Subway tile: very expensive or Daltile?

cmm6797July 26, 2011

I've been looking for a unique size subway tile for the backsplash and was limited to fairly expensive brands because we originally wanted 1'' x 6'', which is hard to find.

Now that we've chosen a 2'' x 4'' size this opens up a lot more possibilities. I found a Daltile in the right color (biscuit) for a very reasonable price. The other, more expensive manufacturer was almost $30/SF. Yes, the more expensive tiles are hand made but honestly they look machine made. My question is whether there's any significant difference in quality. I've never purchased backsplash before so don't really know what to look for.

When I hold the 2 tiles next to each other the only big difference I see is that the more expensive tile is thicker, but where would that even be noticeable once it's installed?

Any thing else I should consider? Thanks.

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Forgot to mention it is the Rittenhouse Square subway tile. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 12:13PM
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For our backsplash we used 3x6 Daltile subways. If your handmade tiles look like the Daltile and you're happy with that, then save your money and go with the Daltile.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 12:19PM
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We looked at the Daltile---the pro/con is that it comes pre-mounted with 1/8" grout lines---makes it easier to install for sure, but we wanted smaller grout lines (and you have to buy it in boxes of a certain amount rather than by the tile). But otherwise I thought it was great. Our other option was Heath Ceramics factory seconds which is about the same price as the Daltile but could potentially have wound up being more if we had to overbuy to get enough tiles and technically isn't supposed to have a narrower grout line anyway. We finally just decided we didn't want to deal with either so we went with 3" x 6" instead.

I asked about the tile thickness at our local tile store (whose judgment I trust) and they said it basically didn't matter---if we cared we could build out the mortar bed a bit for the thinner tile and we'd need to be cognizant of accounting for differences between our field tile and the liner we'd ordered from them, but otherwise it wouldn't matter for durability. Not sure how I'll ever know if it does matter someday, but for now our cheapish mid-thickness tile looks great. :)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 12:28PM
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I don't know what style of Daltile Artemis is referring to but the pre-mounted grout lines on our Rittenhouse Square subways is 1/16"
Here'a a shot.

It was our experience too that, as Artemis says, the tile had to be purchased by the box so we ended up with about half of a box of black and about 3/4 of a box of white.
Also be sure to choose a line of tile that they make edge pieces for. Not all styles come with bullnose pieces available.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Even if the tiles come netted, you don't have to use them that way. It's easy enough to peel them and use spacers.

There is a huge quality difference between DalTile and the best quality handmade--and it makes not a squeak of difference on a backsplash. The biggest difference for a backsplash is probably in the cutting. The DalTile may be quite a bit more brittle. For the price difference you can ruin a lot of DalTiles cutting out L shapes to fit around a window or switch before you come close to the the price of ruining one of the other tiles, so it shouldn't be a big deal.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 1:35PM
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We are using DalTile for a bathroom right now. It's a lot of tile so price was a consideration, but I'm happy with the look. It's just going up right now so it's ungrouted. I think it looks great and our tile guy says that is his favorite brand to use. He does kitchen backsplashes too with it.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 3:43PM
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We have Daltile Modern Dimensions 2x8's as a backsplash contender. I like that they come in matte and really like the colors (leaning toward almond). The downside for me is the uniformity of the color. I would adore some variance. The 2x8's are pricier at $14sft but the 3x6 are downright cheap. Love it. I agree with artemis78 on the grout line. I do not like mesh mount for the same reason, grout lines are just too big.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 4:54PM
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I've used DalTile in five bathrooms and a kitchen in two houses over 10 years and never had a problem. Still looks brand new, and the price is right.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 4:58PM
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I'd go with the cheaper tile. For a wall tile, the long-term performance will be the same. As someone mentioned, the difference will come in the cutting and installation. Handmade tiles might actually be harder to install given that they won't all be exactly the same. Your installer has to be very careful and conscientious or it can look way worse than a cheap tile installed well. Unfortunately, a lot of installers will also charge more to install handmade tile because of this, which increases the cost even more!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 6:00PM
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A liitle off the subject: My concern in backsplash coming in style and then going out of style, potentially in ten years having people say about subway tile, "Oh that is sooo 2010".
So I am mounting my backsplash of backerboard. When it is perfectly done (hopefully) I will raise the backerboard/tile and screw it with a couple of screws which will be hidden. In 5 years I can remove the backsplash and change the backsplash easily. I even thought of seasonal backsplash panels that could be easily inserted in a provided area.
My wife really wasn't buying the concept until she saw it 3 days ago on HGTV. The HGTV guy said he did it to make installing his complex design far less painful to create and install. Do it flat then lift up and attach. Trim out if necessary.
A permanent looking backsplash that can easily be changed when sunway tile becomes dated.
Incidentally my kitchen will require a few such "easy change panels".

