Tips for Choosing Kitchen Tile on a Budget: Going Beyond Subway Tile!

updated Mar 11, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I am building a new kitchen in the house that my husband and I are renovating, and there is a rather overwhelming array of choices to be made. Tile has been one of those. We’re choosing a lot of tile (for baths as well as the kitchen). Subway tile is obviously a terrific and classic choice, and since it can be less than $3/square foot, very economical too. But can inexpensive tile go beyond subway tile? What are some other options for those of us on a strict budget? I took my questions to Kirsty Froelich, the corporate designer of The Tile Shop, a nationwide tile retail chain. Here’s some of her advice on choosing tile when you’re on a budget.

1. When you’re renovating a kitchen or bath (or both at once, like I am!) tile is just one of many potentially overwhelming choices. How do you start the process of figuring out what you want?
I look through magazines and blogs to find inspiration for colors, wood type, general design ideas and finishes. I pull together looks that I like from different images and create an inspiration board from this. You can use PowerPoint (or Pinterest!) to make a “digital board” for yourself. This is a good way to keep your thoughts organized throughout the entire process. It will help you make choices and keep you focused on your design concept. I bring this board shopping with me. It is a helpful communication tool to use with sales associates to show them your vision.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

2. Tile has a huge variation in price point. What are four or five of your favorite lower-budget tiles?
My favorite way to create a “high end look for less” is to mix an inexpensive ceramic backsplash tile with either stone or glass. You can use stone or glass mosaics, cut them into strips and add them to your backsplash design. You can also use a decorative stone liner as an accent piece. Some other inexpensive options:

• You can take a large wall or floor ceramic tile and lay it out in a horizontal or vertical brick pattern. This covers a lot of space for not a lot of money.
• Glass mosaic tile has become a budget-friendly backsplash option. Our pricing starts at $11.99 a square foot.
• Ceramic mosaics are also an inexpensive option. Ours start at $4.49 a square foot. The penny rounds are hot right now.
• Ceramic mosaics are being made to mimic natural stone. It is hard to tell the difference, but they cost a lot less. Ours start at $6.39 a square foot.
• Decorative glass liners can add a lot of punch to a backsplash. These start at $3.99 apiece (they are 6 inches long).
• Ceramic profiles like twist pencils can add texture and depth to a backsplash.

Pictured above:
Milk Rounded Corner 1″x1″ Ceramic Mosaic – $4.99 sf
Penny Round Moss Ceramic Mosaic – $5.59 sf
Mallorca 2″x2″ Ceramic Mosaic – $6.39 sf
Aloe Glass Brule .75″x6″ – $3.99 a piece
Imperial Bianco Washed Pencil 8″ long – $8.99 a piece

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

3. Do you think plain white subway tile will ever look dated?
I personally believe that white subway tile has, and will always be, a classic. You can make it your own by mixing it with stone or glass and create a custom look. You could also jazz it up by setting it in a herringbone or vertical brick pattern.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

4. What are your favorite budget-friendly alternatives to subway tile?

Some fresh alternatives to subway tile that are budget friendly:
• Glass 3″x6″
• Glass mini brick mosaics
• Natural stone 3″x6″ or 4″x8″ – these are available with straight, pillowed, and beveled edges
• Natural stone amalfi brick pattern mosaics – available in several stone choices
• Bucak Amalfi stone brick mosaic (2″x4″ on 12″ mesh); $11.99 sf

Pictured above, clockwise from top left:
Bucak Medley Amalfi 12 x 12 in – $11.99/sf
Amethyst Brick Glass .65 x 1.85 in – $19.99/sf
Biltmore Amalfi 12 x 12 in – $11.99/sf
Gobi Amalfi 12 x 12 in – $10.99/sf
Copper Rust REL 3 x 6 in – $5.99/sf
Glass Smokey 3 x 6 in – $18.99/sf

Thanks Kirsty!

Visit Kirsty’s tile inspiration blog: The Tile Shop – Design by Kirsty

Visit The Tile Shop: The Tile Shop

Related: Penny Tile in the Kitchen: 8 Pretty Backsplashes and Floors

(Images: Bryce’s Kitchen of Memories; The Tile Shop; Kristin Petro Interiors)