How to Finish Subway Tile Edges on Backsplash

Installing subway tile on your backsplash can add a classic, timeless look to your kitchen. However, finishing the edges where the tiles meet the countertops or walls can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to get clean, finished edges when installing subway tile on a backsplash.

Select the Right Tile Edges

Subway tiles themselves come with either a finished bullnose edge or a raw unfinished edge.

  • Bullnose tiles have a rounded finished lip that creates a smooth transition from the tile to the countertop or wall. This option completely covers the raw edges of the subway tiles for a seamless look.
  • Square tiles with an unfinished edge will need additional treatments like trim pieces to cover the sharp edges.

Consider which edge works best for your design aesthetics when selecting subway tiles. The tile edges will impact the options for finishing the edges of the backsplash installation.

Use Bullnose Tiles on the Edges

One of the easiest options is to use bullnose subway tiles on the outer edges of the backsplash.

The bullnose tiles have a rounded finished lip that covers the sharp raw edges of the other subway tiles. This creates a clean, smooth transition from the tiles to the countertop, wall, or any adjacent surfaces.

When laying out your tile design, simply reserve the specialty bullnose tiles for the edges that will meet countertops, walls, or cabinets. Then fill in the main field of the backsplash with standard square subway tiles.

Install Metal Trim Pieces

Metal trim pieces, like aluminum or stainless steel, can provide a straight, finished edge. Trim is ideal for capping off the exposed edges of subway tiles with a square unfinished edge.

You can find metal trim strips, inside corners, and outside corners to finish the edges of your backsplash installation. Cut the trim pieces to fit your dimensions and adhere them over the tile edges using construction adhesive.

Using matching metal trim is a sleek way to get clean finished edges on subway tile backsplashes.

Apply Tile Edge Liners

For a very minimal look, you can use thin edge liner strips that simply cover the exposed edges of the tiles. These can be made from metal, tile, or plastic.

Measure and cut the edge liner strips to fit along countertops, walls, cabinets, and any inside corners on your backsplash area. Apply the liners using silicone adhesive and install the subway tiles up to the liners.

This will conceal the unfinished tile edges for a tidy finish. Edge liners come in coordinating colors and finishes to match your tile selection.

Caulk the Seams

If you want to highlight the subway tiles themselves without distracting trim, simply caulk the seams between the tiles and adjacent surfaces.

Use a silicone caulk that matches your grout color and neatly apply it in the corner seams between the tiles, countertops, walls, and cabinets. This will cover the raw tile edges and any gaps in the corners.

Make sure to use caulk rated for kitchen and bath applications. Apply the caulk smoothly and cleanly wipe away any excess.

Use Edge-Finishing Grinder Tools

For a DIY approach, you can use an edge-finishing grinder tool on square edge tiles. These tools have diamond grinders that smooth and polish the rough unfinished edges of ceramic or porcelain tiles.

Run the edge grinder along each exposed tile edge to finish them off with a professional look. This avoids having to install trim pieces and creates integrated finished edges on the subway tiles themselves.

FAQ About Finishing Subway Tile Backsplash Edges

How do you finish subway tile backsplash edges?

Some popular options for finishing subway tile backsplash edges include using bullnose edge tiles, installing metal trim pieces, applying edge liner strips, caulking the seams, or using an edge-finishing grinder tool.

Should you use bullnose tile on a backsplash?

Using bullnose tiles on the outer edges of a backsplash creates a smooth finished transition from the tiles to adjoining walls, countertops, and cabinets. The rounded lip hides any rough edges.

Do you have to put edging on subway tile?

You do not strictly have to add edging onto subway tiles. However, some type of trim or edge treatment provides a cleaner, more finished look. Leaving the raw tile edges exposed can look unfinished.

What is the most common edge for a subway tile backsplash?

The most common and popular edge options for finishing a subway tile backsplash include bullnose tiles, metal trim strips, and caulked seams. These options provide clean finished edges.

Can you use subway tile without bullnose?

Yes, you can install subway tiles without bullnose tiles on the edges. However, the exposed square edges may be sharp and visually unfinished. Non-bullnose options like trim, liners, or caulk can cover the raw tile edges.


Finishing the edges of your subway tiled backsplash provides a polished, complete look. Evaluate tile edging options like bullnose, trim, liners, caulk, and grinders to find the best solution. Consider your design aesthetics, skill level, and budget when deciding on the ideal edge treatment. With the right materials and techniques, you can achieve beautiful finished edges that elevate your whole backsplash.