What Size of Subway Tile for Kitchen Backsplash?

Subway tile has become an increasingly popular choice for kitchen backsplashes in recent years. With its classic and timeless look, subway tile can work in both traditional and modern kitchen designs. When planning your subway tile backsplash, one of the key considerations is what size of tile to use. The size you choose can impact the overall visual effect and aesthetic of your backsplash design. In this article, we’ll explore the different subway tile sizes for kitchen backsplashes and the pros and cons of each option to help you select the right size for your space.

What is Subway Tile?

Subway tile refers to rectangular ceramic tiles with a brick-like shape. The tiles have a length that’s usually three times longer than the width. Traditional subway tiles are 3 x 6 inches, but many tile manufacturers now offer subway tiles in a range of sizes while keeping the same elongated rectangular form.

The name “subway tile” comes from itsoriginial use in New York City subway stations in the early 1900s. But subway tiles can lendboth vintage and modern appeal to any space.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Subway Tile Size

When selecting subway tile size for your kitchen backsplash, here are some key considerations:

Layout of the Backsplash Area

Take into account the dimensions of the backsplash space you want to tile. Smaller backsplash areas may look better with smaller tile sizes, while larger backsplash expanses can handle bigger tiles. The tile size should be proportional to the overall area.

Visual Impact

The size of subway tile can create different visual effects. Smaller tiles tend to give a smoother, more unified look. Larger tiles create more grout lines and grid-like patterns. Consider the look you want to achieve.

Grout Lines

Grout lines will be thicker and more prominent with larger tile sizes. The grout color also becomes more noticeable. If you want thinner grout lines, go with a smaller tile.

Tile Cuts

Cutting subway tile is often needed to fit around outlets, switches, and other elements. With larger tiles, the cuts are bigger and more visible. Smaller tile sizes allow for smaller cuts.


Larger sized subway tiles tend to have a lower price per square foot than smaller tiles. Going bigger can save money if cost is a concern.

With these factors in mind, let’s look at some of the most common subway tile sizes for backsplashes.

Popular Subway Tile Sizes

1. Standard 3×6 Inch

The original subway tile size, 3×6 inch is still the most common choice. At this compact size, 3×6 inch subway tile can create stunning patterns with classic appeal. The smaller scale is versatile for both small and large kitchens.


  • Timeless and iconic look
  • Suitable for backsplashes of any size
  • Narrow grout lines
  • Allows for smaller tile cuts


  • Can take longer to install than larger tiles
  • Creates more grout lines overall

2. 4×8 Inch

Slightly larger than the standard size, the 4×8 inch subway tile is a popular choice that offers more modern appeal. The elongated shape works well in contemporary kitchen designs.


  • Modern, sleek look
  • Fewer grout lines and faster installation than small tile
  • More budget-friendly price point


  • Grout lines are thicker and more visible
  • Tile cuts around outlets etc. are larger

3. 4×10 or 4×12 Inch

For a dramatic, architectural look, taller 4×10 or 4×12 inch subway tiles can be an impactful choice. The longer tiles create an eye-catching chevron effect.


  • Striking, bold aesthetic
  • Contemporary vibe suits modern kitchens
  • Tile cuts are minimized with fewer grout lines


  • Not suitable for small backsplash areas
  • Thicker grout lines require more frequent cleaning
  • Pattern can feel overwhelming if overused

4. 2×8 Inch

For kitchens with a cozier cottage or farmhouse feel, petite 2×8 subway tiles can provide the perfect complement. Their small scale brings warmth.


  • Intimate, cozy look for smaller kitchens
  • Many color and pattern options
  • Affordable and easy to install


  • Requires meticulous grout line cleaning
  • Can look busy if improperly laid out

5. Mixed Sizes

You don’t have to stick to just one size of subway tile. Mixing it up with a combination of different sizes can add interest. Just be sure to plan the layout carefully.


  • Adds visual depth and personality
  • Allows you to highlight different areas
  • Combines the benefits of different sizes


  • Harder to plan and achieve a cohesive look
  • Could appear haphazard if not well-executed

Layout Patterns Based on Tile Size

Once you select your subway tile size, there are many possible layout patterns. Here are some top options:


With stacked layouts, tiles are installed in straight horizontal and vertical lines. This works with any size subway tile and creates clean lines. Vary the grout color to add interest.


A herringbone pattern has the rectangular tiles set in an alternating “V” design. Smaller subway tiles like 3×6 inch are well-suited to herringbone patterns.


Brick layouts add staggered rows to create a brickwork effect. Use similar-sized tiles and offset them by half or third.


Taller subway tiles like 4×12 inch are ideal for a bold chevron look. The tile orientation angles in alternating directions.


Cut smaller subway tiles into hexagonal shapes to build a honeycomb pattern. It brings depth and geometry to the backsplash.

Making the Size Selection for Your Kitchen

Choosing that perfect subway tile size may take some thoughtful consideration – assess your goals, look at examples, and weigh the pros and cons. Take measurements and evaluate the backsplash area you want to tile. For many kitchens, the versatile 3×6 inch size is a classic, safe choice, but play with scale or try mixing sizes if you want to make a statement. Allow the subway tile size to enhance the look and feel you want to achieve. With the right selection, you’re sure to end up with a stunning backsplash you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most popular size for subway tile?

The most popular and common size for subway tile is 3×6 inches. This original size offers versatility and timeless appeal. Many tile manufacturers offer subway tiles in the classic 3×6 size.

What size subway tile is easiest to install?

In terms of installation, larger subway tiles tend to be somewhat easier and faster to install than smaller tiles, simply because there are fewer pieces. But any size of subway tile can be installed successfully by an experienced tiler.

What size subway tile makes a small kitchen look bigger?

Using larger subway tiles like 4×8 or 4×10 inch can help give the illusion of a bigger, more spacious kitchen. The larger tiles and fewer grout lines open up the look of the space.

What size subway tile is easiest to clean?

Subway tiles with narrower grout lines, such as 3×6 inch size, tend to be easier to keep clean. With less grout, there is less area for grime to accumulate. Smaller grout lines also require less scrubbing.

How much subway tile do I need for a backsplash?

Measure the backsplash area to determine square footage. For every 10 square feet, you will need about 100 tiles if using 3×6 inch size, or 60-70 tiles if using 4×8 inch. Leave 10% extra for cuts and breakage.


Subway tiles offer versatility and timeless appeal as a backsplash option. Carefully consider the size you select, as it impacts the visual effect, installation, cleaning and budget. Evaluate your goals and kitchen space. While the standard 3×6 inch size is always a safe bet, don’t be afraid to get creative with alternate sizing and mixed patterns to design a functional and unique backsplash you’ll love. With the right subway tile size choice, you can enjoy this classic look for many years.