dry from the Tarn-X, make sure the pennies aren't stacked on top of each or they will turn green. In our case, Nicole loved the aged patina of the green so it was a happy coincidence.

Laying them out on the countertop was surprisingly quick (took us less than 4 hours). We didn't have a design in mind - just a varied mix of dark and burnished. And we threw in a few Canadian pennies here and there for fun. I think there's close to $60-70 worth of pennies here.

Right before we poured the resin.

Penny Countertop: before the resin

We bought a lot of extra plastic containers for mixing and Ethan labeled them to eliminate mistakes. Those resin gallon containers on the left were $150 for the pair which was enough for exactly one layer.

Penny Counterop: mixing the resin

We were too busy spreading and smoothing out the resin to take any photos in action! The focus was on covering the pennies and nooks and crannies. We used clean cardboard to spread the resin - oddly similar to spreading icing on a cake. Luckily, the resin took care of the leveling so that wasn't a concern.

The next stage recommended a blow torch to get out the thousands of tiny bubbles. It was a little nerve wracking before Ethan lit the torch but nothing went up in flames (pun not intended!).

Penny Countertop: with resin coating

And then a few hours of "pop the bubble" with some finishing nails. While the blowtorch took care of the tiny bubbles, it wasn't as useful for bubbles that gradually appeared as each penny slowly settled, releasing a pocket of air. This took place over a period of several hours so it was just a game of patience. And oddly relaxing. But it could have just been the fumes at this point.

In the end, it was exactly what Nicole wanted: a completely custom, unique, beautiful cash wrap. It looks like it's illuminated from below.

Penny Countertop: with resin coating

And now, I know how to make a penny countertop from start to finish! For those of you who are interested, this didn't really take all that long.

Time-line Breakdown:

Prepping the countertop: 2-3 hours. Ethan installed some crown molding around the edges that also served as a lip to contain the resin. The counter was already black so we didn't have to paint it.

Prepping the pennies: 30 minutes to wash and a few hours to dry (do this overnight so they're dry in the morning).

Arranging the pennies: 4 hours for the 2 of us laughing and taking breaks to eat.

Resin mixing, pouring and spreading: 30-45 minutes.

Resin smoothing: About 20-30 minutes with the blowtorch and then about a few hours just periodically popping new bubbles.

And then you wait 24-36 hours for the resin to cure and you're done! Unless you want another layer. From start to finish, I think the three of us spent 2 days working on it with all the everyday normal interruptions.

Things that we learned too late:

1. Make sure to buy enough pennies in advance. Banks only stock around $40 worth of pennies and they are loathe to give them all to one person.

2. Seal off any areas where the resin might leak through. Because it will leak. Eep. If in doubt over a joint, use clear caulk. Definitely, definitely use caulk.

3. Don't let Ethan choose the radio station. ;)

4. A sense of humor and patience is a must. Actually, we knew this in advance. Just reiterating!

And here's the finished countertop in its new space - Shop Adorn.

Penny Countertop 

 The final stage of this project - which was actually an extended Ikea hack is now up.


Link Party! Thrifty Decor Chick, House of Hepworths, I Heart Naptime, Perfectly Imperfect and Funky Junk Interiors, Somewhat Simple and Young House Love.


  1. Oh my gosh, that's stunning! Really beautiful! Way to be an awesome friend, Cindy!

  2. That looks fantastic! What a cool countertop!

  3. Holy cow. Coolest counter top ever.

  4. What an awesomely cool idea. Brilliant :)

  5. This caught my eye from the Thrifty Decor link up- What a great idea!! (And time consuming I'm sure!! ;) )

    Thanks- Ali

  6. Hi Ali! I updated the post to include the duration information. It actually didn't take us all that long - about 2 days from start to finish (not including drying time)

    It was a relatively small time commitment considering the huge impact! I was intimidated at first but now, I'd encourage everyone to try it!

  7. Such a great idea for a business. It looks absolutely beautiful!

  8. That's cool!
    We considered doing a floor once with resin but never got round to it.
    How long did it take for the smell of the resin to leave lol. Can be quite intoxicating eh!

