How to Finish Edge of Subway Tile Backsplash

Installing a subway tile backsplash can add a classic, timeless look to your kitchen or bathroom. However, finishing the edges where the tile meets countertops, walls, and ceilings requires some special attention to get a clean look. Follow these tips for a professional edge finish on your subway tile backsplash.

Select the Right Edge Trim

Choosing the right type of edge trim is key to finishing subway tile edges smoothly. Consider these popular options:

Bullnose Tile

Bullnose tiles have a rounded finished edge that creates a smooth transition from the tile to the countertop or wall. Bullnose tiles come in matching subway tile sizes and colors for a seamless look. Use them wherever your tile ends horizontally, like along the countertop.

Tile Edge Trim

Trim pieces made specifically for tile have a lip that fits over the edge of the tile. Look for edge trim in materials like brushed aluminum or stainless steel for a modern look, or ceramic and porcelain trim for a matching finish. Use these strips vertically, where your subway tile ends against a wall or ceiling.

Measure Carefully for a Precise Fit

Take careful measurements before cutting edge trim to size to ensure a tight fit. Measure the length and height of each space where you need to install trim. For bullnose tile on the counter edge, measure the distance along the front of the countertop. For tile edge trim on walls, measure the height of the wall from counter to ceiling. Cut trim pieces slightly smaller than the measurements so they fit snugly without leaving gaps.

Cut Edge Trim for Clean Lines

Use a wet saw fitted with a diamond blade to cut edge trim to the precise size needed. Cut slowly to avoid chipping or cracking tile trim. Be sure cuts are straight and even for the most polished look. Use edge trim pieces that are the full height from the counter to ceiling to minimize seams.

Apply Adhesive for Strong Hold

Install edge trim the same way you set the subway tile, using a notched trowel to spread tile adhesive on the back before pressing into place. Spread adhesive onto the back of bullnose tiles for the countertop edge. Apply adhesive into the lip of edge trim pieces before mounting them vertically against walls.

Press trim into the adhesive firmly to ensure maximum adherence. Use painter’s tape to hold trim in place if needed while adhesive dries. Remove any excess adhesive squeezed out along edges promptly with a damp sponge.

Grouting Finishes the Edges

Finish your subway tile backsplash by grouting all joints, including those around the edge trim. This covers any gaps and gives a polished finished look. Use a matching sanded grout for subway tiles and apply evenly with a rubber grout float.

Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge and use a soft cloth to polish when dry. Caulk between the trim and countertop or walls if any gaps remain after grouting.

Transition from Tile to Drywall

When your subway tile ends against drywall instead of a countertop or wall, use a tile edge trim to transition neatly. Apply trim pieces vertically to hide the edge of the last row of tile.

Leave a small gap between the tile and drywall so you can run a bead of caulk to seal the area after grouting. The trim will provide a straight finished edge next to the drywall.

Finish an Outside Corner

On outside corners, use a bullnose tile on one wall and a standard subway tile on the other to create a corner. Place them so their edges are flush. Then apply trim horizontally along the countertop to cover both tile edges. The corner will look sharp and finished.

How to Finish the Top Edge Against a Ceiling

Terminating subway tile against the ceiling can be tricky. Here are two options for a clean finish:

  • Shadowline trim – Install trim along the ceiling leaving a small gap between the tile and trim. Run caulk or grout in the gap to create a shadowline.
  • Picture frame trim – Use L-shaped trim to essentially frame out a edge along the ceiling. Run one edge along the ceiling and the other flat against the top row of tile.

Either of these methods will give your subway tile backsplash a polished look right up to the ceiling.

FAQs About Finishing Tile Backsplash Edges

Should I use bullnose or square edge tile along the countertop?

Use bullnose for a smooth finished look along the counter. The rounded edge is less likely to get chipped or damaged than the square edge of regular tile.

What about finishing an inside corner?

Inside corners where two walls meet are actually easier than outside ones. Simply butt the edges of tiles from each wall together for a built-in corner.

How do I cut bullnose tiles?

Mark tiles to the size needed and use a wet saw with a diamond blade. For rounded edges, install a bullnose rail attachment on the saw. Go slowly for clean cuts.

What if my tile and trim don’t match perfectly?

Even if there are slight color variations between tiles and edge trim, grouting will help blend everything together seamlessly.

How do I finish an uneven wall edge?

Use caulk to fill in any gaps if your walls are uneven before applying trim. Shim tile edge strips out from the wall if needed to account for inconsistencies.


Finishing the edges of a new subway tile backsplash takes planning and precision. Choose trim such as bullnose tiles or metal strips to best match your tile and the installation area. Carefully measure and cut pieces to size. Apply adhesive, grout, and caulk for seamless transitions and a polished, professional look. With the right materials and techniques, you can achieve beautiful finished edges on your backsplash project.

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