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The Skinny on Subway Tiles, the Most About Mosaic: Tiling Ideas for Your New Backsplash

The Skinny on Subway Tiles, the Most About Mosaic: Tiling Ideas for Your New Backsplash

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When people say, “I want a backsplash but I have NO idea where to start!” we totally empathize. Adding a backsplash is a relatively inexpensive project that can yield a big impact in brightening up your kitchen.

But how to get from pinning cool home design photos to actually getting it done, especially when there’s so much to think about (tile type, size, cement, grout)?  ARGH!

Deep breaths my friend: Our team at Fixer is here to help.

Here are some classic, timeless options that will upgrade your kitchen as well as some insider tips on where we go in Chicago to find beautiful and economical tile! And remember, we can always help you with shopping recommendations, materials delivery, and installation if you get stuck.

OK here goes!


Backsplash Design

Backsplashes can be as simple as white subway tiles (a total classic, if we say so ourselves) to…well, pretty much anything, including a tile mural of a mountain lion. It can get as intricate as you want, but the truth is, two classic styles continue to win the hearts of even the most lofty of designers year after year:

Subway Tile

Subway tile never goes out of style. It can be found throughout Chicago, from when it was originally laid over 100 years ago to high-end, new construction. Traditional subway tile size is 3”x6”, but step into any tile store and you’ll see lots of interesting options that are bigger, smaller, wider, thinner, more colorful, shinier, or more matte – you name it, you’ll find it.

Regardless of size, the running brick pattern is both among the easiest to install, can hide lots of potential flaws (like a wonky wall), and leave your kitchen or bath looking modern and sparkling clean. There are also lots of tiles in this pattern that can be found at less than $6.00 sq/ft and no one will ever know.

Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tile is also a great option that is easy on the wallet and relatively simple to install. Mosaics come pre-hung in mesh sheets, making the job of spacing tile evenly a much easier task. There are also lots of great options and materials – from porcelain, natural stone, marble – that range from $3.00 – $24 sq/ft. There are even some great “stick on” options these days that do not require grout.

The Spruce has a great roundup of design inspiration for both subway patterns and mosaics to get you started — see what you like, and start there!


Where to Buy Tile in Chicago

You can find some great deals on tile online from places like Wayfair, and it generally does arrive in one piece (we have worked with lots of tile from online suppliers).

If you are new to all of this, seeing the tile live and in-person is the way to go.  Of course, most big box home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot now carry some fairly decent looking tile. But here are a few other great shops with knowledgeable staff to help you every step of the way (and of course we are always here to help with a recommendation, ordering, and installation too). Most of these stores will even allow you to take home tile samples free of charge to test in your own space before purchase.

Here are some of our favorite tile shops around town:

Floor and Decor

3443 W Addison

Chicago,IL 60618

Floor and Decor is a national chain but just recently opened its first Chicago store in Avondale. It’s a wonderland of floor coverings – including carpeting and flooring in addition to tile.  They offer tiling classes and lots of learning opportunities for the aspiring DIYer.

Home Carpet One

3071 North Lincoln Avenue

Chicago, IL 60657

Home Carpet One is a national co-op of over 1000 local neighborhood store owners who pool their buying power to create great inventory selection and pricing for their customers.  Located in Lakeview, this store is a little smaller and more cozy, with a great curated selection of tile at all price points and friendly experts to help with your project. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the idea of endless aisles, this may be a great less intimidating option for you.

The Tile Outlet

2434 W Fullerton Ave.

Chicago, IL 60647

Talk to any homeowner in Logan Square and they will, without fail, tell you how great The Tile Outlet is. Located near Fullerton and Western, The Tile Outlet is a warehouse-style showroom full of TONS of great and classic tile options, from mosaic to subway tile. The prices are extremely fair, and they’ll let you take home a few options to try out — totally free of charge. Even if you’re not in Logan Square, it’s worth the drive!

The Tile Shop

1460 N Halsted St.

Chicago, IL 60642

Looking for a slightly higher-end tile shopping experience? The Tile Shop has tons of inspiration and great staff to talk you through so many options. Their slogan? “We’re tile experts so you don’t have to be” — a pretty great slogan if you’re inundated with options and not sure where to start. In the city they’re located in Lincoln Park, with several other locations throughout the ‘burbs and open seven days a week.

The Bottom Line

Remember: adding a quick backsplash will freshen up your space, can spark great homejoy, and add value to your home. Consumer Reports notes that a modern, updated kitchen is one of the things buyers/renters are looking for most — and search engines like Realtor.com say that 80% of shoppers named the kitchen as one of the most important spaces in a home.

Now that you are inspired, you don’t have to take the plunge alone. Find your ideal design, then get in touch with us at Fixer to help make it a reality — from advice on materials selection and products to actually managing the entire installation project, we’ve got you covered.  Small tiling projects generally take just two days (day one to lay the tile, letting the bonding materials cure overnight, and then on to grouting + sealing. Done!).

The visual change, and the change in your spirit, is worth it.

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