Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Understanding Cement Tile Bullnose Trim or Molding

A Bull Nose
Trim and molding seems to be one of the most confusing details in a tile installation. It's easy to understand why there is so much confusion. First, there are no industry standards and this results in numerous colloquial terms used to identify the same type of finished edge. For instance, the terms "surface bullnose" and "single bullnose" refer to the same transition on a finished edge. The terms molding, moulding, trim and base trim all describe the same basic finishing material. Additionally, there are a myriad of slightly different designs of the same trim that all perform the same function. For instance, Heritage Skirting is a base trim molding with decorative ridges. Finally, many of these pieces are infrequently or rarely used, if at all. So, let's discuss and understand the most common (and useful) transition: the bullnose. This blog post is devoted to cement tile bullnose trim. If you are working with ceramic tile, you might want to read an earlier post that I devoted just to that topic, How to Finish an Edge of Tile on a Wall.

Understanding the Term: Bullnose

I often get the question, "Why use bullnose to describe a radius edge on tile?" The term bullnose originates from the rounded nose of a bull or cow. Bullnose is a common term used in building construction for trim tile with rounded convex edges. The term is particularly common in tile and masonry architectural terms. It's important to note that bullnose tile provides a finished surface. You'll see the pigmented cement color and not the unsightly edge that shows the color layer and grey concrete with aggregate.

More than likely, you've seen single bullnose and double bullnose tile in an installation similar to the one shown in the photo below. Even though you may not be able to recognize them yet, there is a single and double bullnose tile used on the base trim in this installation, creating a professional, finished look.

Cement Tile Installation with Base Trim Molding
Cement Tile Base Trim Showing Single and Corner Bullnose 

Understanding Corner and Surface Bullnose

Remember, bullnose is a term to describe tile with a rounded, convex edge that provides a finished transition to another surface. You might also hear phrases like "rounded edge" or  "radius edge" or "fillet" to describe bullnose tiles. This finished, rounded edge provides a transition from the tile surface to another surface, like a painted wall. A tile that has one finished edge is called a Single Bullnose (SBN) or Surface Bullnose (SBN). A tile with two rounded edges is a Double Bullnose (DBN). If the two bullnosed edges are adjacent, they'll be on the corner of a tile and called a Corner Bullnose. Corner bullnose is a special type of Double Bullnose because the two corner edges have a finished transition or smooth, rounded corner (or fillet) edge to the surface.
Now, let's take a closer look at this installation and identify the single and double bullnose trim pieces on the 3" base molding.

Cement Tile Base Trim Showing Single and Corner bullnose
Cement Tile Base Trim Showing Single and Corner Bullnose

Here's another view of the same installation that allows you to see the top, finished edge of the tile.

Top View of Single and Corner bullnose Trim
Top View of Single and Corner Bullnose Trim

Specifying Cement Tile Corner Base Trim

Heritage Double Bullnose (DBN) molding must be specified as as "Right Hand" or "Left Hand." Make sure you understand the difference and order the correct quantity of each. It's not hard, but it's an important detail that if not attended to will only add frustration and delay to your project.

Right Hand Corner bullnose will have a rounded corner on the right hand side of the tile when you are looking at it. Left Hand Corner bullnose will have a rounded corner on the left hand side of the tile when you are looking at it.

Left and Right Double Bullnose Heritage Molding
Left and Right Double or Corner Bullnose Heritage Molding
Remember that there is no specific standard for right and left hand bullnose pieces. Order the wrong ones or make an assumption and you'll likely end up with a white elephant. Make sure to understand each vendor's nomenclature to get the right material the first time. Additionally, molding and trim is usually made to order, so not only will you end up with something you can't use, it could definitely delay your project.

— Written by , Avente Tile

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