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 6:52PM
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Cmm6797 - you mentioned that the more expensive tile is thicker. Sometimes that can be a PITA for installation around electrical receptacles and light switches. Also handmade tiles will have wider and slightly irregular grout lines, which is part of the charm of the look--if that's the look you want. Handmade tiles are a bit more difficult installation due to the irregularity. That means if you are hiring someone to install your backsplash, they (A) better be experienced with installing hand-made tile - don't have just anyone on your GC's team do it, and (B) may charge you more for the extra time and care to install hand-made tile. Again, if that's the look you want, it'll be worth it. Backsplash tile is not like, say, an appliance or a faucet you can easily switch out if you don't like it. You should get what you love cause it'll be pretty permanent.

We too are looking at the Daltile Rittenhouse 2x4 brick-joint which comes on sheets. We actually don't want the irregular grout look for the style of our kitchen. We want clean, small, even grout lines. Also, we wanted an easy (i.e. low-cost) installation, and it'll be pretty easy to install those sheets with the brick pattern laid out for you.

Artemis78 - the Daltile Rittenhouse spec sheet says 1/16" grout is recommended. I was surprised to see you cite 1/8". The sample tile sheet we saw looked like tight grout lines, but we haven't ordered the actual tile yet .Are you certain about the 1/8"?

Sherriz has a beautiful kitchen with Daltile Rittenhouse 2" x 4" tile backsplash. Search for her posts and you can see how they look installed.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 8:25PM
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Well between all of the above comments and the pictures, I was sold on Daltile. Then I had a chance to look at the sample in my kitchen in progress, with the actual lighting, and neither of the colors work!! "Biscuit" is too creamy and "white" is too white. Sounds like I'm stuck with the expensive one. Such a bummer because it really was a fraction of the price.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 8:48PM
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Are you looking at the glossy or the matte Rittenhouse tiles? The Daltile Rittenhouse glossy 2 x 4's come in two "whites". One is called Arctic White (#0190), one is called White (#0100). There's another color called "Biscuit" which you mentioned. We looked at the two glossy whites; we found the Arctic White too white, but liked the creaminess of the White #0100. Before you decide, make sure you've seen both the Daltile whites.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 8:56PM
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In my prior post, I should have said "semi-gloss" instead of "glossy". I.e. the 2 x 4's come in matte or semi-gloss. The semi-gloss finish offers the two whites that I mentioned.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 8:59PM
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We used Daltile Modern Dimensions tile in glossy Arctic White, (~4"x12"s) in two bathrooms. Looks great and I don't think our tile guy had any issues installing it.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 9:24PM
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These are from Home Depot and ship free. Not sure if they have in-store sample boards.

Here is a link that might be useful: chelsea

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 10:24PM
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The 1/8" grout line is specifically for the Rittenhouse 2"x4" tile that comes premounted in brick-joint sheets---this is different from the 3"x6" tile that willtv has, which you can definitely use a 1/16" grout line with. (That's what the spec sheet is referencing---we had the same question.) No clue why they use the 1/8" grout line on the premount, but we confirmed this with both our tile store and with several people at Daltile, as it was the deciding factor for us. My husband contemplated pulling the tiles off the mesh and just installing them individually with the thinner grout line, but we decided it was too much work. :)

(That said, we ended up with 3/32" grout lines in the end b/c of the installation method we used, and it worked out fine---1/8" probably would have been fine too.) Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 1:47AM
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Just ordered Mission Tile West Revival 2X8 in white. Their white was a little warmer than the Dal Tile; was $22 per sq ft but take off 20% so it's $17.60 sq ft which is not that much different than the Dal Tile that ptamom mentioned. (The Dal Tile is actually a tad bigger than 2X8.) Also the top surface of the tile seems flatter at the corners (less cushion). I can also get tight grout, which I want. When I learned of the 6 week wait I had them pull other white subway tiles. I didn't like crackle or beveled edges or the really rustic handmade look where the thickness or corners vary too much. Some of those would look better with grout that's more like brick than like tile. Mission Tile West Revival will have slight variation in color, more than Dal Tile, but less than the more rustic ones.

You'll know when you put different tiles side by side. It helps to see them on a board - take a photo to compare different boards.

Also measure your areas to see if there is a size that will make for fewer weird cut tiles. 2X8 made better use of the tiles for me than 3X6.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 1:19PM
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For those of you who used the Rittenhouse 2x4 brick joint white tile, what was your cost per sq. ft? I got a quote for my entire project by KD and it seemed really expensive. I need to do the measurements myself, but was curious. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:45PM
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