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Everything You Need to Know About Subway Tile

Everything You Need to Know About Subway Tile

Subway tiles have been around since the early 1900s. They are a classic, modern staple that is perfect for both kitchens and bathrooms. Originally, subway tiles were white rectangles and had a more practical look. Today, subway tiles are a favorite of designers and homeowners because there are many options and fit all types of decor.

Subway tiles come in four by eight-inch planks or one by two mosaics. The tiles are tough and last for decades when they are installed properly. If you are looking for a beautiful, long-lasting tile for your kitchen or bath, then subway tile is a good option.

Color and Finish Options

Subway tile backsplash comes in many colors and finishes. The most important thing to remember when choosing the color of your tile is to consider how you want the room to feel. Choosing the right color tile impacts the surrounding elements. If you want a more tranquil feel, choose light green, teal, or blue tile. If you want a sharp contrast, choose a  dark-color tile that complements your existing decor.

Subway tile traditionally comes with a square edge. However, there are rounded edge options for a slightly softened look. If you want to mix things up a big, choose subway tiles that have beveled edges that slope away from the face.

Besides colors, subway tiles come in many different finishes. Glazes create tonal variations in the tile to highlight different aspects. For example, choose a glaze to highlight beveled edges. Another option is a crackle finish, which will create an elegant look in your kitchen or bath.

Grout Options

Grout keeps your tile in place, but you can also choose the color of your grout. There are four colors to choose from, but how do you know which one to choose? Each color brings out a different aspect of the tiles, so choose from black, gray, off-white, or light blue.

Black grout creates a dramatic look. Choose black with white tiles to create a sophisticated feel. The design is versatile so you can use it in the bathroom or the kitchen.

If black is too much, then choose gray. It is not as dark but still offers a contrasting look to lighter-colored tiles.

For a completely neutral color, choose off-white grout. Off-white grout words well with wood shelves and wood counters. When you want a neutral look in your kitchen or bath, then off-white grout is a good option.

To add an accent of color or to complement your colored-tile choose light-blue grout.

Layout Options

Subway tiles are versatile and there are many layout options. How you layout and install your tile will have an overall effect on the ambiance.

Herringbone is a classic look where the tiles are zigzagged at angles. Even if you choose a simple, white subway tile backsplash, a herringbone will create an interesting focal point in your room.

If you want a neat, polished look then consider stacking your tiles. Stacking your subway tiles horizontally creates a parallel column for a sophisticated feel.

Running bond style is probably the style you think of when you hear the word ‘backsplash.’ The running bond style has tile laid end to end with joints in the middle of the tiles above. The pattern is popular for a reason. It can be used in contemporary, modern, or traditional decor styles.

subway tile backsplash

The vertical running bond style is similar to the above, except the stiles are stacked vertically. This type of tile installation works best in smaller spaces, such as bathrooms, because the design makes the ceiling appear higher.

DIY or Hire an Installer?

Are you thinking about installing the tile yourself? If you never have installed tile before, then it is a good idea to hire an installer. Tiling is messy and takes a lot of patience. It also needs special tools to get the job done right. If you don’t have the right tools to create complex cuts, tricky angles, or set the tile properly then you may end up wasting a lot of tiles. Overall, hiring an installer will save you time and possibly money because of less tile waste.

Make Your Tile Last

Once your tile is installed, you want it to last for many years. Make sure the substrate or backing is flat. There should not be any bumps, warps, or springiness because this can cause the tile to crack. Make sure old grout, adhesive, first, and oil is gone before the tile is installed.

tile in a bathroom

Lay the tiles using a horizontal level and a vertical plumb line as a guide. Tiles or tile corners should not pop up off the surface. When your tile meets another surface, make sure to caulk the area with mold-inhibiting caulk to protect the tile and the backing.

Keep the joints uniform. Measure how many tiles are needed to reach the walls, whether it is vertically or horizontally. Shift the pattern so there are no small pieces of tile in highly visible areas.

Clean your tiles regularly with a mild, nonabrasive soap. If your tile was finished with a crackle finish, it may need to be sealed regularly to keep out dirt and water. If your caulk looks old, grubby, or moldy then it is time to recaulk the area.

Tips for Shopping

Order samples before buying all the tiles for your kitchen or bathroom. The finish and colors look different online than they do in person. The lighting affects the color too. To get the most realistic idea of what the tiles will look like in your home, order a few samples, and put them on the wall to see what they look like.

Choose Your Favorite Subway Tiles

Create a unique look in your home with the many options of subway tiles. From colors to finishes, there are many options for your bath tiles.

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