The Link Between Kitchen Backsplash Tile & Subway Tile

If you have been staring at the same piece of lime green linoleum or white tile as you cut tomatoes on your kitchen counter, you may have thought about replacing the worn out backsplash. Just like most other areas of the kitchen today, there are many new choices and things you can do with your backsplash today, that were not common 10 years ago.

First the variety of the tile today is almost endless. These include ceramic, porcelain, terra cotta, marble (mostly tumbled for the backsplash), and even small tin “ceiling tiles” used in the kitchen. There is even more of a variety in the size of the tiles and the old 6 x 6 or 4 x 4 ceramic tile has a lot of company now.
One of the most popular looks today is the subway tile while Spanish or Mediterranean looking tile choices are waning. Subway tile is rectangular and typically 3 inches by 6 inches. It get’s it’s name from, yes you guessed it, the tile that was used to line the inside of many a subway stations from the 1920’s to the 1960’s.

If you have been on the New York City subway system it may not be very appetizing to think of using these tiles for the backsplash of your kitchen counter. Unlike old Chicago brick and other items recycled from old buildings and factories we can assure you the subway tiles you will purchase are newly fired and fresh! Even with this not so pleasant image, subway tiles are the most popular choice today.
Most subway tiles have a smooth porcelain finish, and the grout will typically match the tile without much contrast. Also very popular subway peel and stick backsplash tile are tumbled marble subway tiles used as the backsplash. Tumbled marble is very porous and has the look of “ancient Rome.”

One problem with tumbled marble is the grouting. It’s very tricky because using a grout float to push the grout all over the place will fill the holes and cracks in the tile which give the tile it’s unique characteristics. If the tile is expensive enough and has this old unique look, we have seen various techniques used so the grout does not ruin the look of the tile. These include using a small grout bag to get the grout in the seams and not on the tile face, to actually taping the tile face, pushing the grout into the seams, and then pealing back the tape. Both techniques are very time consuming, but if you plan to keep your backsplash for many years, what’s an extra hour of work to do things property.

With tumbled marble, always seal the tile with a marble or stone sealer (two coats) before applying the grout.

If you are going with the smooth subway tiles for a modern feel to your kitchen, the grouting is much easier and let’s not forget why we install these things called “backsplashes.” We don’t paint behind the kitchen counter very often because it will find spaghetti sauce, red wine, and food pieces. When a blender sprays 300 red droplets all over your backsplash is when you will love your smooth subway tile best. Cleanup will be a wet paper towel. Hey, that’s why they used them in the subway back in the day!

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