7 Tips to Pick the Right Tile Trim and Edging for Your Home

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated November 15, 2021
Kitchen tile backsplash
Photo: Luoxi / Adobe Stock

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When you’re shopping for tiles, it can be easy to overlook the importance of what is usually the last decision you make before you get to work: picking out the right trim or edging style. Tile trims and edging finish your tile design, whether it’s a floor, a countertop, a backsplash, a fireplace, or a wall. Below, we take a look at some of the major factors to consider to ensure your trim suits your tile for years to come.

1. Understand the Importance of Tile Trim

Before you determine what type of trim you want, it’s vital that you understand its function. A kind of molding, the trim serves to cover exposed edges, especially in places like corners where mitering is not an option, offering a clean visual transition and a measure of safety against the hazards posed by sharp tile edges. 

Selecting the right trim or edging is a major decision since removing and replacing it after installation is painstaking work. In some cases, you may want the trim to be as unobtrusive as possible, providing a clean and professional frame for your tiles. In others, the trim or edging creates an opportunity to get creative, adding visual interest or highlighting different parts of a space.

2. Decide on the Material

Tile trim is produced in a wide variety of different metal, plastic, and ceramic materials. The right choice depends on how the different options complement the appearance of your tiles, the availability of your preferred trim style, and the purposes of the space. If the trim is going to be exposed to water in the bathroom or kitchen, a rust-proof material like aluminum or ceramic is necessary. If it’s in a commonly used area of the house where it must stand up to abrasion, durable materials like stainless steel are your best bet.

The most common materials include:

  • Aluminum

  • PVC

  • Porcelain and other ceramics

  • Porcelain and other ceramics

  • Stainless steel

  • Stone

Aluminum and PVC are the lowest-cost options. Brass and stainless steel edgings are significantly more expensive and typically reserved for professional applications in which they provide particular benefits (ultra-hygienic stainless steel is most common in pools, while the ability of brass to stand up to stress makes it ideal for industrial flooring). Porcelain and ceramic are the closest to tile itself, providing a clean and seamless finish, but they crack easily, making them unsuitable for some higher-use spaces.

3. Choose a Color That Suits Your Space

Every material and profile shape is available in an array of different colors, but some materials offer fewer options than others. Coated aluminum trim, for example, trades color potential for durability. Porcelain and ceramic trims offer the widest selection of colors and design possibilities. 

Most frequently, homeowners match the color and material to the tile, but trim also creates the possibility for striking accents. For a classic look, select the option that will unobtrusively complement the tile. If you want to get more creative, you can combine different materials to add visual detail and a greater sense of depth to the room.

4. Choose a Trim Profile or Edging

Bathroom wall and shower tile
Photo: Sergojpg / Adobe Stock

Likely the most significant choice when it comes to your tiles, the profile denotes the shape and style of trim. Some of the most widely available options include:

  • Bullnose: The rounded edges of bullnose are probably the most familiar form of tile trim, in part because this style is suitable for an array of different applications. The curvature allows it to seamlessly bridge the edge of the tile and the wall. It also provides an added buffer against sharp edges and water leakage when used at the joint where the floor meets the wall in a bathroom or kitchen.

  • Quarter round: Another popular rounded trimming tile is quarter round trim. It is particularly suitable in bathrooms and other settings where you want to minimize sharp edges.

  • Chair rails: As the name suggests, chair rails were initially designed as baseboard trims to stop chairs from damaging walls. In recent years, they have become a popular choice for backsplashes and mosaic tiles, providing a thick frame and dramatic sense of depth.

  • V-caps: The standard choice for kitchen and bathroom countertops, v-caps establish a totally clean 90-degree corner on any edge, protecting against water damage and offering a softer appearance.

  • Pencil liners: Thin, glazed cylinders, pencil liners establish borders between tile and other material or provide a transition between different kinds of tile in a mosaic. This style is perfect for a clean, minimalist look.

  • Flat liners: Like pencil liners, flat liners are transition pieces. They are perfect for floors, where the rounding of the pencil liner can be a hazard, as well as mosaic designs that would benefit from unobtrusive trim.

  • Cove base: Concave in shape, cove base trim bridges tiled walls and floors, especially in bathrooms and showers, protecting the floor joint from moisture.

  • Baseboard: An alternative to cove base, baseboard trims give a straight edge between the floor and the wall.

  • Natural stones: Instead of manufactured tiling, you can also use polished granite, marble, travertine, and other natural stones to finish tile edges.

  • Organic edging: In some cases, you can forgo tiling altogether, finishing your tile with edge glazing and establishing a natural transition between the tile and other materials. This approach is most easily incorporated into smaller pieces, like backsplashes and mosaics, but can be achieved on floors by an experienced local tile installer.

5. Determine the Right Trim Size

Tile trim is sold in different shapes to fit different kinds of corners and curvatures and different lengths that can be combined to cover all the exposed edges of your new tiling. However, every style and shape of trim also comes in different sizes that indicate the thickness or depth of the liner and end cap pieces.

The size you need depends on the height or thickness of your tile. The wrong fit means the trim won’t stay flush with the tile, creating a messy look that will undermine the effectiveness of your tile design. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as matching the factory measurements of the tile to the corresponding trim size. The texture of your surface and the volume of adhesive also throw some variables into the mix.

The general guideline is to choose a tile size that is one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch deeper than the tile. To avoid guesswork, note or measure the height of the tile, determine the amount of adhesive required, spread that amount on the tile trim, and push it into place (tile mud dries slowly, so you’ll be able to remove it without issue). If the trim is flush, you’ve got the right size. If not, try the next size up or down.

6. Calculate How Much Trim You Need

To ensure that you don’t end up discovering at the last minute that you’ve purchased way too much or too little tile trim, measure the edge of the tile surface. Divide the result by the width of your trim. The result is the amount required—but you should buy an additional 10% of the total length to give yourself room for error.

7. Clear Some Time For Installation

The time and effort required to install your trim will vary based on the material you select, the size of your tiled space, and the intricacy of the design. On average, it shouldn’t take too much longer than two to four hours. Just make sure to build this time into your calculations in advance since it will be one of the final steps of your tile project, and you don’t want to have to rush this important finishing touch. However, if you’re not taking a DIY approach to installing the tiles, you can safely assume the trim will be handled by the tile installer of your choice.

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