How to End Subway Tile Backsplash on Open Wall

Subway tile backsplashes are a popular and classic choice for kitchens and bathrooms. The rectangular tiles in classic white create a clean, streamlined look. However, when installing subway tile on a wall with an open end, such as by a window or doorway, you’ll need to finish the edge properly for a polished look. Here are some tips on how to end subway tile backsplash on an open wall.

Planning the Layout

Before starting your subway tile backsplash project, map out the layout and design. Measure the length of the wall and calculate how many full tiles will fit, how many cut tiles you’ll need, and where the open edge will be. This will determine your starting point and guide how you lay out the tiles.

Consider whether you want the open end to line up in the middle of a tile or along a grout line. Cutting partial tiles along the open edge can give it a finished look if you plan the layout right. Or you may prefer the simplicity of ending at a grout joint.

Cutting the Final Tiles

As you reach the open end, precisely measure and mark the subway tiles that will fit along that edge. Use a tile cutter to score and snap the tiles to size. You’ll want these end tiles to fit as closely as possible to the wall for a seamless look.

For a clean finish, it’s best to cut tiles along the length rather than width. This maintains the elongated rectangular shape. Carefully make end cuts straight to avoid jagged edges.

Tip: Leave a slight 1/16″ gap between the tile and end of the wall. This allows room for expansion and prevents buckling.

End Treatments for Open Edges

There are a few options for treating the exposed edge of the subway tiles along an open wall. Choose the look that best matches your kitchen or bath style.

Bullnose End Tiles

Bullnose tiles have one rounded finished edge. Using bullnose tile for the open end pieces creates a polished, rounded transition. The curve also avoids any sharp corners. Bullnose tiles come in matching sizes to pair perfectly with standard subway tiles.

Metal or Tile Edging

Adding metal or tile edging along the open edge provides a straight, clean finish. An aluminum edge trim can be cut to fit any length. Or use matching tile edging that coordinates with the subway tile color and size. The trim creates a border effect.

Grout Only

You can also simply end the subway tile and have the open edge show the grout line. This works best if you’ve planned the layout so the line is straight. Take care to evenly apply grout along the edge for smooth results.

Grouting and Sealing the Open Edge

Grout color choices can enhance the look of your open subway tile edge. Matching grout blends seamlessly. A contrasting or darker grout makes the edge stand out. Apply grout carefully along the exposed opening making sure to fully fill joints.

Once grouted, seal the tiles and grout lines along the open edge. This prevents moisture damage and keeps the unfinished edge looking new. Use a penetrating sealer or grout sealer for protection.

Achieving a Professional Finish

Ending subway tile backsplash along an open wall takes precision and focus when cutting and installing the final tiles. But the results are worth the effort. Taking time to properly measure, layout, and finish the open edge will give your backsplash a polished, professionally installed look.

FAQs about Ending Subway Tile Backsplash on Open Walls

What are some planning tips for an open-ended subway tile backsplash?

  • Measure wall length to calculate tile layout and number of cut tiles needed.
  • Decide if you want open edge to align with a grout line or cut tile edge.
  • Leave 1/16″ gap between tile and wall edge. Account for uneven walls.
  • Choose bullnose tiles, trim, or grout-only finish for open end.

Should I use full tiles or cut tiles along the open wall edge?

Using cut tile along the open edge can give it a cleaner, more seamless look. But cutting tiles perfectly to fit takes precision. Ending at a grout joint is simpler. Choose based on your skill level and the finish look you want.

What’s the best way to cut subway tiles for an open end?

Always cut tiles along the length, not width, so the rectangular shape stays intact. Use a tile cutter to score and snap tiles for straight edges. Make cuts carefully and accurately for clean results.

How do I get a smooth finish when grouting an open subway tile edge?

Take time to fully apply grout along the exposed edge, pressing it into joints. Grout in sections and wipe diagonally across tiles. Clean excess grout ensuring the open edge is smooth.

Should I use matching or contrasting grout on an open tile backsplash edge?

It depends on the look you want. Matching grout blends in seamlessly. Contrasting grout makes the edge stand out more. Darker grout can outline the shape.


Finishing a subway tile backsplash on an open wall requires precision and planning to get clean results. Layout tiles to align the open edge aesthetically, whether with a cut tile or grout joint. Cut edge tiles carefully to size and finish the raw edge with trim, bullnose tiles, or grout. Take care when applying and cleaning grout along the open area. Sealing the tiles will protect the polished look of your backsplash. With attention to detail, you can achieve a professionally done open-ended subway tile backsplash.