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kalpitas

Subway tile backsplash - 1/2 or 1/3 offset?

Kalpita Patel
4 years ago
last modified: 4 years ago

The contractors on our new build townhouse installed our matte white 3x6 subway tile with an Oyster Grey grout pretty terribly. The corner where the two walls meet was just awful and they didn't cut tiles correctly so that they met at the corner, instead they filled the corner with excess grout. On top of that, we asked for a 1/16th grout line and we got a 3/16th one instead AND we asked for a 1/3 offset and got a 1/2 one. :(

Good news is that we were able to get them to re-install it due to all the errors and poor workmanship. They've come back and told us that a 1/2 offset is industry standard for backsplash subway tile and that 1/3 is standard for floor tile. I know the 1/2 offset/brick layout is the standard approach with subway tile but, am I crazy to think that 1/3 is also used? We picked 1/3 offset as it would give our kitchen a more contemporary look compared to the 1/2 offset you see everywhere.

They've got us seconding guessing our choice now so I wanted to reach out to the community and see what your thoughts are one 1/2 vs 1/3 offset for subway tile backsplash!

Comments (47)

  • ninigret

    i can't say it particularly floats my boat. i think if i wanted different i'd do it stacked.

    Kalpita Patel thanked ninigret
  • celerygirl

    there was discussion about subway tile offset https://www.houzz.com/discussions/subway-tile-dsvw-vd~173533

    Kalpita Patel thanked celerygirl
  • Kalpita Patel

    Celerygirl - Thanks! I did see that discussion but it was started back in 2012 and I'm sure opinions have changed somewhat since then, so I wanted to open it back up. As well as, get opinions based on our Kitchen space.

  • Jennifer Vance
    I personally like the 1/2 and stacked. I feel the 1/3 looks dated. But that's just me.
  • Susan Davis

    It is either all stacked or 1/2. I/3 looks too repeated whereas 1/2 looks random and very sleek.

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    Stacked is very modern, 1/2 is traditional, and 1/3 is a cool change of pace. It all comes down to what you feel, but I don't object to ANY of the patterns listed. The thing that is great about your installation picture is that they used a 1/4 round transition at the edge of the subway tile so that the tile doesn't simply dead end on the wall. Sorry to hear you're not happy with the installation as it stands.

  • Jean Benelli

    My two cents. I prefer the 1/2 because it is traditional. Stacked is modern and to me will look dated in a few years. I do agree that a narrower grout line will look better.

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    "Dated" is one of my least favorite terms used by people who simply don't like a certain style and are trying to discourage people who do. Certain colors and materials and shapes are popular at certain times - they are the things that help to set a date on a look. Colonial is dated - it's dated to the 1600-1700s in the USA (and different periods in different countries that were colonized at different times). Mid-century modern is dated to 1945-1970. Victorian is dated to the 1837-1901. If you see a style, you are able to date its emergence. New England worships colonial and never seems to tire of it, despite the fact that the look emerged more than 400 years ago...go figure. The minimalist Bauhaus look which most people identify with modern (lots of glass, lots of open space and minimal clean lines) is from 1919-1933. Has that look died yet? Nope. It's just that some people don't like it. It's OK not to like a style, so I'm not jumping down your throat because you don't like a style -- just come clean about the fact that a particular style or look isn't to your personal taste.

    Kalpita Patel thanked Lynne Mysliwiec
  • tgb1

    I think what you have is really nice as is.

  • Jean Benelli

    I understand what you are saying Lynne. Perhaps I used the wrong word. What I mean is when a style is popular at the time, in a few years people will look at it and say, oh that was popular in name the time period. Some styles are timeless and some are trendy. Trends come and go. Classic styles, like subway tile are timeless and can look wonderful in any décor, country, modern, traditional, etc. Kalpita asked for our opinion. Her question was what our thoughts were on 1/2 vs 1/3 design. Like what you said Lynne, it all comes down to what Kalpita prefers.

  • artsyphartsy_home_maker

    You probably won't like that I'm saying this because obviously you dislike your tile job, but your tile looks really great to me! I can't see the flaws your are talking about, but then again I am not looking at it up close like you are. Personally I think the grey grout compliments your grey counter tops really well. If the grout were more subtle & thinner it might not make as much of a connecting statement.

