White Penny Tile Backsplash: Classic & Timeless Penny Tiles

A white penny tile backsplash is a timeless and classic choice that can complement almost any kitchen design. White penny tiles have been popular for over a century, bringing a touch of vintage charm to both traditional and contemporary spaces. In this detailed guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about white penny tile backsplashes – from their history and design versatility to installation tips and maintenance.

A Brief History of White Penny Tiles

The penny tile backsplash first emerged in the late 19th century as a budget-friendly alternative to expensive decorative tiles of the time. The name “penny tile” comes from their size – each tile is about one inch square, similar to the size of an old British penny.

These small white tiles were mass produced using a new dust-pressing method that allowed for efficient, affordable production. By the early 1900s, penny tiles had exploded in popularity across North America and Europe as a way to bring decorative flair to modest kitchens and bathrooms.

Over the past century, the classic white penny tile backsplash has evolved from budget flooring to a hallmark of vintage style. Today, artisans reproduce vintage penny tile designs to meet continued demand for this iconic, nostalgic look. While technology has changed, the tiles maintain their modest one-inch scale and geometric patterning.

The Allure of White Penny Tiles

What explains the enduring popularity of white penny tiles after more than 100 years in existence? There are a few key reasons these miniature white tiles continue to be a sought-after backsplash choice:

Vintage Charm

White penny tiles are inherently vintage. The small scale and monochrome color palette evoke turn-of-the-century design. Using penny tiles on your backsplash adds an instant dose of old-world character, whether your overall kitchen aesthetic is traditional or modern.

Design Versatility

With their clean, neutral white palette, penny tiles complement any color scheme or style. They pair effortlessly with materials from stainless steel to brass to marble. Their simplicity provides the ideal backdrop to add pops of color through accessories or painted walls.

Pattern Play

The one-inch scale of penny tiles allows for endlessly creative patterns. From zig-zags to diamonds to spirals, white penny tiles serve as a customizable canvas to design your perfect geometric backsplash. Their repeated patterns have a highly graphic, eye-catching impact.


Today’s penny tiles maintain their budget-friendly appeal. The small size and classic material keep costs down. Penny tile backsplashes offer big visual impact at a fraction of the price of large-scale tile or stone.

If you love antique character and want to add lively pattern to your kitchen, the white penny tile backsplash remains a stellar choice.

Designing Your White Penny Tile Backsplash

One major perk of white penny tile backsplashes is the sheer versatility they offer in terms of design. Here are some top design considerations as you plan your perfect penny tile backsplash:

Select a Pattern

The options for white penny tile patterns are limitless, but here are some of the most popular choices:

  • Brick pattern – Offsetting rows create a staggered brickwork effect. Simple and classic.
  • Herringbone pattern – Rows of tiles form arrows that point in alternating directions for visual movement.
  • Basketweave pattern – Overlapping rows recreate the woven look of basket reeds.
  • Subway pattern – Offset tiles create the look of stacked subway tiles on their sides.
  • Pinwheel pattern – Tiles radiate out from a central point, mimicking the look of a pinwheel.

Complement Other Materials

White penny tiles pair beautifully with almost any material in your kitchen. Consider surrounding them with:

  • Marble countertops or backsplash accents for an elegant contrast
  • Exposed brick for an industrial vibe
  • Stainless steel appliances and fixtures for contemporary style
  • Distressed wood for cottage charm
  • Bold painted walls or cabinets to let the white tiles pop

Design a Focal Point

Use white penny tiles in smaller sections of your backsplash to create a focal point behind sinks, stoves, or prep areas. Contrast them with more neutral tiles or a painted wall.

Extend to Other Surfaces

Don’t stop at just the backsplash! Use white penny tiles to create an integrated look on multiple surfaces like islands, floor accents, or bathrooms.

Complement the Trim

Tying your penny tile backsplash into other finishes elevates the look. Nickel or brass metal trim and accents work nicely with the vintage style of the tiles.

With limitless configuration options, white penny tiles give you the freedom to design a backsplash that perfectly matches your kitchen’s style. Let your creativity run wild!

