Matte vs. Glossy Subway Tile: Which One Is Better?

Subway tile has a unique look that adds character to a room whether you choose a matte or glossy finish. Matte tiles are great to use throughout the house, and glossy tiles are generally better for kitchens and bathrooms. Whether it be style, appearance, or location, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of matte and glossy subway tile.

matte vs glossy subway tile

Decorative tile is a great way to add some style and decor to your home. Tile comes in several materials ranging from ceramic to natural stone. While some tiles may appear dull and textured, other tiles look shiny and glassy. However, both a matte finish tile and a glossy finish tile have their place within the home.

Glossy finish tiles are easier to clean, add an element of formality to your home, but also show several stains and smudges. Matte tiles have some texture, make the room appear more casual, and have certain non-slip properties. Glossy tiles are better suited for kitchens, while the matte finish subway tiles are better suited for high-moisture areas like bathrooms.

Subway tiles are the perfect shape and size and offer a great design element for DIY homeowners. Plus, the subway-style tile is guaranteed a classic design that will stay popular for years to come. This tile can work just about anywhere in the home, and it is common to see subway tile used for kitchens, bathrooms, walls, or even flooring in some limited applications.

Don't want to do it yourself?
Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.


What Is a Matte Finish?

A matte finish on a tile has a very flat surface. The surface may appear cloudy or dull. This type of surface is achieved with a special finishing process that puts a slight texture on the outside of the tile. Matte tiles are barely reflective at all and have slightly rougher textures.

What Is a Glossy Finish?

Comparatively, a glossy finish tile is smooth. The tile is shiny and is reflective. This type of finish comes from a high amount of polishing in the finishing stages. When you feel the texture of a glossy tile, it will feel completely smooth and glassy. Often, natural stone tiles made in granite, quartzite, or marble will feature a glossy finish. Ceramic tiles can be either glossy or matte.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Matte Tile?

Matte tiles certainly have their place within the home and have several benefits. Because they are not super glossy and reflective, they do a good job hiding stains and splashes. Smudges will not appear as obvious on a matte tile, making your room appear cleaner and more finished. Plus, the slightly textured surface on a matte tile can add a bit of friction, making matte tiles perfect for rooms with high moisture, like the bathroom.

However, there are some downsides to matte tiles too. Many people do not prefer matte tiles because they are not as formal or polished. Colors can sometimes appear duller, and they have a very casual look.

Matte finishes can also be tricky to find, but not impossible, in natural stone tiles like granite or marble. Find out what size trowel you should use for 3″x6” subway tile.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Glossy Tile?

Glossy tiles are a wonderful addition to any room, and many people love the look of a glossy tile. These tiles are highly reflective and can help to brighten a space like a kitchen backsplash. Their smooth texture makes them really easy to clean, and most glossy tiles can simply be wiped clean with warm water. Glossy tiles also appear more formal and finished, which can help complete your look in a bathroom or kitchen.

Glossy tiles aren’t for everyone, though. Many people don’t like to use the highly reflective tile because it can show every spot, stain, and smudge. It can be difficult to keep glossy tiles clean. Further, the incredibly smooth surface is very slippery when it gets wet, so glossy tiles are not always the best option for a high-moisture area like a shower or bathroom.

Which Tile Is Better For the Shower?

A shower receives a high amount of moisture which will make subway tiles wet. Glossy tiles can get incredibly slippery due to their high-gloss finish and low-friction surface. If you are using subway tiles on the shower floor, glossy finishes are not recommended. If you are insistent on using glossy subway tiles, they may better be used in a shower surround or used as a backsplash around a sink.

Using matte tiles in the bathroom is a far better option. Although they aren’t bright and shiny like their glossy counterparts, they have much more texture, giving them more friction. This characteristic means matte tiles are better suited for the floor because they are more “non-slip” than a glossy tile. Using matte tiles in the bathroom gives you an added safety factor with the same stylistic detail as a glossy tile.

Which Tile Is Better For the Kitchen?

Using subway tiles for a backsplash is a great idea. Not only can subway tiles help to fill in tight spaces conveniently, but they are beautiful and stylish too. Using a glossy tile in the kitchen will be the better option. Glossy tiles are highly reflective with their smooth surface. The glossy finish helps to reflect more light in the kitchen, and it can help make cleanup easier. Glossy tile is very easy to clean, and a simple wipe of a warm cloth can eliminate stains, spills, and smudges from the backsplash.

Comparatively, using matte tiles in the kitchen is perfectly fine, but expect to use a little more elbow grease to clean stains off the backsplash. The rough texture on matte tiles can trap small food particulates, making them a bit tougher to clean. But, on the bright side, matte tiles will also work better at hiding food stains.

What Are Subway Tiles Used For?

Subway tiles are small, rectangular-shaped tiles that can be used throughout your home. These small tiles are easy to work with and can fit just about anywhere. Their thin shape makes them particularly useful in backsplash applications. Simply lay a few rows of tile behind your kitchen counters to give your walls some protection and your kitchen some style. Or, subway tiles are also commonly used in the bathroom as a backsplash, tiled wall, or shower surround.

What Grout Can I Use With Subway Tiles?

Just as there are countless tile designs, there are also countless grout options. Many people choose a classic design, selecting a grout color similar to the color of the tile. To make your subway tile pop, though, try selecting a different but complementary grout color to really make your subway tiles the star of the show.

Don't want to do it yourself?
Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.


Related Questions

Is the subway tile still in style?

For the past ten years, it has seemed like the biggest trend in kitchen and bath design is to include a subway tile. Many homeowners are just waiting for this trend to end and are questioning if the subway tile is still in style. Luckily, the subway tile trend will be around for years to come, guaranteeing a long-lasting design style. Not only are subway tiles easy and convenient to use, but they are also extremely classic and versatile, so that they can be applied to just about any room in the house.

While the appearance of white subway tiles may be repeated throughout houses around the world, it is always possible to create a different look. Consider using a contrasting grout color to give your otherwise boring white subway tiles a different look.

What is a normal subway tile size?

Part of the reason why subway tiles are so popular is because of their small, compact size. Most subway tiles will measure just 3 inches by 6 inches. This small size makes them easy to work with and allows them to fit just about anywhere. Of course, some specialty tiles or different tile manufacturers may offer slightly different tile sizes, so it is always best to measure ahead of time. A subway tile can be used for tiling a wall, backsplash, or shower surround. The possibilities are endless with this small yet versatile tile.

Related Articles

Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners and home improvement enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and gardening tips with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance, cleaning your carpet, or even putting up a fence, we've got you covered.

Recently Published