If you have ever installed tile, or had tile installed, you know it's a very personal choice. From colors and textures, to patterns and pictures, the addition of new tile can be a lot to take in, because it lasts a long time. Plus, once it is affixed, removal is back-breaking, time-consuming work.
The introduction of tile trim can add to that chagrin. But it doesn't have to be a daunting experience. All you need is some know-how in the products and styles available, and an eye on your personal creativity, to make your tile and tile trim combination your own work of art, even if it's just going in the bathroom.
What is tile trim?
Tile typically has a sharp, square edge. It isn't unsightly, but can feel like it's incomplete, like the job isn't quite done. Tile trim is an end cap on a tiled space that gives it an all together finished appearance and adds style. And while it may seem optional, or even unnecessary, once you see a space with it, versus a space without it, the whole picture becomes clear.
What types of tile trim are there?
For a truly individual appearance, many companies have developed a myriad of different tile trim choices to suit every desire or artistic motif. Some are decorative, some more functional, but all, are unique.
Bullnose: Of all the options, this is the most diverse. Put simply, it has a beveled edge that curves on one side, allowing it to bring perpendicular tiles together seamlessly. It is perfect for windowsills, countertops and shower niches, and comes in many sizes to fit your needs.
V-caps: On the list of tile trims, the v-cap stands out, because it is the only option that can completely cover perpendicular corners. It helps to maintain a fluid look of continuity. Great for windowsills and shower partitions.
Chair rails: Used most often for framing stove splashes and tile mosaics, a chair rail is an evolved version of the original use, which was to keep chairs from contacting walls and leaving scuffs. It provides a sophistication to any tiled space.
Flat liners: Similar to the chair rails, these tile trims are long and flat, and are most commonly used to frame decorative pieces that make a bold statement. And can be used to frame a tiled floor.
Pencil liners: Thinner than flat liners, but still as versatile, pencil liners are used when transitioning from one style of tile to another, or when transitioning to a different surface, like a tile floor to wood flooring. Also useful for moving from tile to an exposed wall.
The big difference between pencil liners and flat liners is the depth the pencil liner brings to the overall picture the tile displays. Also, a pencil liner is pre-glossed, so no need to add gloss when finished tiling the space. One big downside is that because of the depth, pencil liners aren't a good idea for floors. They can present a trip hazard.
Cove base: For a seamless transition from wall tile to floor tile, cove base finishing tile is as attractive as it is functional. With its natural curvature, it is terrific for use in the shower, because it covers joints at the floor, keeping water from getting into the walls, causing mold or mildew.
Edge glaze: An ingenious option that allows the tile to easily transition from room to room, edge grazing adds life to your tile finish. It has an organic feel that allows the exposed tile to have a natural attractiveness and allure.
Quarter rounds: For a smooth way to scale between perpendicular tiles, a quarter round is another great choice for the bathroom, when capping the sink tile to the wall fluidly. They are essentially a ¼ rounded edge, just like the name suggests.
How to select the right size tile trim?
This can be tricky, as the tile, its depth, the texture of the surface, and the thickness of your tile mud, all play a part in the answer.
Most informed sources say that at first, it's all about experimenting to figure it out, based on the specific variables of the surface you are tiling. While that is a little vague, it isn't necessarily wrong. However, if you are tiling a wall, or a floor, there are factors that adjust the equation.
Even the smoothest concrete floor will have imperfections or areas that are different after the concrete settles. On the other hand, tiling a sheetrock wall is a smooth canvas for even distribution of tile mud. So, the surface doesn't change.
The best way is to:
Step 1: Measure the edge of the tile you intend to use. Use that as a metric for the absolute thickest trim you can use.
Step 2: Determine how much tile mud will be needed to affix it to the tiled area for the transition in question.
Step 3: Spread a layer of tile mud, less than the mud used on the tile itself, on the tile trim, and push it into place. If it is flush with the face of the tile, then you have used the proper amount. Tile mud doesn't dry quickly enough that if the edges aren't flush the trim can't be removed. A simple pull on the trim will free it from the wall or floor.
Step 4: If needed, add or subtract tile mud to compensate for flush continuity with the tiles around it.
Before you start tiling an area, knowing the thickness of the tiles, and the thickness of the trim, is critical for a smooth, clean look. A thin tile with a thick pencil liner trim will guarantee many toe stubbings in your future.
What materials do tile trims come in?
The options in material are extensive, but they are an offshoot of essentially 5 base concepts. From those five, the sky is the limit in your options for creative and decorative trim choices.
For protecting your tile corners, you can have:
Porcelain and ceramic are closely related to the tile you intend to trim, and will be more seamless than any other trim material. They are resistant to moisture, abrasion and acids, but if struck, they will crack just as easily as the tile. They are however available in the largest collection of attractive and artistic colors and forms, already baked into the clay. Great for mosaics, decorative trim work, or just to add something special to your trim areas.
Stainless steel is the highest quality of the trim options, and they come in grade 304 and grade 316, which is important for where it will be used. It is very durable, with a high mechanical strength. It is water, abrasion and weak acid resistant, and, as with other stainless-steel applications, is the most hygienic option in tile trims. It is commonly used for trim in swimming pools, but only the Grade 316 models. The grade 304 doesn't fare as well in water.
Aluminum trims come in many forms, each with its own benefits and deficits. For instance, anodized and brightly polished aluminum can be painted to 30 microns, and come in gold, silver and titanium finishes. But the coated aluminum trim is coated to 60 microns, limiting its color potential, but increasing its overall resistance to damage from mechanical sources. All of these are treated to resist corrosive influences that could damage or weaken the trim
Brass is highly resistant to chemical agents, and highly tolerant to mechanical stress. However, it is susceptible to oxidation in a high-moisture environment, thus corroding over time. Because of their mechanical strength, brass trims are the go-to choice as trim in industrial flooring situations.
Thermoplastic resin comes in a huge quantity of options, each with their own uses, and every type is different, despite being essentially plastic. For instance, Synthetic resin is only to be used for indoor decorative applications, and should never be cleaned by abrasive cleaners, as they will roughen the surface.
Whereas, RESINTOP resin, is much more versatile. It is perfectly acceptable for indoor and outdoor uses and will retain its endurance and aesthetics for a long time. It is UV resistant, has a high mechanical impact tolerance, and resists fungal and bacterial concentrations.
RESINFLEX retains an elastic quality over time and is perfect for expansion joints. RESiNPRENE is not a resin plastic, but vulcanized rubber, and is a modified version of Neoprene, which is used to make scuba wetsuits. It has an extremely high mechanical performance rating and can withstand temperatures from -40 to 150 degrees.
What are the options for cleaning the tile trim?
Tile is most commonly ceramic, which makes it very tough, and the list of safe cleaners is vast. Tile trim, on the other hand, can be all the materials listed above, each with their own cleaning requirements. Before you clean the tile near the trim, make sure the cleaner is safe for the trim.
Caustic substances can weaken the trim, or even destroy it. Trims with a high acid resistance, on the other hand, will work fine with a wide array of cleaning products and solutions. The best rule of thumb is to ask the trim seller what will work best for your trim. If it is installed by a contractor, they should have the information you need.
However, if they say - "just as anything", it is much better to get a second opinion. Once it's installed and the check clears, they don't have to see the installed trim again, but you do. Ask a professional in tile trim sales what the best cleaner is, so you don't inadvertently ruin your beautiful trim work. The tile will last for years. The trim should, too.