    Personally, I love your traditional 1/2 offset. By many it is considered 'classic' & 'timeless' yet pairs just as well with a contemporary look as a it does with a traditional look. We are just about to re-do our kitchen something similar in our's as you did. We're going with white shaker cabinets, brushed nickle hardware, white subway tile, white grout, & white 'marble like' granite with grey veining. To me subway tile is super charming, especially 'white' subway tile. It's warm & kind of 'kitschy' yet elegant & classy at the same time. It's a great textural back drop to other accents in your kitchen such as a colorful mixer, a bowl of colorful fruit, some art & a colorful rug. Can't wait until my kitchen looks as good as yours!

    Kalpita Patel thanked artsyphartsy_home_maker
  • Kalpita Patel

    Thanks for all the comments, all! In the end we stuck with the 1/2 offset as we think it'll look better once it's installed with a thinner grout line. I'll post some photos when they've completed it, which should hopefully be this week.

    @artsyphartsy_home_maker - I totally forgot to take photos of the shoddy work where the two walls met but, trust me when I say it was no bueno. The rest was all installed well and like @Lynne Mysliwiec said, the transition at the end of the wall is nicely done. Good luck with your kitchen remodel! I hope it goes well and hope to see pics once it's all done. :)

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    Jean - I do not think you understood what I was saying at all. NO style is "timeless" -- all styles can be characterized by the date the style emerged or the time when particular color combinations were popular. The term "dated" is passive aggressive designer speak.

    I find it humorous that designers are swinging back to brass fixtures now after recoiling every time they saw a brass fireplace surround or faucet or doorknob over the last 20 years shrieking about how "dated" brass is.

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    OK, back to the dilemma. Kalpita - so so sorry that the grouting job and corners weren't done well. Am very glad that the installers are coming back to reinstall for you -- you should always be happy with the installation.

    On a side note, I've found that every tile manufacturer publishes guidelines for the minimum recommended grout line and the maximum recommended tile offset for each tile. It's possible that this installer followed Tile Council of North America and the manufacturers' instructions to the t...it might be a good thing to check our the manufacturer's web site to download the specifications for that tile. Here is an example for a tile I chose for my master bath:


    Note that this manufacturer says - do not offset tiles by more than 33% (no running bond pattern), do not install with a grout joint narrower than 1/8"

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER

    If you wanted contemporary, why did you choose a traditional subway? And then add to the tradition with contrasting grout? Frankly, I think you'd be happier with a reselect before the mess of reinstalling. Get it off ASAP... before you face another drywall mess.

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    I'm not the OP, Jan.

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    And I don't think that Kalpita expressed a desire for any particular style, except to say that she requested a 1/3 offset for her installation and hairline grout lines. Because her contractor didn't tell the tile setter what the design plan was, she got what the TILE INSTALLER wanted to install, not what she asked for (which for all of us who are particular about what we want is very distressing, indeed).

    The excuse used was that running bond is "standard" for subway tile. Now, all of us Houzzers know that there is no such thing as standard. The tile pattern desired is the tile pattern that should be installed unless the tile manufacturer recommends against the pattern with that particular material. So, the real excuse is that the tile installer was on automatic pilot (which is probably why they are coming to fix the installation).

    Here is a google image search for subway tile patterns - there are LOTS of different patterns that a person can pick. Google Image Search: Tile Patterns - Subway

    For this tile, you might want to check and see if there are little bumps on the edge of the tile that force a particular offset -- it may not be possible for this particular tile to be set using a 1/16" grout joint. Here is an image of tiles that are manufactured with a bump at the edge to ensure a minimum spacing. If your tiles look like this, then it might not be possible to achieve a 1/16" joint.



  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    Interesting. I did a google image search for subway station tile and find that there are at least as many stacked as offset installations. Today is not wasted because I learned something new. :-)

    Google Image Search: Actual tile installations in subway stations



  • Margo

    Breathe Lynne;)).... I think honey oak cabinets are dated;))))

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    LOL - Margo.

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    They are certainly out of fashion.

  • Lynne Mysliwiec

    Am tempted to use rift cut oak veneer for my new kitchen just to thumb my nose at all the oak haters out there. Maybe not honey-colored, however. :-P

  • Margo

    But the men will love it;)

  • artsyphartsy_home_maker

    I agree Margo --what is it with men & their love of 'unpainted wood' anyway? Especially 'oak'. My Hubby cringes at the thought of ever 'painting' any wood --ever lol.

