What is the Best Size Subway Tile for Kitchen Backsplash?

Subway tiles are a classic and popular choice for kitchen backsplashes. Their rectangular shape and even grout lines create a clean, streamlined look. When it comes to subway tile backsplashes, one of the biggest considerations is what size tile to use. The subway tile size you choose can make a big impact on the overall look and feel of your kitchen. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of different subway tile sizes to help you determine the best size subway tile for your kitchen backsplash.

What are Subway Tiles?

Subway tiles are rectangular ceramic or glass tiles that resemble the tile used in old subway stations. The tiles have a length that is usually two to three times longer than their height and have even 1/8 to 1/4 inch grout lines between them. Subway tile has an urban, retro look made popular in the early 1900s.

While subway tiles can be any color, the most popular choices are white, light grey, or medium grey. The simple, pared-down look of subway tile makes for a very versatile backsplash option that works with almost any kitchen decor.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Subway Tile Size

When selecting a subway tile for your backsplash, there are a few key factors to take into account:

  • Tile dimensions – Typical subway tile sizes include 2×4, 3×6, 4×8, and 4×12. The dimensions refer to the height x length in inches.
  • Grout line thickness – Grout lines will be 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide based on the tile size.
  • Pattern layout – Certain sizes lend themselves better to different laying patterns.
  • Scale and proportion – Choose a size that fits the scale of your kitchen.
  • Visual goals – Larger tiles tend to have a more modern, streamlined look, while smaller sizes have a more classic, traditional style.

Keeping these factors in mind will help you pick the best subway tile size for your backsplash goals.

The Pros and Cons of Different Subway Tile Sizes

Here is an overview of some of the most common subway tile sizes, along with the benefits and considerations for each:

2×4 Subway Tile

Dimensions: 2″ x 4″Height x Length


  • Classic, traditional subway tile look
  • Smaller scale works well in small kitchens
  • Can be used in vertical, horizontal, or herringbone layouts
  • 1/4″ grout lines add texture


  • Tend to have more grout lines which can make kitchen feel busier
  • Grout requires more maintenance to keep clean
  • Not ideal for large expanses

3×6 Subway Tile

Dimensions: 3″ x 6″ Height x Length


  • Versatile size works in many kitchens
  • Can be installed in various patterns
  • Larger scale than 2×4 tile
  • 3/16” or 1/8” grout lines are easy to keep clean


  • Not quite as traditional as smaller sizes
  • Horizontal installation can accentuate countertop seams

4×8 Subway Tile

Dimensions: 4″ x 8″ Height x Length


  • Medium scale fits well in many kitchens
  • 1/8” grout lines limit grout maintenance
  • Elongated shape works nicely in vertical layouts


  • Not quite as classic as smaller sizes
  • Can appear too busy if walls have a lot of breaks

4×12 Subway Tile

Dimensions: 4″ x 12″ Height x Length


  • Large scale with fewer grout lines
  • Elongated shape creates clean lines
  • Contemporary, modern look
  • Best for large, uninterrupted spaces


  • Not suited for small kitchens
  • Grout lines may look sparse and disjointed

As you can see, the ideal subway tile size depends on the size of your kitchen, the look you want, and your tile layout goals.

Recommended Subway Tile Sizes

Based on the pros and cons of each size, here are some recommended subway tile dimensions for different kitchen backsplash scenarios:

  • Small kitchens: 2×4 or 3×6 subway tiles work best in small kitchens. The small to medium scale prevents the tiles from feeling oversized.
  • Classic backsplash: For a classic subway tile backsplash, 2×4 is the most authentic size choice. The small tile size paired with 1/4 inch grout lines achieves an old-school look.
  • Contemporary style: 4×12 subway tiles make a striking, modern statement. Their large scale and thin grout lines have an elongated, streamlined aesthetic.
  • Most versatile size: The 4×8 subway tile hits a nice middle ground. Its medium size, moderate grout lines, and elongated shape make it flexible for many kitchens and styles.
  • Backsplashes with breaks: If your backsplash has a lot of outlets, switches, or interruptions, opt for 2×4, 3×6, or 4×8 sizes. The smaller scales better suit areas with many grout line breaks.

Tips for Installing Subway Tile Backsplash

Once you’ve selected your tile size, keep these tips in mind for installing your subway tile backsplash:

  • Use tile spacers – Tile spacers will help you achieve even grout line widths. The right spacer size corresponds with your desired grout line thickness.
  • Start in the center – When applying tile, start at the center point and work outward. This helps minimize uneven cuts at the edges.
  • Follow layout lines – Use a level and chalk lines to lay out your pattern and keep the courses straight.
  • Cut edge tiles – For a clean finish, measure and cut edge and perimeter tiles to fit instead of leaving wide grout lines.
  • Seal grout – After grouting, make sure to seal the grout lines. This will make the grout repel stains for easier maintenance.
  • Caulk edges – Apply mildew-resistant silicone caulk along the intersections of the backsplash and countertops or cabinets.

Achieve the Perfect Backsplash with Subway Tile

With subway tile’s endless versatility and classic styling, it’s easy to see why it’s a backsplash staple. Paying attention to the scale and layout of your tile size choice can take your kitchen backsplash from basic to beautiful. Follow the tile size guides and tips in this article to pick the perfect subway tile size for your space. With the right subway tile dimensions, you’ll create a backsplash that’s both functional and eye-catching.