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Subway Tile

Image of Subway tile backsplash
White subway tile adorned New York City's first underground transit stations in 1904.

White subway tile has been a perennial favorite of decorators and homeowners since they appeared for the first time in the New York City underground train stations in the early part of the 20th century.

Classically beautiful, 3”x6” subway tiles have a number of advantages to other backsplash materials. They are especially durable and resistant to stain, which is perfect for use in kitchens where the risk of food and grease splatters is high. They don’t need to be polished to maintain their finish and they’re easily cleaned with water or a mild cleanser. Because the color is fired into the tile or onto its surface, colored subway tile won’t fade like some other materials. Finally, subway tile does not absorb odor or smoke, another reason they work well in kitchens.

Prices on subway tile vary, depending on how the product is manufactured. You can buy budget-friendly mass-produced tiles at your local home improvement center for less than $5 a square foot. Or, if a handcrafted look is more your thing, artisan made products will cost significantly more. Don’t forget installation costs if you don’t feel handy enough to do it yourself. Labor costs increase when using handcrafted tiles because their lack of uniformity requires the tile setter to use a wet saw to make up for uneven edges. Other items you’ll need to consider purchasing if you plan on installing a subway backsplash tile in your kitchen or bath include grout, a grout float, tile adhesive and plastic washer screws for spacing, to name a few.

If you like the look of subway tile but want something a little less conventional, try Aspect glass tiles. These 3”x6” tiles, available in six colors, are an easy do-it-yourself weekend project that requires no grout. Simply peel off the backing and stick to the wall.