How to Finish Edges of Subway Tile Backsplash

Installing a subway tile backsplash can add a classic, timeless look to your kitchen or bathroom. While the installation process is relatively straightforward, properly finishing the edges of the tiles is key to achieving a polished, professional result. Here are some tips on how to finish edges of subway tile backsplash.

Select the Right Tile Edging

There are a few options when it comes to edging subway tile backsplashes:

Bullnose Tile

Bullnose tiles have one rounded finished edge. They are installed along the sides and top of the backsplash. Bullnose tiles create a smooth, finished transition from the tile to the wall.

Pencil Tile

Pencil tiles have two finished edges instead of one. They can be used to create a minimalist look for inside corners and where the backsplash meets the countertop.

Edge Finishing Strips

Metal, plastic, or tile edge finishing strips can also be installed along the top and sides of the backsplash. This creates a clean finish without requiring specialized tiles.

Cut Tile Edges

Use a wet saw to cut subway tiles along the edges for a precise fit. Cut tiles for the ends and any inside corners.

Make sure cuts are straight and even for the best final look. Use tile nippers to round any sharp corners left by cutting.

Prep the Surface

Ensure the surfaces are cleaned before installing edge tiles. Remove any old caulk or grout near the edges.

Apply thinset mortar to the wall edges using a grout float. This provides an even adhesive base.

Install Edge Tiles

Apply a layer of thinset mortar to the back of each edge tile. Press the tiles firmly into place along the top and sides of the backsplash.

Use painter’s tape to hold tiles in place if needed until the thinset cures. Use tile spacers to ensure consistent spacing between bullnose edge tiles.

Grout and Seal

After the thinset has cured, grout the joints between edge tiles to complete your backsplash. Apply caulk between the tile and countertop or along the bottom.

Finally, apply a penetrating sealer to the grout joints and edge tiles. This prevents stains and damage.

Tips for Perfect Finished Edges

  • Take time to lay out tiles and measure so edges are centered.
  • Bullnose and pencil tiles should have equal overhang from wall.
  • Keep edge tile joints lined up and evenly spaced for best results.
  • Match grout color to edge tiles for a seamless look.
  • Use caulk, not grout between tile and countertop.

Properly installing quality edge tiles is the key to taking your subway tile backsplash from DIY to designer-level. With some careful tile-cutting and attention to detail, you can achieve perfectly finished edges.

Frequently Asked Questions About Finishing Subway Tile Backsplash Edges

What is the easiest way to finish subway tile backsplash edges?

The easiest option is to use metal, plastic, or tile edge finishing strips. These just adhere to the edges of the tiles for clean finished look. Edge finishing strips come in various colors and materials to match your tiles.

Should I use bullnose or pencil tile for my edges?

Bullnose tiles are the most common choice because of their rounded profile. However, pencil tiles can create a more contemporary, sleek line on inside corners. Choose based on the look you want to achieve.

How do I cut subway tiles for edges?

Use a wet saw fitted with a tile cutting blade to precisely cut subway tiles to size for edges and corners. Make sure to use a tile nipper to smooth sharp edges after cutting. Measure carefully for accurate results.

Should edge tiles be spaced out or tightly fitted?

Edge tiles should be evenly spaced just like the main field of subway tiles, not tightly fitted. Use tile spacers to ensure consistent spacing. Grout the joints for a seamless finished look.

How do I finish the edge where the tile meets the countertop?

Use caulk, not grout between the top edge tiles and the countertop. Applying caulk creates a flexible seal that prevents cracking. Match the caulk color to your grout for best results.


Installing subway tile edges may require some special tiles and careful tile-cutting, but the end result is worth the effort. Bullnose, pencil tiles, or edge strips all create a polished finish. Pay attention to proper tile spacing, grouting, and sealing for edges that look professionally done. Finishing the edges properly gives your backsplash a designer touch.