For over a hundred years, the classic subway tile has been a popular choice for bathrooms. Getting their start in the New York Subway system (as goes the rumor), these simple oblong tiles were glazed white and installed tightly together using little grout, making them easy to install and easy to clean. The tiles’ dimensions are generally 3”x6” or 4”x8”-in other words they are usually twice as long as they are high-and they are normally set in a staggered brick pattern. As indoor bathrooms became the norm in the early 20th century, so too did a desire for a cleanliness that bordered on sterile. Subway tiles were not expensive and were easy to install, making them more readily accessible for all budgets and levels of society.
These features are what have kept the classic white subway tile a popular choice in today’s bathrooms. Over the last century, a plethora of colorful tiles have come in and gone out of style, and yet we always come back to the white, or off-white color as the popular choice for tile.
Subway tiles are made in a few different ways, resulting in differing looks and price points. The less expensive tiles are made using molds, which results in totally uniform edges and sizes and can be installed by even the most novice homeowner. Cutting the tiles using a wet cutter takes some practice, but these flat thin tiles are relatively easy to cut once you get the hang of it. On the higher end of the price scale are tiles that are hand cut from hand rolled flats of clay and then glazed and fired. These tiles feature a lovely hand-made look with rich glazing and rougher edges, but they are much more difficult to install as they are not uniform and completely even. They are also harder to cut as they may or may not lie flat on the cutter. For these reasons, it’s usually recommended that a professional tile installer be hired as they will know how to “cheat” the layouts so that the installed tiles don’t look askew.
When embarking on your own bathroom remodel, here are five reasons to consider using the classic subway tile:
- Easy installation makes these tiles great for the DIYer.
- The hard glazed surface and minimal grouting makes tiles very easy to clean and resistant to mildew. It’s great for humid environments.
- The horizontal angle of the tile accentuates the width of the wall, which can be a good thing in small spaces.
- Although these tiles have been in use in traditional styled bathrooms for a century, they work just as well in more modern spaces because of their clean lines and surfaces.
- Due to the popularity of white or off-white subway tiles, you will be enhancing the re-sale value of your home, as they will likely be more appealing to potential homeowners.