subway tile & chair rail - how to finish the edges??

kaypeakayJanuary 22, 2008

I have AO 3" x 6" subway tiles from Lowe's for the master bathroom shower walls. I also have the decorative "pencil" tile (1/2" x 6") and chair rail (2" x 6"), to use on the top of the tile for a crowning border at the top. I am confused, though :(

Here's why:

We have a walk in shower, with no door, just a doorway - think of a 5' x 5' box with an opening for the door.

The chair rail piece has no "corner" or anything to make it ease down onto the wall, and not show a gaping hole/opening from the side. Also, the subway tiles do not appear to come in a bullnose variety. So how do you get a nice edge, when the tile isn't butting up to a wall but rather is just "ending" on a wall if there's no bullnose?

Also - We have shower niches. I searched and found some threads showing a couple of shower niches, but are there any more? Or, better yet, any using subways? We were thinking of using 6" x 6" bullnose tiles and cutting them in half to use on the recessed shelf/niche. Perhoas I should do that for the "open" edges as well. We were also thinking of cutting a 45 degree angle in the chair rail and then cutting a small butt end piece from the chair rail to insert, (like how some trim is done so the cut edge is never shown).

Is there an easier solution?

Thank you for any tile guidance on this.


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One of the downsides to the very low priced tile at Lowes is that you don't have a lot of the trim options you would have if you bought the tile at a tile store. The color there is "gloss white" which isn't an exact match for "ice white" which is AO's tile store standard white.

Lowes does have a bullnose in gloss white but it's 2x6 (they have it in both gloss white and ice white so make sure you get the right white). It's not as elegant as being able to get actual subway tile with bullnose on the short side for ending things as you have to make a "frame" but if you can work with it, the Lowes tile is a great bargain. I think it would look nice for framing a niche though. I'm planning to use chair rail to frame my niche.

I'm not sure how to handle the return on the chair rail pieces and whether what you want to do would work but I'm sure one of the tile guys would chime in. I do think that it will create a very sharp corner if it works. Generally AO makes a rounded outside corner piece that can be used but again, not available at lowes.

The thing I did (purchased but not installed yet) was to combine lowes field tile with chair rail from a tile store. AO makes colored chair rails as part of their "sizzle strips" line in ice white, almond, sunglo, burgundy, olive, storm grey and gloss black. I went for the gloss black, which is an exact match for the black liners at Lowes. My tile store was reasonable for the chair rail pieces, a bit less than Lowes actually (their chair rails are no big bargain) but the 1/2 x 6" liners were about 3x the price at the tile store. You have to shop around. I didn't need any outside corners, I just did this because I wanted to, but it would allow you to use more trim pieces if you used a contrasting color to the white. To see the colors go to AO's site, go to designer basics and on the 3rd page are sizzle strips. Anything with a superscript "1" is available in chair rail. Their site does not allow a direct link that works.

Here is a picture of what I am planning to do, the field tile, liners and embossed deco is from Lowes and the chair rail is from the tile store. I'm no longer planning to use that floor, budget cuts had to be made to accommodate additional plumbing expense, so I am also using octagon and dot tile from the big box stores at $2.29/sf.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 8:08AM
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You can get bullnose subway tiles finished on the short end or the long end. I'm not sure if Lowes sells them but a tile store will. A tile store will also have corners for the chair rail. The inside corners will be mitered cut by the installer.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 8:55AM
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As for the chair rail, thatr's also an easy one. Miter the last piece, and then cut a "plug" for the mitered end:

You can get bullnose subway tiles finished on the short end or the long end. I'm not sure if Lowes sells them but a tile store will.

If they have the flat tile, they can get the trim, as well, and not just in the 2x6 cap.

A tile store will also have corners for the chair rail.

Not necessarily. Some lines don't HAVE corners.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 5:30PM
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No they can't get the trim. I've tried. :/ It's not special order tile, it's their basic in stock stuff. What you see on the shelves is what they've got. Please let me know if you have better luck with that though and how you managed to get your hands on some.

The question was specifically about AO tile and their chair rail does have corners. However a tile store will have ice white chair rail and corners and Lowes has gloss white tile in their in stock subway and chair rail. When held up together the ice white has a slightly greenish undertone and the gloss white has a slightly pinkish undertone. Neither are perceptible until you put them together, which is why I wouldn't mix, but then that would make me crazy. :)

Good to know you can just do a mitered return for an outside corner though.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 2:42AM
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My builders are at the Daltile store right now, and I think they are going to order the Daltile subway bullnose tiles and other finishing (chair rail) corner pieces in the Daltile white color, which, as kgwlisa noted may not be exact matches for AO's "gloss white" subways from Lowe's. But, hopefully it won't be that obviously different... I am trying hard to be the "look at the forest, not the individual trees" kind of person, but my "wild" detail-oriented nature is hard to tame:)

I'll post some pics of the bath when this is done.

PS - I chose Mapei Silver grout.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 12:11PM
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Lisa, they may not be willing to order the pieces, but I'm telling you-- if they can get one piece of AO, they can get ANY piece of AO.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 12:28PM
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I believe that this particular line of tile is outside of their normal line and made exclusively for Lowes. The color is not the same as their normal line of tile and they just don't make some of the pieces.

They CAN special order anything you can get at a regular tile store - ie AO's ice white subway tile (with all of the accessory pieces), but at about 6 times the price of their gloss white in stock subway tiles (more expensive than local tile stores). Lowes "gloss white" is not available anywhere but Lowes and only in the pieces they stock. Believe me, I went several rounds with them on this in more than one store. What they have in stock is what they have for their very inexpensive line of tile.

kaypeakay, have you priced out just using daltile rittenhouse square for the whole project? I've seen some really great prices on that stuff posted here. For some reason AO (except in stock at Lowes) is much more expensive. Maybe you won't have to mismatch.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 1:12PM
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