Subway tile - any reason to use higher end tile?

lafaciaMarch 4, 2013

Any opinions on inexpensive subway tile versus the more expensive? Is the look different and if it it is, in what ways? Is it worth buying the better subway tile?

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kgolby

I had to go w/ a pricier tile because I had difficulty matching cabinet color to tile. Yes, I could see and feel a difference between a lesser expensive tile compared to a high end tile. Does it make a difference when it's installed? I have no idea because my reno hasn't started yet. But just in appearance & feel I can see a difference in quality. It's like purchasing a blouse from Target & then purchasing a similar blouse at Neiman Marcus. More than likely the blouse from NM is going to look & feel better.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:47AM
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mpagmom

I put inexpensive Daltile Rittenhouse Square matte in my shower and it is great. I chose arctic white with a gray grout. I saw some really cheap subway tile at Home Depot that looked horrible. If one of Daltile's limited colors work for you, it's fine. I'll link an older thread on the subject.

Here is a link that might be useful: Expensive or Daltile?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:06AM
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tinan

I am planning to use the super cheap lowes or Home Depot tile. Once it is grouted how will anyone know? No one will be walking on it. The lowes is a brighter cooler white the hd is a warmer white. I am not sure why anyone would say it looks "terrible" it looks the same as any other subway tile and has a nice rounded bevel to it. I'll probably go with the lowes because the color is a better match.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 12:23PM
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tinan

Also in no way is this like purchasing a blouse. A backsplash tile is embedded on the wall, subject to very little wear, and is only seen from one direction. It's pretty insulting to those who may already have this tile and for those whose budgets it suits to claim that it looks "terrible". I've seen plenty if photo tips of these installed and they look great.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 12:28PM
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kgolby

I'm sorry if my opinion was insulting, not my intention. But nowhere in my post did I say a less expensive tile is "terrible". Obviously my analogy was lost in translation. The point I was trying to make was the more expensive tile I purchased was heavier in weight, had variations in color because its hand painted, overall, more character. A more expensive blouse has better quality fabric, better construction, etc...

The OP was asking for our opinions & I gave mine. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a "cheaper" tile.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 1:37PM
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tinan

You said "I saw some really cheap subway tile at Home Depot that looked horrible."

To each their own - but with a backsplash, it's hardly a place where brand name matters so much, so if one likes the appearance of a uniform subway tile, there is nothing "horrible" about it.

This post was edited by tinan on Mon, Mar 4, 13 at 13:45

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 1:42PM
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kgolby

Tinan,

That wasn't me who made comment about HD tile. I made the analogy about a designer blouse. Mpagmom was giving her opinion on the HD tile & how she felt about it. The OP was asking for opinions re: high end tile compared to budget tile. We offered our opinions.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 2:01PM
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mpagmom

Tinan, I am so sorry for offending you or anyone else with Home Depot tile. Home Depot and Lowes have lots of tile that looks very nice. There was one I saw last week, however, that I thought looked terrible. Maybe it was the warehouse lighting - who knows? My subway tile was cheap, and I think it looks good. My point was that cheap can look good or cheap can look bad.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 2:52PM
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needinfo1

I just picked up samples of white and off white subway tiles from my local tile shop, HD, Lowes and our local Menards so I've got these at home with me. There was an antique-looking, crazed one from the tile shop at $8.99 a square foot, the regular subway at the tile shop was $5.99 or $6.99 a sq. foot, and the ones from the big box stores are about $1.60 a square foot.

Go for the color tone you want or that works best for you. The only way I would pay the upcharge is if I were to go with the antique-looking one. Otherwise, I truly think there would be no difference once installed.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 3:07PM
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ellendi

It is all a matter of personal opinion. Things start to change when you compare them side by side. There are many differences between a handmade tile and a machine made one.
A neighbor has beautiful handmade tiles. When her mom saw it for the first time she asked why the tiles were so crooked! To each his own.
I think more than the expense of a tile is the color and style of the tile. If you miss the mark with the color, an expensive tile will look just as bad as a cheaper one.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 3:22PM
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sayde

