Making the decision between handmade and machined subway tile is a tough one, but hopefully, after reading this article you’ll find the decision a little bit easier to make.
The good news is that if you’re choosing subway tile, you’ve already made one great decision. Subway tile is sure to look great in your home for years to come; popularized at the turn of the century, it is a classic looking tile. Subway tiles got their name from their iconic use in the New York City subway system in the early 1900s. Recently, subway tile has gained in popularity, which can make some buyers wary that their tile choice will soon look dated. With subway tile, you are safe in making a trendy choice because it is such a classic tile.
Knowing that subway tile could stay in your home for years to come, the decision between handmade and machined subway tile is an important one.
Here at Concept II Tile, our tile designers prefer handmade subway tile, particularly for small areas and backsplashes.

Tile Designer, Deb O’Connor, uses a cookie analogy: she compares handmade tiles to grandma’s homemade chocolate cookies, made from scratch. Wouldn’t you prefer homemade cookies over store-bought packaged cookies? When it comes to your home, Deb recommends the warmth and imperfection of a handmade tile. Knowing that a craftsman made your tile with his or her own hands adds special meaning to your home.

Handmade subway tile is:

  • homier
  • less clinical
  • more bespoke
  • thicker and more varied than machined tile

Hand-glazing creates variation in color giving the tile character.  Hand-cutting creates variation in thickness and undulation giving the tile interest with shadows, light and movement. Because handmade subway tile is lovingly made by an artisan, it is quite a bit more expensive than machined subway tile. For this reason, for very large projects (like stores, restaurants and even subways), machined subway tile may be chosen.

Machined tile is uniform because it is made in a factory by a machine – each tile is the same. This allows for closer grout joints and a streamlined look. An advantage of machined subway tile is ease of installation; it is generally recommended that a professional installs handmade tile to ensure that it looks it’s very best.

Although you could help your budget choosing a machined tile (both in the cost of the tile itself and with a DIY install), you will certainly have lost the artistry that only a handmade tile has.

So, we will almost always recommend the real deal, perfectly imperfect, homemade cookies of a tile. All that love, character and craftsmanship belongs in your home as a classic subway tile.
An added bonus to choosing handmade subway tile offered at Concept II Tile...It is made in the USA by some pretty fantastic companies:

  • Trikeenan Tile Works (Hornell, New York)
  • Quemere (Connecticut)
  • Encore (Grants Pass, Oregon)
  • Mercury Mosaics (Minneapolis, Minnesota)