Where can I find old fashion subway tiles?

schnauzerMay 5, 2011

I'm looking for subway tiles that are irregular in shape such as these. Where can I find them?


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Check out this manufacturer

Here is a link that might be useful: retro tiles

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 7:21PM
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Those tiles in your attached pic look pretty regular to me. That is the only way you can get that thin grout line. If you want irregular subway tile then you need to go the handmade route. Here are ours:

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 2:12PM
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Subway Ceramics are the only truly "authentic" subway tiles I have found that permits the very thin/fine grout lines one finds in subway tiles from the 1920s (Note that the grout lines are thinner than on Johnney's picture above). But at about 20 dollars a square foot, they are pricey. They come in a regular gloss glaze and a crackle finish that looks a little faux to my taste. They do not have the hand-made ripple effect of Johnney's subway tile above.

I hope this is helpful. I couldn't tell from your original post if you were looking for "hand made" rustic tiles or an original looking early 20th century subway tile.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 2:27PM
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I can't tell from that photo if the tiles are irregular, or if it's just a crappy install. It looks to me like they are regular subway tiles that weren't all installed straight and even, and there's grout that didn't get wiped off, hence the look.

(My apologies if this if from your mother's kitchen or something, but....)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 6:12PM
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Umm, that's edlakin's kitchen, and saved in many people's clippings as a nice example of a period install... :)

I think her tiles were handmade and thus might not have been perfectly square, but what's making them look irregular is the narrow grout line, more than anything else. Using a 1/16" grout line shows every little variation in the tile, which is why a lot of people who want that look use the Subway Ceramics or other similar rectified tiles to get perfectly straight edges. We couldn't afford that, so just got the straightest stock tiles we could. Fine, but not perfect. If you want to do a teeny grout line, though, you want to avoid irregular tile---you won't be able to set it properly because of the variations. (Many of the handmade tile places say 3/8" grout lines or bigger for their tiles.)

Basically, get Subway Ceramics or its brethren if you can afford it, and if not, get very regular machine made tile. (American Olean and Daltile are cheap and both work for installs like this.) In either case, use a 1/8" grout line or smaller (1/16" is best IMO)---what will get you the "old-fashioned" look, more than anything else, is the narrow grout line with darker grout. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 6:35PM
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And...that would be why I couldn't deal with handmade tile, but I am pretty sure I have OCPD. I can deal with clutter on the table, but if the pictures are out of square, I. Must. Fix. It.

I do love the sink and the faucet though!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 6:46PM
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I looked at getting some. Florida Tile makes a "handmade look" tile, it just didn't come in the right color for me. Pretty interesting tile.

Here is a link that might be useful: Florida Tile

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 6:54PM
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I used Subway Ceramics in three of my bathrooms. To be honest, I am not sure they are worth the difference vs some of the stuff youd find in a big box store. Maybe I got too chicken with my grout color, or maybe the grout lines still arent good enough (but my installer used the thinnest grout lines he thought were durable, and he is a high end tile guy.

I can shoot some pics if you like...

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 10:34PM
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Ooh, sorry, I also meant to say, if you really want authentic, you can find old ones.

I could not find lots big enough to do any of my baths, but I bet you could find enough for a traditional backsplash.

Try Demolition Depot, Urban Remains, Olde Good Things, etc

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 10:36PM
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Circus Peanut

mtnrdux, I think you could really tell the difference between the Subway Ceramics version and newer subway tile if you had them installed side by side. The American Olean 3x5 I have from Lowes in my bath are perfectly nice, but they aren't quite authentic in terms of flatness - they have a bevel to them that reflects the edges and makes them look more modern.

Schnauzer, both Emser and Lanka Tile make a nice white subway that's slightly less $$ than the Subway Ceramics version. You could also try Iron Gate tile.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 8:12AM
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We used the Lanka tile (Aquarello, though they have a couple of lines)---bad news is that Lanka has gone out of business, but we just bought ours in March and our tile store still had lots of stock and clearance prices.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 12:50PM
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Jeffrey Court's subways have a handmade look but that is more due to the coloring (which I adore). http://www.jeffreycourt.com/chpt17_field_tiles.asp
I think another good example of this are Winchester tiles.

Here is a link that might be useful: Winchester tiles

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 1:29PM
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Waterworks has some field tile that I believe is irregular.

Here is a link that might be useful: Waterworks

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 1:59PM
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I have Daltile in the master bath, American Olean in the hall bath and Subway Ceramics on the backsplash. While the two bathrooms look very nice, the backsplash has a much different look due to the perfectly flat edge and very narrow grout line. I think they were well worth the money. But, they won't give the OP what he/she is looking for, ie. a hand made look with irregular sizing. Subway Ceramics are very uniform in size.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 2:00PM
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I was able to find authentic subway tile to replace a few broken ones in my 1920's bath at a home salvage store. I live in ct and Stamford home wrecking often has a good selection of bath and kitchen fixtures. It is a game of luck tho...not sure if you could find enough to tile a whole backsplash but it would provide that period look. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 2:45PM
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Johnny153 - I love those handmade tiles. Who makes them and what color are they?

Dianalo - Do you know where to buy the Winchester tiles or how to find a dealer?


    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 9:53PM
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If you are in Michigan, Beaver Tiles in Troy handles the Winchester tiles. I was there last week and they sent me a sample of a beautiful 5x5 tile (but they do not have companion sizes to go with it for a BS). I checked this out thru their website.

You can email them and see where, in your area, you could find them .... they answered me the following day.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 10:30PM
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Thanks JJean!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 12:26PM
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Cheri, would it be possible for you to post pictures of your three different walls of subway tiles? I am considering ordering from the subway tile company but they seem quite expensive. I think he quoted me $16 per sq ft for the white gloss 3x6. I have a nearly 100 year old house and want something very authentic looking without the beveled edges. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 8:19PM
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