creating custom subway tile

tanajoJune 6, 2012

is this even posible? we love the look of oversized subway tile, like this inspiration photo. we have a tile in mind to use, St. Germain. it has a soft linen look to it. we had a sample that we loved but decided against for our entry way but hung on to the tile. it doesn't come in a oversized subway format, so my question is; could we cut the 12 x 12 field tiles into 3 x 12 or 4 x 12 and use that? Would the edges be too sharp? we are complete DIY and DH has skills and tools to pull it off. maybe the tile we already exists somewhere that I haven't been about to find. I'm flying to the "city" today to hopefully fall in love with a countertop, #1 in love option is "star beach" granite. We've put the 64 feet of beautiful stone and glass tile that we already purchased for the kitchen into the bathroom project pile after not falling in love with any countertop that would work with it, so we're starting over again, good thing living without a back splash is really no big deal.

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the possible granite, color of our cabinets and St. Germain tile. The color of the tile may not be our final color selection, this has a bit too much blue in it but base color would definatly be gray. the floors are dark gray slate look.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:50AM
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I believe I've read on this forum before that a tile installer can cut tile, but that you'd better buy even more extra because some cuts may not work out.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:55AM
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Would the edges be too sharp? we are complete DIY and DH has skills and tools to pull it off.

On a backsplash, I think the sharpness of the edges that you can tolerate is, up to a point, a personal preference. (On a floor, I would not make that statement.) I think you should have him cut a few cheap tiles and see how you feel about the edges.

Would he be snapping the tiles with a tile cutter, or cutting them on a wet saw? If snapping them, the edges will be very sharp, and you will have to dress each edge with a stone. On a saw, the edges will be not quite as sharp, and you may be able to live with the as-cut edge. (It would be a lot faster on a saw, too, as you wouldn't have to measure each tile; just set a fence at the right size and cut cut cut.)

Then there is the question of the other edges, i.e., the sides of the tile. Unless you are using rectified tile, you will probably have to cut the side edges to match the long sides.

It is not easy to rip a long, narrow tile (4x12") with the long sides as parallel as they will need to be. You can use a wider grout spacing, such as the one in your picture or wider, to hide it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 11:45AM
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To me, your inspiration tile looks like 4x8. I agree with everything Angie said. It can be done but it requires some skill and really a tile saw is your best bet. If you are willing to give it a go and buy extra tile, go for it. Maybe try 6x12 for a size. That would be the same proportions as your inspirational picture and a lot easier to cut.

I looked at the St. Germain briefly and thought it did come in some unusually sizes like 6x24. But maybe I am confusing it with another tile by the same company. I know they have some weird offerings.

As far as how that one looks with your other selections, it seems off. Like not enough warmth for the granite and cabinets.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:09PM
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Angie DIY - we would be using a wet saw to cut the tiles. We have a brand new, professional model tile saw so I think we should be able to manage some nice cuts (better for the price of the saw!) I'm not sure what rectified tile is.... I would prefer to not go through having to create our own subway tiles but I haven't found what I'm looking for, yet.. but I've just started to search.
NewSouthernBelle - good eye on the size of those tiles, I think you're right. They are pretty. The St. Germain has the cool linen look that we liked, some texture without being too busy but I agree that th color is off, too cold.
I need something with some warmth and depth I think.
I flew into Anchorage today and picked my granite! amazing what can be accomplished in under two hours! DH wasn't able to go with me so the #2 son was given his proxy vote. I fell in love with the Alaska White (duh, Alaska, you had me at hello). the cabinet door is not mine, but the color is very close. I'm flying the installer down next week to do the template, I should have an install by mid-July! YAY I can't wait to post finished kitchen photos!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 11:37PM
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Cool! BTW, if you have a "turbo" blade (with both high and low areas on the side, like teeth), you will likely have small chipping on the cut edge. If your blade is smooth, you will have less chipping.

Usually, ceramic tile is molded to final desired size, then fired. The tile can grow or shrink a bit during this process. The edge is usually smooth and rounded. Rectified tile, on the other hand, is ceramic tile that is baked first, and then cut to final size later. The edges are sharper, and the sizes are more precise and accurate. Rectified tile is gaining popularity because, with the tighter size tolerance, you can use smaller grout lines. In a sense, you are making your own rectified tile (although I doubt you will hold the tolerances of robot-cut rectified tile, if my experience is any guide).

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 9:24PM
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Circus Peanut


We cut those exact St. Germain tiles in half for the field portion of a friend's bathroom project, and it worked beautifully. Those are great tiles. They are porcelain, so if you use them you'll need a different blade than the standard one that came with your tile saw. Get a diamond blade and you'll be good to go.

I can't find a photo right now but will post one for you when I do. I think we used the Gris color.

FWIW I also cut the square tile for my kitchen in half to make subways, and it also worked well (although these are ceramic and not rectified. Angie_DIY is right; rectified tile lends itself to later cutting better since the edges are all cut anyways). It's a lot of extra work but not undoable.

Remember that even the nicest tile saw will need some finicky adjustments at first to get the frame perfectly level and straight. For what it's worth, after I adjusted it I was very happy with my little Felker. Go for it and good luck!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 2:41PM
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circuspeanut, do you go by circus or peanut, teehee
anyway, I would love to see that photo! DH loves the tile for the texture, I think we'd go with a warmer shade of gray though to go with the Alaska White slabs (we've renamed them "spring breakup) I think we already have the diamond blade, he collects tools like i do shoes... oh these old things? had them for months! but we haven't ruled out finding just the right subway tile that is oversized. it's always an adventure!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 3:51PM
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Circus: (Welcome back!) You cut those Solistone subways???? Just when I thought I had heard everything you've done, you blow me away again! That is amazing. They look great; I just posted one of your pix today on my "Unified theory of tile" thread.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 6:15PM
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