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What you need to know about Subway Tiles

A Brief History

These ubiquitous 3″ x 6″ rectangular tiles are enormously popular among the homeowners right now. The beloved, distinctive ceramic tiles made their first appearance in the New York’s subterranean subway back in 1904.

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New York’s City Hall Subway Ticket Station
Fanciful Guastavino tiles covered the arches and vaulted ceilings while ceramic subway tiles covered the walls
Image from oldtownhome

Due to practical and aesthetic reasons, these sterile 3-by-6-inch glazed white rectangles, which are easy to clean, stain resistant and light reflective, quickly captured the people’s hearts. Subsequently, these tiles made their way into home interiors and even hospitals.

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“1920s was a decade of tremendous design change and in no place was that more apparent than the kitchen”

Image from antiquehomestyle

Nevertheless, over the years, these simple white porcelain tiles slowly took on a life of their own, evolving into a mind-boggling array of shapes, colors and finishes. In fact, now we have beveled, stone, glass, crackled, textured, dimpled and so on subway tiles added to the mix to the meet the architectural challenges of today.

subway_tiles_02Image from oldtownhome


Ways to lay Subway tiles

Aside from the traditional offset pattern for the subway tile, there are actually 9 other ways to lay the subway tiles to add distinct personality and variety to your tiled spaces. Here is a simple round-up of the subway tile installation patterns which can be used.

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Images from a beautiful mess

1. Cross Hatch
Alternate between color and texture to add more depth and visual interest to the tiled walls.
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subway_tiles_13Image from backsplashideas

2. Stack Bond aka Straight Lay
In a stack bond, the subway tiles are literally stacked on top of each other, meeting at the corners. Stack bond subway tiles made the space look wider and more spacious.
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subway_tiles_14Image from pinterest

3. Traditional Herringbone
Named after the bone structure of a herring fish, herringbone is a classic pattern that adds timeless character to any design.
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subway_tiles_15Image from  pinterest

4. Running Bond
Running bond is composed of tiles offset by 1/2 tile per course. It is the most commonly used patterns in laying of brickwork. Variations can be achieved by offsetting the tiles. 
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subway_tiles_16Image from homebunch

5. Straight Herringbone
Straight herringbone is a variation of the traditional herringbone design. It is achieved by laying tiles at right angles into a zigzag pattern.subway_tiles_07

subway_tiles_18Image from viasanvito

6. Diagonal Herringbone
Diagonal herringbone is yet another variation of the traditional herringbone design.subway_tiles_08

subway_tiles_19Image from viasanvito

7. Offset
Offset is another variation of running bond tile style. The edge of the tile above it lays at the center of each tile below it.subway_tiles_09

subway_tiles_20Image from pinterest

8. Diagonal Offset

Diagonal offset is yet another variation of offset tile patterns.subway_tiles_10

subway_tiles_21Image from home-designing

9. Vertical Stack Bond
Vertical stack bond makes the space look taller and more spacious.

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subway_tiles_22Image from instagram

10. Vertical Offset Bond

A vertical offset bond is a combination of vertical stack bond and offset.

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subway_tiles_23Image from homedecorinfo

Number of Tiles needed for a Renovation Project

A simple formula to calculate the number of tiles needed for tiling is as follows:

Estimated number of tiles needed = Wall area/Tile area

Number of tiles actually needed = Estimated number of tiles needed + 5%  of tiles due to wastage

However, there are actually a number of online calculators which you can use to make the calculation easier; we have tile calculator from calculator.com,   calculator.net and besttile.com.


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