Depends on how you're using them as well as color and style. In my master bath I used medium priced plain white subways, from floor to nearly ceiling. Other than the trim cornice and floor moldings, they are "background." The main feature in the bathroom are the marble floors, surrounds, etc. But in the kitchen I used a high end crackle subway tile in a subtle bone shade -- they are hand made and have a bit of unevenness and lipping -- they are really " featured" behind the range and just work well with the old wood and marble. Here a less expensive tile would not have worked as well with the other materials. It was well worth it to get the nicer subways for the kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 4:49PM
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lafacia

All helpful. So really there's inexpensive - Home Depot, Lowes and then mid-range Daltile? who else? and then high end - Heath Ceramics, Ann Sacks etc? And they range from $1.60 - $20 or so sq. foot?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 5:20PM
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ellendi

Are you looking for a specific color? Sometimes just trying to match the cabinet color can lead you to all sorts of choices.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:29PM
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ellendi

Are you looking for a specific color? Sometimes just trying to match the cabinet color can lead you to all sorts of choices.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:30PM
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kgolby

Even more than $20/sq ft, unfortunately. If you can find a lesser expensive tile that's a good match & you like it, I'd buy it. Like Tinan referenced in earlier posts the back splash doesn't get a lot of wear & tear so if the install is good you shouldn't have any issues w/ a cheaper tile.

The tile I chose to go with because I had a hard time finding one that was a good match with my cabinets was Sonoma Tilemakers 3x6 beveled subway tile in Butter. It's a crackled finish.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:33PM
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Angie_DIY

You may (or may not!) enjoy my musings that touch on this subject:

Here is a link that might be useful: Towards a unified theory of tile

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:38PM
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cindaintx

You can order the DalTile Rittenhouse Square subways from Home Depot. Ours has a sample board in the "custom tile" section.
It also comes in a larger 4" x6" tile that reads a bit more contemporary than the traditional size.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:30PM
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lafacia

deleted

This post was edited by lafacia on Mon, Mar 4, 13 at 22:06

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:55PM
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lafacia

Ha! Well, I read most of that thread. I think it's probably better if you follow along as it's being written than reading it all at once! : ) I'm most likely sticking with white for my subway tiles. And I will need about 52 sq. ft for my tiling plans. I would love to buy the nicest of everything but as we put our budget together - just beginning our kitchen! - hoping to sign with a contractor this week - I'm trying to figure out where I can save. Splurge sink, splurge faucet, splurge cabinetry, splurge marble countertops... it adds up as you all know. Thought maybe tile was somewhere I could save a few dollars. I have a sample of an Ann Sacks subway tile. It's a misty color - forget what color - and it's really appealing. It's very subtle but still has depth. But Ann Sacks would go in the splurge column. Something has to be in the other column! Sigh...

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:04PM
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kgolby

I agree. There's more important parts of a remodel, i.e. under cabinet lighting, pendant lights above island, etc.. So if you can save money on a tile back splash which will allow you to use your money elsewhere I'd recommend that. I wish I could have found tile in the $10/sq ft range. If you can do it and be happy, your budget will be in great shape.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:44PM
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artemis78

We went pretty low end with our tile--$3/sf, if I remember. Honestly, once it's installed, it isn't a big deal (assuming you're looking at basic shapes and colors). A bigger deal is the quality of the installation, which will show a lot more than the quality of the tile. We were going for a period feel in our kitchen, so I did shop around a lot to find subways that were uniform and flat with no pillow effect, but there were less costly options for that, too. I love Heath tiles and we haunted their shop for ages to try to find seconds in a color that would work, but in the end it just wasn't worth waiting weeks or months or however long it might have taken for them to show up. (Apparently blue tiles are the easy ones to find in overstock because of all the people who tile swimming pools--cannot even fathom the cost of doing a full pool in Heath tiles!!) The main reasons to do the more expensive options, IMO, are if you want the colors or shapes that you won't find in the inexpensive lines. Otherwise, you can get a very nice look from the less expensive options.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 12:53AM
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a2gemini

I was open to inexpensive to somewhat expensive tile - I had many samples.
I loved the feel and look of Heath tiles but couldn't quite get the color to match (and it was expensive)
I didn't try too hard to like Motowi tile - fortunately the wrong style and super expensive
I ended up with tile around $10.00 sq foot - although I did have to pay shipping.
So, for me - it was the right color that drove my decision.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 10:45AM
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lazy_gardens

"Go for the color tone you want or that works best for you"

Exactly ... and after checking out several brands of basic beige backsplash, I ended up with the cheapest of them all.

