Give classic subway tile a new twist with this modern look! I’ll show you how to install vertical subway tile to give your walls the illusion of height!
With bathroom demolition done, it’s time to make this room pretty! I’m installing floor to ceiling vertical subway tile on one wall to make the short ceilings feel a little bit taller. It makes a huge impact in this small space!
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White subway tile is classic, but it’s become a little overdone in the last few years. I’m giving it a fresh new look by using an elongated version and installing the tiles vertically. In my bathroom inspiration photos, you can see how changing up the configuration makes it more modern!
I chose a 3″ x 12″ white subway tile from Floor & Decor for this project. These are twice the length as regular subway tile, with the same width. You can find similar versions, including other colors, here and here.
You’ll also need the following supplies in addition to the tile.
Materials Needed to Install Vertical Subway Tile
- Subway tile
- Tile adhesive
- I prefer OmniGrip because it holds wall tile in place without sagging.
- Tile spacers
- This kind works much better than those little cross shaped ones!
- Tile saw
- 1/4″ notched trowel
- I like to use both the larger version and the smaller margin trowel to get into those small areas.
- I used Mapei grout in the color Rain to match the wall color that will be going up later.
- Grout float
- Grout sponge
How to Install Vertical Subway Tile
Start with a Plan
Plan your layout before you begin. You don’t want to end up with a sliver of a tile at the top or side of your wall!
Measure the wall, and calculate how many tiles it will take to go all the way across and up to the ceiling. Make sure to take into account the width of your spacers! Mine are 1/16″.
I didn’t follow my own advice, and forgot to account for the spacers when measuring the height of the wall! The wall ended up with 3/4″ pieces at the ceiling, which isn’t ideal. I debated removing the tiny crown moulding, but decided that patching all the damage would make too much work for myself! 🙂
What I should have done was trim an inch or so off all the bottom tiles, giving me more tile at the top. It doesn’t look horrible, but I wish I had planned better!
Choose a Starting Corner
Which side of the wall draws the most attention? In this tiny bathroom, you see the far corner next to the window first, so I decided to keep the full tiles along that corner.
The small wall with the door is tiled as well, so the cut edges will be hidden in the corner and caulked along the door trim.
Choose a Layout Pattern
There are a few different ways to lay subway tile, and each one has their own unique look. I went with the traditional half brick design.
The bottom row of tiles will set the pattern for the rest of the wall, so make sure you get it right! I cut about a dozen of my longer tiles in half. These alternate with the full size tiles along the bottom of the wall.
Install multiple rows at a time
These long tiles can get crooked really easily! To prevent your wall from looking lopsided, plan to install a few rows (or columns) from floor to ceiling at a time. The spacers from the neighboring tiles will keep them straight!
I tiled this wall over the course of several days, so I would do three or six vertical rows at a time. It’s hard to stop part way up the wall, unless you want to clean up a lot of messy adhesive first! Just plan to go from bottom to top in a single session.
The large notched trowel is the same size as three tiles across, so I would apply tile adhesive straight up the wall and stick the tiles in place. OmniGrip is amazing stuff, and holds the tile securely on the wall without sagging.
When it’s time to stop for the day, use the flat side of the trowel to scrape away any leftover adhesive.
Choose Your Grout Color Wisely
I plan to paint the walls of my bathroom light gray to match the mirror I bought for the medicine cabinet, and chose a similar grout color.
Dark grout makes a nice contrast, but that contrast will highlight any errors you made during installation. If you’re not confident in your tiling abilities, stick with a white or light colored grout that is a bit more forgiving.
Finish Edges with Matching Caulk
Once I paint the bathroom walls, I’ll run a bead of caulk along the corners where the wall meets the tile. You can usually find caulk that matches the color of your grout for a seamless look. I have a tutorial on how to use a caulk gun if you’ve never done it before.
As if tiling the walls wasn’t enough for this week, I also managed to switch out the outlet and light fixture too!
I partnered with Legrand to feature their Radiant collection of outlets and switches for my bathroom remodel. I was provided with the outlet, light switch and wall plates for this project, but all opinions are my own.
The clean lines of the Legrand screwless wall plate looks perfect with the new vertical subway tile. It almost looks like it’s built into the tile! Our guests will appreciate the integrated night light instead of stumbling to the bathroom in the dark.
After turning off the power, I removed the old, almond colored outlet.
Hooking up the new Legrand GFCI outlet was simple, and I had it installed in just a few minutes! After turning the power back on, I checked to make sure it was hooked up correctly with an outlet tester. You can never be too safe when electricity is involved!
The outlet cover snaps on easily, and looks seamless next to the white tile!
When the sun went down, the night light turned on automatically!
While the power was off, I also hooked up the new light fixture. Such a huge improvement!
Next week, I’m painting, painting, painting! The walls will be painted the same color as the vanity mirror and grout, and the trim will get a fresh coat of bright white. I’ll also start priming the tile floor for the stencil design!
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