  9. That has got to be the most unique DIY that I have seen in like forever!!! I'm posting it to FB!!!

    Beautiful and really cool looking too!!!

  10. what an ingenious idea! i love the end result! :)

  11. Thanks everyone! We were all really pleased and surprised by how well it turned out since we were just winging it half the time.

    Megan ~ I really enjoyed helping her. If you lived closer, I'd help you clean out Kend's computer room. LOL.

    Linda ~ Surprisingly, the resin didn't smell that much and I hardly noticed it. Nicole hasn't mentioned any residual smell but the place is fairly large and well ventilated. I heard that the optional layer of polyurethane is the really smelly one but we skipped that.

    I was thinking that if one wanted to try this on a smaller scale, a penny serving tray might be a manageable project.

  12. LOVE this! Incredibly gorgeous and your instructions are clear and fun. I have to try this on something, soon! Good job, well done.

  13. That is one way cool countertop!!

  14. Wow, great countertop. I've seen a couple penny items and love them all.

  15. Your project is so fantastic that I featured it this week at my Hookin Up with HoH Link Party!

    Feel free to stop on by and grab a button!


    Allison @ House of Hepworths

  16. I saw this on HOH and LOVE it! So a second coat of resin would make it kitchen-counter grade? Do you have to wait until the first layer is fully cured? (I absolutely hate our countertops!)

  17. I love it! I now want to make a coffee table with this top! I linked it on pinterest!

  18. What an amazing counter top! Just love it!!

  19. This is AMAZING!!!! I absolutely LOVE it and am so jealous - I desperately want something like this because it's just so gorgeous and wonderful! : )

    -Mel the Crafty Scientist

  20. I've had this pinned on one of my boards with the intentions of figuring it out on day. So glad to find your tips/how-to. It looks stunning!

  21. LOVE THIS! Featured you on my blog in my Friday Finds post: http://diykindagirl.blogspot.com/2011/09/friday-finds.html :)

  22. This is a great idea and I love the step by step. I'll be pinning you to my basement Pinterest board! We have been collecting bottle caps and plan on doing this with our basement bar once we drink enough... soda..ahem.. or beer! Thanks for inspiration!

  23. I love this idea, and I can see it would work beautifully for this application, but my past experience with resin makes me wonder how well this would actually work for a kitchen countertop. I guess if you are very careful you could do it, but I know mine would be scratched, stained, and burned within a month! Too bad, cause I really love the looks.

  24. This is totally amazing! I have been looking for a different kind of countertop but this is really cool.

  25. Holy crap...that is AMAZING.

    My boyfriend found an idea somewhere online for "tiling" kitchen counters, tabletops, even floors with beer bottlecaps, and we've been steadily collecting those for about a year. But this is WAY cooler. I'll send him the link. Absolutely gorgeous job here!

  26. I have gone through your blog and found some awesome work done by you. thanks for sharing the information. keep up the good work!

    Joseph @ Kitchen Benchtops

  27. I love this idea! Now if I can talk my husband into helping me accomplish this great table top.

  28. Hello, I am thinking of doing this in my rv. It looks like on the edges there are pennies cut in half. Did you guys have to cut pennies?

    1. Hi zzofie - yes, we did cut the pennies along the edges. I forget exactly what tool we used but it wasn't very difficult though it helps having some forearm and hand strength.

  29. Did you glue the pennies down before pouring the resin? That would probably help with the bubbles, right?

  30. This is a very cool project. Thanks for sharing. As editor of a countertop-related website www.CountertopResource.com I thought I had seen it all, but this one is new to me. Would you be interested in us reposting this article on our website? let me know. you can email me at info@countertopresource.com. Thanks - Brian

  31. Did you glue the pennies down before pouring the resin? That would probably help with the bubbles, right? quartz countertops vancouver

  32. Hi there! I'm trying to get in touch about featuring your penny countertop on Boston.com - can you email me at melissa@shoestringmag.com? Thank you! ~Melissa