Spending Big Bucks on Plain White 3x6 Subway Tile

rahullJuly 5, 2014

I was at the "Tile Shop" chain store (tileshop.com) today and noticed that they were having a sale on their Imperial Bianco subway tile, which is basically plain white glossy 3x6 tile. It was on sale for $3.90/SF, 35% off their usual $6/SF.

Sounded like a great deal until I went over to Home Depot, where they sell subway tile for $1.76/SF. I also checked out some other mom and pop tile stores, and most prices were $3-4/SF.

Where do you think I should buy my tile? Are Home Depot tiles inferior in any way?

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lazy_gardens

I spent less than $1 per square foot for the plain cream subway tiles here, on sale at a local tile/floor discount place

When they are on the wall, no one can tell they aren't the $2.82 / sf Dal Tile from Home Depot :) Or even guess a price.

As long as the tile is suitable for it's purpose, cost doesn't matter. Backsplash tiles aren't walked on and don't get things dropped on them, so they only have to stick to the wall.

I did buy excellent adhesive and grout ... cheaping out on them is foolish, not thrifty.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:35AM
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scpalmetto

I had heard negative things about the big box tiles from installers I have used in the past but the tile installer we recently used said going that route was fine but to just buy at least 50% more tile than you think you need and pick out the best tiles to use and return the others.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 8:15AM
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rococogurl

I used $1.55 subways for my sister's bath reno and it looked great. No reason to pay more for white subways. However, be sure they are not irregulars or seconds unless you are willing to accept some flaws.

This post was edited by rococogurl on Sun, Jul 6, 14 at 8:29

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 8:28AM
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rahull

What kind of flaws would you expect on tiles from Home Depot? Are they hard to spot?

Also, how does Home Depot's US Ceramics tile compare to Lowes' American Olean?

A guy at an indie tile store told me that US Ceramics is actually made in the same factory and therefore identical to DalTile tile. Is this true?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:32AM
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jellytoast

There was a recent thread here where the OP questioned the way his job turned out using the HD subway tiles. Attached is a link to that thread.

Daltile subway tile sold at Home Depot is not identical even to Daltile subway tile sold at Daltile showrooms. That tile is made specifically to sell at a cheaper price point at HD.

I was at the home of an acquaintance who just spent "big bucks" on white subway tiles in his shower. Could I tell the difference between those and the ones from Home Depot? Oh yeah!

Take a few of your expensive tiles and compare them side-by-side with the HD tiles. Every white subway tile is not created equal.

Here is a link that might be useful: Daltile from Home Depot Installation

This post was edited by jellytoast on Sun, Jul 6, 14 at 10:32

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 10:23AM
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lazy_gardens

the tile installer we recently used said going that route was fine but to just buy at least 50% more tile than you think you need and pick out the best tiles to use and return the others.

I've done two bathrooms, with two different experienced tile installers, and neither one had a problem with the Lowes or HD tiles. We bought 10-15% extra to allow cutting and there were very few discards because of chipping.

Even my cheap cream subway tiles had almost no cosmetic issues - a couple of chips, no warped or distorted edges, and no glaze issues.

That installation you linked to had this info: I used cheap tile from Lowes/Home Depot and some of the walls may have been uneven Well, if the walls are uneven, it makes a BIG difference in appearance. You can hide more uneven stuff with an uneven hand-made tile than you can a machine-made perfectly squared, perfectly flat tile. Before I did my backsplash I checked the wall for flatness and corrected a few spots.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 11:13AM
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musicgal

Some of the prettiest tile in my house cost 98 cents psf. Box stores ability to sell bulk quantities helps the price a lot.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 12:33PM
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michellemarie

Do you have any tile discounters in your area? I like The Tile Shop, but find it is expensive. How about Craig's List?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 3:10PM
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susanlynn2012

Thanks for this post so when I am ready to look, I will note these differences and compare the prices.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 4:06PM
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jerzeegirl

Daltile subway tile sold at Home Depot is not identical even to Daltile subway tile sold at Daltile showrooms

I would think it would depend on whether it's from the same collection .If the tile is named Rittenhouse Square shouldn't it be the same at HD as it is at the Daltile showroom? Wouldn't it be false advertising if it weren't? If it's called something else or has no name at all, then that's a different story, but if they have the same collection name they should be the same tile.

That being said, I just looked at the Amer. Olean subways at Lowe's and I thought they were very nice. Thick and very true looking.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 4:26PM
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fishymom

I had samples of Rittenhouse Square from a tile shop and from Home Depot, different colors, but they appeared to be the exact same tile. I don't think they make different grades of tile with the same exact name for big box stores but some people insist the appliances sold by HD and Lowes are an inferior grade also. I'm referring to appliances with the exact same model number as available elsewhere being an inferior product just because it was purchased at HD or Lowes. Manufacturers often use different model numbers for different retailers for the same exact product, it is one of the ways they keep prices up, no comparison shopping or price matching if the model numbers are not the same. Look at KitchenAid Stand Mixers for example, lots of different model numbers from different retailers for the same exact product/color.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 4:41PM
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palimpsest

The white subway tiles at my Home Depot are not marked as Rittenhouse Square and are slightly different. You can order Rittenhouse Square specially, but the off the rack tile is a no-name product. If this is for the rental project you are doing I am sure the generic is fine. Plan for limited trim availability.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 5:45PM
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StoneTech

Tiles made by Dal and sold to HD and Lowes are, in my experience, pretty much identical. Is it possible to get "Builder Tile" or "Seconds?" Sure, but unlikely. I deal with Dal and HD and Lowe's alla time. Ever hear of "Economy of Scale?" Tile from a "Big Box" Store is generally gonna be cheaper if they are buying fourteen container-loads of them at a time.

Bottom line is to inspect your purchase and scream or reject a material if it isn't up to the standards you expect.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:00PM
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spanky_md

I used 3x6 subway tile from HD in two bathrooms and am now using their 2x4 subway tile on my kitchen backsplash. I have been really happy with the results--no issues with uneven tiles.

It's basic ceramic tile. I don't see any need to pay two or three times the price just because other people will.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:10PM
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Linelle

When I was looking for tile for my shower, I bought single pieces of Rittenhouse Square Daltile subways from HD. They also had the 1x6 quarter-round I was hoping to find, although they didn't have it in Arctic White. My tile guys got it directly from Daltile, but it looks exactly the same as the stuff HD is selling. Neither has nubs along the sides.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 7:13PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

I did not go with the generic off-the-shelf subways from HD because the ceramic base was a beige color under white glaze; I went with the generic stuff from Lowe's (American Olean) because it was purer white in the ceramic body. (not racist).
Casey

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 3:27PM
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