3 myths surrounding tile trim

by clé tile | published: Jul 10, 2020

a tiled step featuring cle tile zellige squares and bejmat rectangles in weathered white and unglazed natural

a tiled step featuring clé tile zellige squares in weathered white and zellige squares and bejmat rectangles in natural.

It’s a widely accepted notion that trim must be used to “finish” any sort of tile installation, despite that it’s a lengthy, and often expensive, process. 

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. 

At clé, we have held to the international model of no trim, and we encourage our clients to do the same. However, we don’t expect you to come along on this journey without a bit of explanation as to exactly why tile trim is unnecessary.

a mitered edge on a shower bench, tiled with cle tile thin brick in bergen.
a mitered edge on a shower bench, tiled with clé tile thin brick in bergen.

But First… a Tile & Trim History Lesson

Countries throughout the world have had a long history of tile making. But, it’s not just about the creation of the tile itself. Many of these countries consider the craft of tile installation every bit as artistic as the craft of tile making. Both require a balance of technical skill and artistic devotion. Craftspeople skilled in both tile making and installation have maintained this practice today.

By contrast, tile trim is a much newer, American invention born out of a perceived “ease of installation” (which, as you’ll discover, isn’t really the case). To be fair, the american history of tile use is very young and mostly limited to bathrooms, and kitchens, floors and backsplashes. we are, admitedly, a little behind compared to places like morocco, turkey, and spain, where tile craftsmanship originated and flourished.

If you’ve decided to design your space using tile, it’s important to understand how these tiles were traditionally designed and installed. This will allow your tile to truly shine, and will prevent you from spending unnecessary time and money on your project.

To avoid this, look out for these three myths about tile trim: 

Tile Trim Myth #1: Voila!

One misconception is that tile trim completes the design. We’d argue that trim takes away from the design. Tile actually looks best when surfaces meet seamlessly and in a monolithic fashion. It produces more of a custom finish than a manufactured one. Still not sure? All you have to do is look to those countries who have been doing this for a lot longer than the U.S. A lot. The rest of the world utilizes far more tiles than the U.S. per capita, all without the use of tile trim. Surely they’ve been doing something right.

Tile Trim Myth #2: Trim Is Cost-Friendly

We’ve seen many (too many) design instances where tiles only covered a portion of the wall, backsplash, or mantel (aka: “short-sheeting”). This choice is constructed to be less about design and more about cost-savings. But, that is a misconception brought on by perception—the perception that covering an entire surface with tile is more expensive than finishing with trim. Not so. Trim is actually quite expensive and could push your budget to its limits (if not completely over the edge).

Tile Trim Myth #3: All Tile Has Accompanying Trim

Like we said, we are young. Most tiles are made outside of the U.S., which means they don’t come with trim. Are you going to mar your beautiful tile design by resorting to broadly manufactured trim options at the big-box hardware store? There are a number of options for tiling without trim (see examples and illustrations in our Trim Guide).

shower with bathtub and clé tile modern farmhouse brick gloss white tiles on the wall and solid basil rectangle cement tile on the floor
a tiled walk-in shower featuring clé tile modern farmhouse brick gloss white tiles on the wall and solid basil rectangle cement tile on the floor.

A (Tiny) Exception to the Rule

In some of our tile collections, we do offer a trim option—primarily because they are a tile with a distinctive “American-made” aesthetic.

Our factory-produced subway tiles and artisan crafted glazed thin brick tiles are two collections that include trim. This exception to our rule is limited, however, so be fair warned. Instead of a full-range of trim, we have a very minimal offering—just enough to allow those clients who are pro-trim.

But, our preferred stance (and we stand by it) is to recommend tiling without trim, based on the historic traditions and aesthetic presentations that we honor in tilemaking.