the bull in bullnose: clé tile’s alternative to trim

by clé tile | published: Aug 21, 2020

to trim or not to trim

The no-trim approach to tile has existed around the world for centuries. Yet, many of our customers assume they need trim to complete the look.

While trim can create the appearance of a “finished” look, in certain circumstances there are alternatives to trim that not only honor these global influences in tile, but also reduce cost. Both are core reasons why clé prefers the no-trim look.

So… if finding the perfect corresponding trim for your tile is making your head spin, there’s a simpler answer: Don’t trim. We can help open your design eye to the many trim-free possibilities in tile design.

what is trim?

trim refers to long, thin strips of tile which cover the edges of a tile installation, acting as a border and insuring that no tile edge is left exposed. while some installers believe this is the only way to “finish” an installation, we’re here to highlight no-trim options that can save you a lot of time (and money) while looking great.

Trim Alternatives for 3 Surfaces

Trim is considered for a variety of reasons, depending on the surface and application. A shower or backsplash installation may require a different treatment than a floor or wall that’s not exposed to water. Some commercial installations must accommodate technical or design specs that drive the selection of certain types of trim.

Fortunately, there are many ways to replace trim that meet construction needs and preserve a design aesthetic.

For full illustrations and more detailed instructions, download our Trim Guide.

Option #1: Surface Bullnose & Corner Trim

Surface bullnose trim, also known as “edge trim,” is the most common tile trim used for wall tiles at the top edge or the side edge of a tile project. It is also available in corner pieces that allow the top edge and side edge of a project to be joined in a bullnose manner at the corner of the installation. This corner trim is also known as “down angles.”

a kitchen backsplash featuring clé tile modern farmhouse brick in sand cast, with no tile trim.

a kitchen backsplash featuring clé tile modern farmhouse brick in sand cast.

do it the clé way

Ask your installer to use any of these three alternatives for both surface bullnose and corner trim:

  • Run a grout joint bead of caulk or grout along the exposed tile edge—just like the Europeans do.
  • Build out sheetrock surface to meet the tile inset for one flush, continuous surface.
  • If your project turns a corner, neatly miter the edge to give it the cleanest, crafted finish.

Option #2: Counter Trim

Counter trim forms a front edge, typically around a kitchen or bath counter. It’s often found in apartment unit installations. We consider this to be one of the more “extreme” types of tile trim developed.

a kitchen countertop featuring cle zellige squares in weathered white. a kitchen countertop tiled with cle tile forage terrazzo large format squares in charcoal.

two kitchen countertops, the first featuring cle zellige squares in weathered white, and the second with cle tile forage terrazzo large format squares in charcoal.

a note about kitchen counters

We should note that we generally steer our clients away from using tile on kitchen counters. Cleaning a countertop can become an issue where grout is concerned; crumbs and other residue can get trapped in the grout grooves, and the grout’s porosity creates an environment for bacterial growth. But, for bathroom vanities and other non-food uses, tile can produce a beautiful surface.

If you’re set on using tile for a kitchen counter, we suggest forage terrazzo that comes in a large tile format so has fewer grout lines and is easier to clean. Instead of using counter trim and counter trim corners, ask your installer to either:

  • Bevel your corner edges into a fully mitered corner piece.
  • Craft a bevel from the field tiles, to create a more artistic edge.
a beautifully patterned floor with cle tile cement pattern squares in robusto.

a beautifully patterned floor with cle tile cement pattern squares in cigar shop.

Option #3: Standard Base & Cove Base

In tile speak, “base” equals baseboard. This version of trim is helpful for protecting wall areas that abut floors, reducing scuffs and other damage due to foot traffic. The two base options are standard and cove. While the difference between the two may seem slight, it’s actually quite substantial.

Standard base is similar to the type of wooden baseboards you see with hardwood floors. The standard height is usually four to six inches high. The base typically has a slight bevel or rounded top edge.

Cove base features a curve where the base meets the floor, what’s known as a “sanitary cove.” This design was standardized in the industry—specifically in areas like commercial kitchens and bathrooms—to keep bacteria from growing in the 90-degree corner where the base would typically meet the floor.

Standard Alternatives

Not all floor tile projects require a tile baseboard, but if you’re set on it, here are ways to accomplish a baseboard finish:

  • Use a standard traditional (or modern) wood baseboard trim.
  • Cut the same tile being used for the floor (in four to six inch strips). Finish off the top, exposed edge with a caulk that matches the grout.
a bathroom floor featuring cle tile pattern cement squares in star bright in federal blue. a retro style bathroom complete with checkerboard floors and cle tile modern farmhouse brick matte white tile on the shower wall.

a bathroom floor featuring clé tile pattern cement squares in star bright, followed by a a retro-style bathroom complete with checkerboard floors and clé tile modern farmhouse brick matte white tile on the shower wall.

Cove Alternatives

Since cove bases are used in many commercial applications, you probably can’t get around the “no base” option. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  • Using the same approach as with standard base, cut the tile into strips and finish the top edge with caulk. At the base, add a curved trim between the wall and the floor joint.
  • Some codes will allow an inward bevel at the coved joint. Use a very thin strip of the wall or floor tile and insert in the cove joint area. This allows for a more organic, cohesive look.

Honoring Tile’s History

We will almost always make the argument that tile can be installed without using trim. This not only honors tile’s artistic history, it truly does make for the best aesthetic presentation. If you’re still on the fence, read up on these tile trim myths.