Timeless Subway Tiles - Part 4: Size

Whether you choose the classic white 3x6" subway tile or opt for a large multi-color arrangement, subway tiles are a timeless choice for your kitchen, bathroom, or fireplace surround. 

The Classic: 3x6 White Glossy Offset Subway Tile

Bathroom with white pedestal sink, white octagon-and-dot mosaic tile floor, 3x6" white subway tile wainscoting topped with a white ceramic chair rail. The walls are painted with a yellow faux finish.

These mass-produced little ceramic tiles are what started lining the New York subway in the early 1900s, hence the name "subway tile".


The most traditional version of subway tile is:

  • 3x6"
  • White
  • Glossy
  • Set in a 50% offset brick pattern
  • No variation/texture

This is usually the least expensive version of ceramic subway tile, running appx. $3/sqft.


Low-maintenance, bright and clean-looking, these have been a standard of kitchen and bath design for the past century.


However, numerous variations on stylecolorfinishsize, and layout are now available to give you a multitude of ceramic tile options. Peruse our 5-part look book to find your perfect subway style!

Consider Size

Traditional 3x6; The 1:2 Ratio

The 3x6 size is the most common subway tile size. The classic 1:2 ratio is pleasing to the eye.


It's very popular size for kitchen backsplashes; a typical backsplash is 18" tall, giving you an even 6 rows of tile. 


In showers, especially with a contrasting grout color, this smaller size can look a bit busy.  Consider a larger version of the same ratio, such as a 4x8" tile for a larger area. Note: this size isn't very common, so you will have limited selection.

Long and Lean: 4x16s and 1:4 Ratio

The 4x16" size has become surprisingly common in the past few years, with many lines offering it as the only alternative to the 3x6" size. Prices range from $4-$7/sqft.


The 1:4 ratio is longer and leaner, creating a more modern shape. The larger size means fewer grout lines and a less busy look.


3x12" tiles are also available, but they tend to be produced in the "handmade" style, and as such are usually more expensive. As a slightly smaller size, they work well in both backsplashes and showers. Their long shape complements a contemporary design aesthetic, while the handmade texture introduces a little age and character.


Keep an eye out for the elusive 2x8" size: the same sleek, modern proportion in a smaller package, perfect for backsplashes. Most 2x8" ceramics, like the 3x12" size, feature a more handcrafted look and $10-$15/sqft price tag to match.

4x12 and a Ton of Texture

For whatever reason, lines featuring the 4x12" size love texture and patterns.


While you can get plenty of 4x12" plain ceramic tiles, they are usually $5-$9/sqft, depending on color. 


But if you're looking for a punchy pattern, you'll most likely find it on this size.


Not as traditional as the 3x6, not as modern as a 4x16, this size hits a sweet spot of "transitional" with a pleasing 1:3 proportion.

Bigger is Bolder

Some ceramic tile lines are available as large as large as 8x20, 10x30, or 12x36. 


These impressive sizes guarantee fewer grout lines and more impact. 


While a bit too big for most backsplashes, these tiles are a great choice for showers and feature walls.

Smaller is Sweeter

What if you want something smaller than a 3x6" tile?


Ceramic tiles are also available in 2x4" size. Tiles this small are usually mounted on a mesh sheet for easier installation, but this comes with a higher price as well ($10-$20/sqft for a 2x4" mosaic).


Many of these petite tiles have extra interest, such as beveled edges, or artisan glazes.


You may also be able to get a 2x6" or 2x8" size, but these are not very common, and may or may not come mounted on a sheet.

Short and Stout

If the proportion is greater than 1:1 and smaller that 1:2, you get a neat little tile of unusual proportions.


This uncommon shape creates a cute, quirky look, especially if set in a fun color and/or pattern.

Other Considerations...

Check out the rest of the Subway Tile Series:

Part 1 : Style

Part 2: Color

Part 3: Finish

Part 4: Size

Part 5: Layout 

Bonus: Edge Trim, Grout, & Beyond


Set up a complimentary in-store design consultation and we'll help you pick the perfect tile.

253-872-0449 or info@tilelines.com

Write a comment

Comments: 0