How To Choose And Install Tile Edge Trim

Tile trims add a clean, professional look to any tile design. It’s critical not to skip this step. Tile trim covers rough or sharp edges, cuts down on cleaning and maintenance and protects a tile installation for years to come. Installing trim is no more difficult than installing the rest of the tile. Similar materials are needed like adhesive or mortar and trowels. Install tile trim as the second to last step of a tile installation project.

NOTE: You can also paint tile if you can’t find a style to your liking.

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Types of Tile Trim

There are many different types of tile trim, but the most common options include:


Bullnose tile trims are one of the most commonly used trims. They provide a smooth, finished look that protects against sharp hazardous edges. Bullnose trims have curved edges that fit perpendicularly around the corner edges of tiles. They can be placed in the corners of walls, backsplashes, tubs, steps or over the joint where the wall meets the floor.

Quarter Round

As its name suggests, quarter round trims are usually a quarter of a circle around. They provide a protective smooth even-radial-rounded corner that seals an exposed perpendicular edge. These are perfect for turning a corner along the edges of bathrooms, showers, benches, tubs or doorways.

Cove Base

Cove base trims are often used where the floor meets a tiled wall. They have a curved edge that seamlessly covers the joint, and provides water-resistant protection to keep moisture from seeping into the walls or floors. They’re especially useful along the base of showers. Cleaning should be easy and less frequent when these types of trims are installed.

How To Choose And Install Tile Edge Trim


Baseboards are typically installed along the joint where the wall meets the floor. Similar to cove base trims, they are especially useful in wet areas like bathrooms or showers. However, unlike cove base trims, they have a straight edge that should be properly caulked to be watertight. Tile baseboards are a good option for places that get mopped frequently (as opposed to using wooden baseboards).


Pencil trims are cylindrically shaped with round edges (roughly like a pencil). They tend to be used on the edges of mosaic designs on walls. They help to create borders or outline the end of the design. They also offer a great statement piece for places where the design transitions from one tile shape to another.

Flat Liner

Like pencil trims, flat liner trims are used to frame designs or statement pieces. But instead of being round, flat liners are straight, flat pieces of tile. They lack the depth that pencil trims have but can provide a more sleek and contemporary look. Flat liners are perfect for framing edges where different materials meet (like tile and wood), especially on the floor where rounded tile may not be desired.

Chair rail

Chair rail tile trims were originally used as baseboard trims to prevent chairs from scraping the walls. Now they’re more commonly used to provide an ornate, architectural frame to backsplashes or mosaic tiles. Their carved decorative molding design provides more depth than a flat liner, but is less bulky than a regular tile baseboard.


V-caps are the only trims that can be used to completely cover perpendicular corners in tile installations. They’re frequently used to finish the edges of sinks in kitchen or bathroom countertops (or anywhere the tile hangs over the edge). They can also be used in window sills, shower niches or partitions.

When to Install Tile Trim

Tile trim should be installed as the second to last step of a tile installation project. It’s important not to skip installing tile trims in favor of less working time or money spent. Tile trims provide a finishing touch and make tile last longer.

The only time tile trim may not be needed is when the tile meets flush against other surfaces like wall corners or floor edges. Continuous tile designs can also be used instead of installing tile trim (but the tile edges should be glazed to remove rough, sharp edges).

Safety Considerations

Use gloves to prevent scratching yourself against sharp tile edges. Be careful not to crack the tiles that you’re trimming or covering. Wear safety glasses and gloves whenever cutting tile and if using an electric or gas-powered cutter, ear protection is also advisable.




1. Determine Where Trim Is Needed

First examine the tile design to find where sharp edges, unsightly harsh lines or gaps between the tile and other material may occur. Common places where you may consider installing trim include:

2. Pick a Design

Pick a trim type that complements your tile installation. This is the opportunity to be creative. You can choose a trim that blends into the tile design, provides a custom high-end accent or one with contrasting colors for an eye-catching look.

3. Measure Edges

Measure the areas where the trim will be installed. Determine how many tile pieces are needed to complete the trim. Give exact measurements to your tile trim provider to make sure that you have the right size and amount of tile trim pieces.

4. Apply Adhesive or Mortar

Once you have all of your materials in order, get ready to install the tile trim. Make sure to install the trim before you complete the entire tile installation. Apply the adhesive with a caulking gun or spread mortar with a trowel on the edges where the trim will go. Apply this one tile at a time so as to not allow adhesives to dry out

5. Even Out the Adhesive or Mortar

Use a trowel to even out the mortar. A caulking gun will help with applying an even layer of adhesive. This step ensures that the tile trim is installed properly with a professional look.

6. Back Butter the Tile

When installing tile trims that have an open back like bullnose, V-cap or chair rails, use a technique called back buttering. Back buttering means applying extra adhesive or mortar to the open part of the tile. Make sure to apply evenly. This technique provides good adhesive or mortar coverage and guarantees a long-lasting installation.

7. Press the Tile Trim in Place

Most tile trims can be installed by simply pressing the tile into its place. Use spacers if necessary to ensure even spacing between tiles. If using mortar, you may need to comb it with the notched edge of the trowel and twist the tile trim into place.

8. Repeat

Repeat the process for each piece of tile trim. Once the trim has been installed, you can continue to install the rest of your tile design.

When to Call a Pro

A professional interior designer can help you choose a design of trim type. Call a flooring or tile professional if you crack or break the tile you’ve already installed while installing the trim. If for some reason the trim is not staying in place after pressing it into the adhesive or mortar, this may also be a good time to call a pro for advice and assistance.

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