Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Finish an Edge of Tile on a Wall

"How do I finish an edge or row of tiles on my backsplash or wall installation?" I hear this question often and when it arose again last week, I thought it would make a great post. The answer is very simple because you only have a few choices.

Installation using Bullnose Tiles to Finish an Edge
(between counter and cabinet)

Installation showing Bullnose Detail

When you tile an entire wall, from wall to wall and ceiling to floor, or between surfaces from the countertop to the bottom of your cabinets, you won't encounter this problem because the tile doesn't need to create a border or edge. However, if you stop the tile partway up the wall or where the cabinets end, the backsplash requires a tile that has a finished edge; otherwise, you'll see an unglazed edge that is both unattractive and doesn't provide protection.

There are three ways to finish the top edge of the tile on a wall. You can use:

  1. Molding – An expensive option that uses a cornice or bar shaped tile designed to provide a decorative flourish.

  2. Bullnose tiles – a tile with a finished, glazed radius that curves to the back wall surface.


  3. Glazed edge tiles – a tile with a standard square edge that is glazed on one side edge.


Here's some photos of tiles with the different finished edges:

Some Typical Moldings that Provide a Finished Edge

Double Bullnose (top), Unglazed Field Tile (middle), and Single Bullnose Tile (bottom)

Glazed Edge Tiles (foreground & back left)
compared to an Unglazed Edge Tile (back right)

Generally speaking, decorative tile doesn't come with a bullnose finish although you might occasionally find border strips (3"x6") with a glazed edge. For instance, our Barcelona line provides 3"x6" and 3"x3" borders with glazed edges. Field tile (solid color) often comes or can be ordered so the tile has a bullnose edge or with finished molding in the same glaze. Our Pillow Chiclet line of field tile comes with SBN (Single Bullnose) tiles and our Yucatan line can be ordered with bullnose or moldings in the same glaze as the field tile. Our Cement Tile can be custom ordered with a bullnose edge if you plan to use them for vertical installations.

The devil is in the details, so make sure you have discussed the options available before you start your tile project. This is an important detail that your designer or installer should also be able to assist with as part of the design or pre-construction review. However, it's critical to involve the tile supplier since only they know what is available and if it's in stock or only available via special order. Now you know how to finish an edge of tile on a wall!

Finally, a technical note about bullnose tiles. Bullnose tiles are often called single bullnose or SBN tiles because they have one or a single edge that is bullnosed. Double bullnose tiles or DBN tiles or corner bullnose have two adjoining edges that are bullnosed. For examples, see photo above.

Happy Tiling!

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