  • artsyphartsy_home_maker

    P.S. Kalpita --I can't wait to see the photos of your redone tile with the thinner grout lines. Is there a way to 'subscribe' to these forum 'threads' so that I will know when you have posted them, wondering are there only 'book marks' here on Houzz? Anybody know?

  • Margo

    artsyphartsy - You should get notifications now that you posted on this thread.

  • alycechan

    Funny, we are having subway tile problems as well. But the one thing we did know we wanted for certain was the 30/70 ratio (1/3). Here's how ours look. Each brick tile measures 2x6. We may be redoing ours too since the grout lines are too thick (1/4"!) and it's too dark. :o( Good luck to you!

  • bunnyllg
    Here is a different take. Pre grout.
  • Angel 18432

    bunny, i do like the two different sized tiles. Don't think i've seen this before.


  • bunnyllg
    It is Horus "Crema" porcelain tile. I am very happy with how it turned out.
  • bunnyllg
    Here it is grouted with the counter (Taj Mahal quartzite) showing.
  • Angel 18432

    Nice, actually there was another post regarding back splash and I advised her to take a look at yours. I like that they turned the outlets around to avoid cuts.

  • avamom2012

    Pretty kitchen OP. If you wish 1/3 offset stick with it. Regarding spacing, as I understand it 1/16" requires a real pro. Could you compromise to 1/8' grout lines? Also, darker grout will accentuate spacing lines. Perhaps less of a contrast color?

  • Kalpita Patel
    Well we have a backsplash with the right grout thickness but, now we have a new problem. For whatever reason, it's not levelled out and we have titles that sink in and some that stick out more than others. For disappointing that the experts you trust to do a job well just don't.
  • bunnyllg
    Unacceptable again!! I just don't know how to rectify short of you getting a credit and bringing in your own tiler. How did they do in the bathrooms?
  • Angel 18432

    You poor thing - Can't believe they did a bad job. Have them redo it.

  • alycechan

    Sucks you are having to go through this again. Looks worst than the original photo. How could they have messed this up again? What was the grout size? They need to redo.

  • Snap Girl

    Hi..What ended up happening with your kitchen backsplash??

  • scottsavageau

    That is unacceptable. It's not terribly difficult to break out the worst tiles ,clean the area and install new ones properly. One more thing, the farther away from the backsplash that you can install the under cabinet lighting, the better. This will help with not accentuating the lippage as much.

  • alycechan

    We redid ours to 1/4" dark gray grout and got matte daltile subway tiles from Home Depot with traditional 50/50 pattern. Loving it!

  • Kalpita Patel

    Still no resolution yet. We're working with the builders to see if we can either have the faulty tiles re-done, or get a credit so we can get our own tiler in to fix it.

  • Snap Girl

    Sorry, that's a bummer. Been there. We did our shower two years ago and the guy did not do a good job at all. I learned that you have to get a REALLY good tile installer (and probably pay more than you want to). I'd insist on the credit and part ways with the builder. You deserve a credit and then some. Good luck!

  • artsyphartsy_home_maker

    alycechan I love how the re-tiling looks in your kitchen!! We have also been planning to do the same half offset {brick pattern} with white subway, but ours are glossy. We plan to use grey grout. Can I ask you what color & brand of grout you used if you don't mind? I hope our result comes out as nice as yours did! What is your counter material? Is it 'Pebble Ceasarstone', or something else? Thanks

  • artsyphartsy_home_maker

    I just re read & realized that I posted twice in this thread, and in the first post I had said we are using 'white' grout & in the second post I said we were using 'gray' grout, the reason for the discrepancy is that I've kept changing my mind from one minute to the next about our grout color, but I have finally have made a definite choice of 'gray' grout with white subway backsplash, not the white grout. I'll try to post photos when our kitchen reno is finally finished. It seems to be taking forever...

  • C M

    oh my god that is a terrible tile job. I'm so sorry. its so hard to get quality work done if you live outside the city limits.


  • C M

    I personally can't stand dark grout.... always looks dirty to me. And I love 1/3 offset for subway....less "pattern-y " .. 1/2 is classic, but I prefer 1/3. ...personally I don't really liked stacked unless its a very very modern application with huge tile.... and I am not digging all this gold and bronze that everyone is into.I find most tile photos on pint rest and houzz are god awful..so many busy patterns!! people- keep it simple!!! I like a clean look with geometrical shapes, midcentury fused with some clean danish appeal, lots of glass and cool pieces from the past.. iron and interesting hardware too.


  • Angel 18432

    2015 post. What was the end result???

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