I really tried to spend more, but the handmade Talavera was too greenish, the crackle antique was too blue-ish, and all the other candidates were too whatever-ish when they were asked to play nicely with the granite and wood and flooring.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 3:44PM
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ILoveRed

I used an expensive Crossville subway tile in my bathroom, because I wanted the coordinating hex and beadboard tile. I do love it but honestly do not think it looks one bit better than the Daltile subway tile that is used as my kitchen backsplash.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 5:49PM
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annielinz

We just had ours installed, (yet to be grouted) but I'm very happy with the look and we got ours at Lowes. I was definetely looking to save some money and I thought this was a great area to do it.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 10:19PM
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tinan

kgolby, sorry I didn't mean to lump you in with the other comment, I realized they were separate. mpagmom, I was probably over reacting being sick and exhausted... and having just recently spend hours deciding to go with tile instead of beadboard after finding the affordable 23 cents/tile ($1.80/sq ft) HD and Lowes tile, I was a bit dismayed to hear it called horrible!

I am sure it would not work out for every kitchen - the HD tile has a definite warm tone to it, while the Lowes product at the same price point is a purer white. With these 2 choices, probably one or the other would work for most kitchens. If your backsplash area is large like mine, the difference between $1.80 and $10/sq ft is $100 vs $500, which is the entire budget for my kitchen facelift!

This post was edited by tinan on Tue, Mar 5, 13 at 23:53

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 11:16PM
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mpagmom

For what it's worth, Tinan, I was only looking at off-white matte tile. It probably wasn't the one you were looking at, and I can't remember if it was the 23 cents/tile or a special order tile. Sorry again for upsetting you!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 4:03AM
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pirula

If the bath forum resident expert Bill Vincent were here, he'd tell you quality of installation is 95% of it. A good installer can make an inexpensive tile look fabulous. A bad installer can make $100/sq ft tile look cheap.

Get what you like and can afford, and get it installed properly. I'm sure it'll be beautiful.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:30AM
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amandapadgett

I am not sure if you're asking about only white subway tile, or all subway tiles. We used travertine subway tiles in our kitchen. It was actually a bit of an accident, but I'm so glad we went with it. The patterns are all very different, nothing uniform or copied and put in a different place, you know?

The travertine was about twice what a ceramic tile made to look like travertine would have been, but we don't regret going with the real thing at all.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:52AM
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Circus Peanut

The only reason I could see to deliberately go more expensive is in the case of an old house purist who MUST HAVE the squared-off, completely flat white subways they made at the turn of the century, to match the rest of the house. There are only one or two manufacturers currently making those, and they're pricier than most contemporary simple white subways. As are their gorgeous but spendy components and shapes.

I'm a purist, but I'm also practical and poor, so I used the Lowe's gloss white subways in my own old house bath. (I think Lowes carries Daltile and Home Depot carries US Tile, if I'm not mistaken?)

Here is a link that might be useful: Subway Ceramics

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 11:10AM
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ILoveRed

Peanut--love old house looks and I love your bathroom.

I'm with you. Next house, I'm using the Daltile in the bathrooms and saving some bucks.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Circus Peanut

Oh, whoops - not my bathroom, Red! But nice, eh? It's done in those wonderful period-correct subways.

Here's mine in Lowe's cheapies:

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 12:02PM
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recyclist

We put a lot of white subway into our 2 remodeled bathrooms. We were going for the cheapest possible option, but our tile guy said that on the cheap stuff he's seen color from the clay bleed through the white glaze after a few years. Not sure if that's real, but we took his advice and stepped up to Daltile.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:32AM
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wangshan

I used the cheap tile and splurged on the perrin and rowe faucet. No one notices the tile !

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:33PM
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tinan

wangshan, nice! What grout did you use with the tile? I have ordered the Lowes tile and going to pick it up tomorrow with the adhesive and grout, and start the backsplash tomorrow! I plan to use white unsanded grout.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 11:02PM
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