Installing White Penny Tile Backsplashes

Once you’ve planned your dream penny tile backsplash design, it’s time to tackle the installation. Here are some key steps:

Choose Appropriate Tile Grade

Penny tile backsplashes require Grade 1 tiles rated for wall use. Make sure to avoid softer Grade 2 tiles meant only for flooring.

Prepare the Surface

Proper prep work ensures your tiles adhere properly long-term. Thoroughly clean and sand the backsplash area, then apply any needed waterproofing or adhesion products.

Lay Out Your Pattern

Dry lay your tile pattern on the countertop before installing to ensure you achieve the desired layout and aesthetics. Adjust and plan borders before adhering any tiles.

Use the Right Adhesive

Opt for a white tile mastic adhesive to provide a strong bond without showing through the white tiles. Avoid multi-purpose glues which can yellow over time.

Apply in Small Sections

Adhere tiles in only a few square feet at a time to prevent anything from shifting before the adhesive sets. Carefully lay each penny tile in place.

Grout with Care

A white or very light gray grout maintains the clean, seamless look of the tiles. Take care not to smear colored grout between the small grout lines.

Seal After Installation

Sealing the grouted tiles provides crucial protection from moisture and stains. Use a penetrating sealant made for porcelain or ceramic.

With precision and patience, you can install penny tile backsplashes as a DIY project. Don’t be afraid to call in a tile professional if the layout gets too complex.

Caring for White Penny Tile Backsplashes

The porcelain or ceramic construction of penny tiles make them naturally durable and low maintenance. However, their white color does require awareness to keep them looking pristine over time. Follow these care tips:

  • Seal tiles every 1-2 years to prevent buildup of grime in grout lines
  • Use mild, pH-neutral cleaners and avoid abrasive scrubs
  • Rinse with clean water after cleaning and dry with soft cloth
  • Immediately wipe up spills, splatters, or water drops
  • Consider re-grouting if joints become stained or discolored
  • Avoid hanging wet dishtowels directly on backsplash tiles

The small scale and grout lines of penny tiles mean they require more frequent cleaning than larger tiles. A well-sealed and maintained penny tile backsplash will retain its like-new sheen for decades of daily use.

FAQ About White Penny Tiles

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about white penny tile backsplashes:

What material are penny tiles made of?

  • Most modern penny tiles are porcelain or ceramic for maximum durability and affordability, though more delicate glass and marble options exist.

What’s the best grout color for white penny tiles?

  • White or very light grey grout keeps the look seamless. Some homeowners opt for a light contrasting grout. Dark grout risks looking dirty over time.

How long will a penny tile backsplash last?

  • With proper installation and care, a high-quality porcelain or ceramic penny tile backsplash should last 50+ years before needing replacement.

Do penny tiles need to be sealed?

  • Yes, sealing is highly recommended after installation and every 1-2 years thereafter. Sealant protects the grout joints and prevents staining.

Can you clean penny tiles with bleach?

  • No, bleach and other harsh chemicals can discolor the white tiles and degrade the grout. Mild cleaners are safer for regular use.

How do you cut penny tiles?

  • Score and snap tile nippers or a wet saw with a tile blade create clean cuts through penny tiles. Take care with the small size.

Can I install penny tiles in a brick pattern myself?

  • Yes, the offset brick pattern is one of the simplest layouts. Use tile spacers for even grout lines. Have patience working with the small tiles.

How much does a penny tile backsplash cost?

  • Penny tiles installed by a pro cost $10-20 per square foot. DIY installations can reduce costs to under $5 per square foot.

Bring Vintage Charm Home With White Penny Tiles

For over a century, the white penny tile backsplash has graced kitchens with unmatched vintage style and geometric pattern. This iconic backsplash tile shows no signs of fading from popularity thanks to its limitless design versatility, budget-friendly pricing, and ease of care. With the right installation and maintenance approach, your dream penny tile backsplash can serve as a charming focal point in your kitchen for generations. Let this timeless tile style make a lively and lasting addition to your home.