subway tiles

Subway tile is best known for its use in the New York City Subway walls. Traditionally a white glazed two by six-inch tile laid in a common brick pattern, and it was introduced to the world in 1904. The high-gloss white, virtually flat surface and thin grout lines coincided with the sanitary requirements of the Victorian Period. Given the ease of installation compared to the previously desired mosaics, the durability and ease of cleaning and the refined simplicity, it is no wonder that this type of tile made it into the home bathroom and kitchen.

Subway Tile Today

Although the patterns and designs were more restricted in the early 20th century, today tile patterns and designs are endless. A tile pattern refers to the way the tile is laid. This was typically laid in a common brick pattern with tiles laid on the horizontal in straight lines. Ending grout lines were alternated in each row or lined up to create a straight horizontal and vertical visual effect. The tile patterns today are only restricted by one’s imagination. Books, the internet, and the tile professional provide a wide range of tile pattern possibilities. Design refers to the shape, color or material of the tile. Although traditional subway tile was two by six inches and most commonly white, today subway tile designs include an endless array of colors, are typically but not restricted to three by six inches and can be porcelain, glass and contain polymers for durability. Tile design today includes embossing and painted patterns or pictures.

Subway Tile Maintenance and Cleaning

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure someone once said, and this old adage applies aptly to subway tile. The Owner may need to update old and abused subway tile or know how to keep the newly installed tile looking good for a long time. Tile paint is an excellent way to refurbish old, abused and tired subway tile. Professional tile refurbish companies are available in most cities. Do-it-yourself kits are available in most home improvement stores. Regardless of whether a professional is hired or the homeowner tackles the job alone the result is a beautiful and durable one. Tile paint can make old tile look new, hide cracks and damage and change the existing color.

Tile cleaning is the easiest way to protect the beauty and durability of subway tile. Because of the variety and cleaning products in the market today, always read the manufacturer’s instructions but feel safe adhering to some basics. Sweep or vacuum your tile often avoiding any beater attachment to prevent scratching. Wipe or mop with either a dry or a damp cloth to remove remaining dirt. Avoid bleach; oil based cleaning products and abrasive cleaners. Routine cleaning should be all that is required but for stubborn or questionable stains always refer to the manufacturer.

Subway tile is an example of refined simplicity that is a blast from American history and is as new in the 21st century. With endless patterns and tile design available today, the ease of tile paint and tile cleaning, embracing this piece of Americana will add elegance to any space.

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