3 X6 Glass Subway Tile's Humble Origins

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    On October 27th,1904 the ticket office at the City Hall subway station in New York City opened for the first time. The walls and archways of his iconic new facility featured ceramic subway tiles. Architects George C. Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge who were hired to work on the subway came up with the idea to use the 3x6  subway tiles so they could implement a variety of patterns.The tiles, a novelty at the time, were stated to be durable and easy to maintain.   And true to the hype, the 3 x 6 inch subway tile proved to be durable  and well suited to its purpose of being a bright and easy to clean surface.

Today's subway tiles still have the same durable quality as in the 1904 but have been diversified into a broad spectrum of colors and sizes. They have are also now manufactured in glass opening up a broader myriad of options, colors and styles that are even brighter and more dazzling then the builders of the NYC subway could have ever imagined. 3 X 6 Glass subway tile is so popular that you'll find them in restaurants, hotels, homes  and just about any place you can imagine. They are spectacular as a back splash in your kitchen or stunning for a new look for your bathroom, areas that often need a brighter reflective material to keep the space light.

Regardless of the space, subway glass tiles are stylish, easy to maintain, durable enough to handle the wear and tear on a daily basis and as timeless as their origins. they are fantastic for a multiple of applications and work well in commercial and residential environments and are often used on walls in kitchen sink back splashes, along counter tops, in bathrooms around tubs and showers and even on fireplaces. It is important to note that not all glass subway tile is the same quality or durability. Many manufacturers cut cost by kilning the glass at lower temperatures which makes the glass more susceptible to breakage due to changes in temperature. Once you find the glass subway tile for you check the product information to ensure the tile is suitable for the application in your design.

One of the most common concerns with 3 x 6 glass subway tile or any size is how to finish the tile. Standard bullnose is not available and really not appropriate for the style. There are some manufactures that produce 1 X 12 and 1 X 6 trim pieces but the edges of those pieces are identical to the edges of most subway glass tiles. So for many the solution is to simply use the outside edges of the tile the finished edge. So if there is a cut, the cut piece is finished with a polishing pad to even the surface then that end is turned inward so the manufactured finished edge is to the outside and that is your edge. Some prefer to use a trim piece like Schluter Jolly Trim ( typically 3/8 same as most glass subway tile thickness). This small  shaped piece of metal comes in 8 foot strips and creates a very nice low profile cap for the subway glass tile. It comes ina variety of finishes to match most fixtures and appliances and also a variety of styles if you want something a bit bolder ( Quadec- square or Rondec rounded edge ) to finish off your tile.

Probably the most important thing when choosing to working with and install glass subway tile is to make sure you follow the installation instructions thoroughly. The biggest piece of advice I ever give is when cutting the glass, score the top ( cut 50% through the glass). This way when you go to cut the bottom of the glass where the emulsion ( the backing that provides the color that is reflected back through the clear glass) the demand on the blade is less. This allows the blade to cut cleanly through ( always, always use a diamond blade) so that the cut is clean on the color backing and does not tear at it and pull way little pieces. Any little nicks or cuts will become very apparent when the installation is done so this point is a biggie.

Aside from the caveat of doing a great professional job installing, glass subway tile is a timeless, traditional look with a very modern flair. The reflective nature of the subway glass tile brightens spaces that can often go dark with porcelains, ceramics or natural stones ( light suckers). The maintenance is non existent other than simple Windex application (non sanded  grout should be sealed or use a urethane based grout) and because the material is so durable you can enjoys years of enjoyment without feeling trapped in another decades design sensibilities.

 Think you can do the installation  work? This Southern California back splash installation is a great example of first timers DIY job.

Tell us what you think. Are you a fan of glass subway tile?


Chad Barker
Chad Barker

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