What Is Subway Tile?

Are you considering a new tile design for your home or office? Look no further than subway tile! This classic and versatile option has been a popular choice for decades, known for its timeless beauty and durability. In this article, we'll delve into the definition of subway tile, explore its history, discuss its benefits, and provide some design ideas and installation tips. Let's get started!

Definition of Subway Tile

Subway tile is a classic rectangular tile that resembles the tiles used in subway stations. It is typically 3x6 inches in size, but can vary in size and shape. One of the defining features of subway tile is its beveled edges, which give it a distinctive look. This design element adds depth and character to any space.

History of Subway Tile

Origins of Subway Tile

Subway tile's origins can be traced back to the early 20th century, where it was first used in the New York City subway system. The tile was chosen for its durability and easy-to-clean surface, making it the perfect fit for the bustling subway stations. Its simple yet elegant design quickly caught the attention of architects and designers.

Popularity of Subway Tile

While initially popularized in subway stations, subway tile made its way into residential and commercial design in the 1990s. People were captivated by its clean and timeless aesthetic, making it a top choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and other spaces. Today, subway tile continues to be a popular option for those looking to achieve a classic and versatile look in their interiors.

Benefits of Subway Tile


Subway tile is made from durable materials such as ceramic, porcelain, or glass. These materials make the tile resistant to stains, scratches, and water damage, ensuring that your tile will look beautiful for years to come. Whether you're installing subway tile in a high-traffic area or a wet environment like a bathroom, you can rely on its durability.

Easy Maintenance

One of the biggest advantages of subway tile is its easy maintenance. The smooth surface of subway tile makes it a breeze to clean, requiring only a simple wipe down with a damp cloth or mild cleanser. Additionally, subway tile is resistant to mold and mildew, making it an excellent choice for areas prone to moisture.


Subway tile can be used in a variety of applications, making it a versatile choice for any space. Whether you're looking to create a classic white kitchen backsplash or a modern shower wall, subway tile has got you covered. It comes in various colors, finishes, and patterns, allowing you to customize your design to suit your style and preferences.

Design Ideas with Subway Tile

Traditional Subway Tile Design

For a classic and timeless look, you can't go wrong with a traditional subway tile installation. This involves using white rectangular tiles arranged in a staggered pattern. This design is perfect for those who want to achieve a clean and crisp aesthetic that will never go out of style.

Modern Subway Tile Design

If you're looking to add a contemporary touch to your space, consider experimenting with different colors and patterns when installing subway tile. For example, a herringbone or chevron pattern can add visual interest and create a focal point in your design. These modern twists on traditional subway tile will give your space a fresh and unique look.

Subway Tile in Different Spaces

Subway tile can be used in a variety of spaces to enhance their aesthetics. In the kitchen, a white subway tile backsplash can create a timeless and clean look. Pair it with dark countertops for a striking contrast. In the bathroom, subway tile can be used in a vertical stack pattern for a sleek and modern look on the shower walls. The possibilities are endless!

How to Install Subway Tile

Preparing the Surface

Before installing subway tile, it's important to prepare the surface properly. Clean and level the wall or surface where the tile will be installed, ensuring it is free from any dirt or debris. In wet areas like showers, it's recommended to apply a waterproofing membrane to protect the underlying structure.

Installing the Tiles

Once the surface is prepared, it's time to install the subway tiles. Start by applying a thinset adhesive to the surface using a notched trowel. Place the tiles firmly and evenly onto the adhesive, leaving space for grout between them. Use tile spacers to ensure consistent spacing and alignment.

Grouting and Sealing

After the adhesive has dried, it's time to grout the subway tiles. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's instructions and apply it between the tiles using a grout float or a rubber spatula. Remove any excess grout and wipe down the tiles with a damp sponge. Once the grout has dried, seal the tiles to protect them from stains and moisture.


Subway tile is a versatile and durable option that adds a timeless look to any space. Its clean lines and classic design make it a popular choice for both residential and commercial applications. Whether you're looking for a traditional or modern aesthetic, subway tile offers a wide range of design options to suit your style. So why wait? Start planning your subway tile project today and transform your space into something truly remarkable!

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