splef-ty \'splef-te̅ \ adj: nifty, novel, cool or clever.
historic preservation/suppliers/subway-tile
Thu, 23 Dec 2004

More on Subway Tile

I get a lot of hits from searches for subway tile, so I’ll put some more links in:

The Fifth Avenue line of subway tile from United States Ceramic Tile Company comes in 5 stock colors (4 shades of white plus black) and a dozen custom colors. This tile is sometimes carried by your local Home Despot. It’s certainly bargain priced at about $0.20 a tile, but the quality of the glaze and the squareness of the edges leaves something to be desired.

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Sun, 04 Apr 2004

Suppliers of Subway Tile

Subway tile (3” by 6” white ceramic tile) was ubiquitous in the early twentieth century but harder to find today. It is still in production, although most manufacturers have an “eased edge” to their tiles that makes them more forgiving of imperfect installation jobs, but loses some of the characteristic look of subway tiles. Here’s an article at Old House Journal that may be of help.

Here are some suppliers of subway tile:

American Olean’s Greenwich Village line is probably the easiest tile to obtain commercially. American Olean’s web site is very difficult to navigate; I was briefly able to find their hexagonal floor tile yesterday, but now I can’t find it again.

American Olean’s corporate parent DalTile also sells subway tile and floor tile. Their line is called Rittenhouse Square .

I couldn’t find Daltile’s hexagonal floor tile (which they do apparently make) but I did find their octagons and squares tile, and while I’m at it here’s their quarry tile.

Neither of these producers make a subway tile with square edges as was used in, well, subways. Today I found this distributor of subway tile made by Iron Gate (Meredith) Tile. (This was via whois lookup on the owner of subwaytile.net, which doesn’t actually resolve…are these people trying to sell stuff?)

The Iron Gate stuff certainly talks the talk: “Uncompromising in its reflection of the true period style, compare these crisp, square-edge extruded tile forms with modern dust-pressed imitations.” Well. For that you pay a premium price, $12.10 / sq ft as of this writing. I’m kind of disappointed that, with this kind of attitude, they only make 3” hexagonal tiles. The smaller 1” hexagonal tiles were much more common in sanitary period bathrooms. This is likely because the tiles are handmade, and it isn’t worth making 1” tiles by hand.

A sister company of Meredith tile is Metropolitan Ceramics. They specialize in quarry tile and are located nearby (Canton, OH.) They look like they ship a lot of quarry tile. I’ll probably keep them in mind (especially the less fast-foody Somerset line) when we start picking quarry tile.

Another high end manufacture of tile is England’s Original Style . We have a catalog of their Victorian floor tile. Beautiful stuff, but quite expensive.

I don’t get the handmade tile thing. I don’t want someone to be pressing my uniform field tiles out by hand. I want them to use modern production equipment to make the square-edged tile I want to buy, and I want them to make that tile in the United States. Instead I can get machine-made tile with rounded edges or hand-made tile with square edges. (I don’t buy the argument that machines can’t make square-edged tile; it’s just a matter of doing the mechanical engineering right when shaping the green tile.)

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