I ordered a sample board from Subwaytile.com and it arrived yesterday. The box contained a thick cardboard display board with 5 tile samples on it. There were 4, 3X6 field tiles, and 1, 3-inch hex tile. Each of the tiles has a label on it indicating which finish it is. There is Pure White, Porcelain, Meringue, and Sand Dollar. The hex tile is also in Meringue. On their web site it says there are 5 sample finishes on the board and the 5th one should be “Alabaster (glossy crackle warm white)”. I don’t see the Alabaster on the board, but that’s fine because I doubt I would be interested in it based on the description.
Also in the box there was a thin, paperboard mailer with another tile sample in it. It was wrapped in bubble wrap and there was some literature along with it. I thought this was the Alabaster, but this tile does not have a “glossy crackle warm white” finish to it. It is the most glossy of all the samples but it is not “crackled”. The Porcelain sample on the sample board has crazing, which I thought was what they meant when they said “crackle”.
To confuse matters more there are 2 price lists. One was for Subwaytile.com and the other was for Subway Ceramics. I went to the Subwaytile.com site and finally figured out what I got. The display board is Subwaytile.com tiles, but the Alabaster sample is just not on it. The other tile sample is Subway Ceramics tile. It is a different company, but it is distributed by Subwaytile.com, or at least that’s what I’m guessing.
If you go to Subwaytile.com there is a Subway Ceramics logo on the right sidebar. You click on that and you go to the Subway Ceramics site. There are no prices on the Subway Ceramics site, or at least I couldn’t find them, and under Information/Ordering it says: Subway Ceramics accepts orders from dealer/showrooms, architects, restoration contractors and designers. Notice it doesn’t say anything about normal people like me. Well, ok, an argument can be made that I’m not normal. Normal or not, though, it doesn’t seem that I can buy directly from Subway Ceramics.
Subway Ceramics offers more colors than Subwaytile.com, but I’m only interested in the white. Subwaytile.com offers a lot more in the way of decorative boarders. Subway Ceramics field tile starts at $14.95 a sq ft, as opposed to the $10.95 a sq ft for the Subwaytile.com tile. Subway Ceramics prices for trim pieces – base, cap, etc. – are very nearly the same as Subwaytile.com. A 3X6 Victorian cap is $11.65 at Subway Ceramics and it is $12.66 at Subwaytile.com. There is only a one cent difference in the price of the 6-inch base tile, but the Subwaytile.com base is much nicer. The Subway Ceramics base is mostly flat with a simple cove at the bottom, while the Subwaytile.com base has a much more detailed profile to it. One odd thing I noticed at Subway Ceramics site was when you are looking at color samples they show what looks like a 6X6 fancy Victorian base tile, but that tile is not listed anywhere else on their site, nor is it on the price list.
Finally, there is the quality of the tile itself. Both are very nice. It is difficult to judge an entire line of tile based on a few samples. If I had to pick one and say which one is nicer, it would be tough. The glaze on some of the Subwaytile.com tiles sort of oozes over the edge a bit. I don’t think this would have any impact on the installation, it’s just something I noticed. Also, the Subway Ceramics tile is pure white under the glaze, where the Subwaytile.com tile looks grayish brown with little specks of impurities in it. Does that have any impact on the quality of the tile? Who knows.
In the plus column for Subwaytile.com, the glaze on top of the tile is flatter. It looks like the glaze on the Subway Ceramics tile has pooled slightly at the edges. It is very subtle, and it’s not really something you would notice once it’s installed. Since I only have one sample of the Subway Ceramics tile, I would say that it is best compared to the “Pure White” sample of the Subwaytile.com tile. When comparing these 2 side by side, I like the Subwaytile.com tile better. Both are a gloss tile, but the Subway Ceramics tile looks to be a little more glossy. The glaze looks a little more generic. Even though the Subwaytile.com tile is glossy it looks to be half way between a matte finish and a standard gloss finish of other tiles I’ve seen. It’s glossy without being really shiny.