How High Should Tile Be On a Bathroom Wall?

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Subway tile wainscoting is a great choice for bathroom walls. It has a beautiful look and it also protects the walls from moisture and scuffs. Here are some things to consider before you install yours.

In our recent bathroom renovation I decided to continue the subway tile from the shower walls to flow out of that area and around the entire room (it is a small bathroom). Outside of the shower, I guess it is called wainscot.

Having been through it – I can probably help you answer some common questions about the right height, material, etc.

bathroom wall tiled partially with white subway tile

What is Wainscoting?

white subway tile on lower half of bathroom wall with hook above

Wainscoting is a permanent type covering that you put on your wall – usually on the bottom part.

This purpose of this covering is to protect your wall from water damage but it also looks really nice, and is often a decor element in modern bathrooms.

Wainscoting can be made of any material, but the most common in bathrooms are wood or tile.

Before our bathroom renovation, the plain wall beneath the towel bar was streaked with moisture lines caused by water dripping off of people’s hands as they reached for the towel after washing their hands.

It was an eyesore.

Now that we have the bathroom wall tiles, we just wipe down the wet areas on the wall beneath the towel hook (we replaced the bar 😉 ) – easy!

What is the Ideal Tile Height for Bathroom Walls?

“How high should you make tile wainscoting in a bathroom?” is a question that someone asked me recently.

I have found as a general rule you will see wainscoting somewhere between 3 and 4 feet high up from the bottom of your wall.

However, I don’t think there really is an average height as it really is a matter of personal preferences – but there are a number of decisions to make before you decide on what is right for you.

The Positioning of Your Wall Outlets Makes a Difference

wall outlet above subway tile wainscot on bathroom wall

It’s something you might not think about, but I feel that the best option is to have the height of the tile end underneath your lowest counter height wall outlet or light switch.

Otherwise you will need to cut holes in the wainscot to accommodate the outlet or switch.

Will You Use Your Wainscoting as a Tile Backsplash?

oval bathroom faucet and sink on marble top vanity with white subway tile backsplash

If your wainscot is tile, then it can serve a dual purpose by working as the backsplash behind your sink. 

But only if it is high enough.

So, take into consideration the backsplash level and see if that height works if you carry it around the entire bathroom.

Take Wall Hangings and Mirrors Into Consideration

bathroom faucet on marble vanity top with white subway tile backsplash and white framed mirror above

Another thing to take into consideration are wall hangings and mirrors.

If you are hanging a mirror above your sink, you will need to make sure that the height of the tile doesn’t interfere with the wall hanging – or it might look funny.

In my bathroom, you can see that I used a chair rail type bull nose tile to cap the top of my wainscot. This border tile kind has a thickness and a rounded edge that sticks out from the wall a bit. So, if I had used a higher tile height, my mirror would overlap this tile it would jut out as well.

Consider the Size of the Tiles

The size of the tiles that you choose makes a difference as well.

You have a lot more flexibility in the height that you decide on when you use small tiles.

We used subway tiles staggered horizontally that are each only 3 inches high – so each row added or subtracted resulted in a 3 inch difference (plus or minus the grout lines) in wainscot height.

In contrast, each row of large format tiles laid horizontally can add substantially to the height of the wainscot.

Of course, it is a good idea to consult with your tile installer to get opinions and ideas on tile choices and design elements.

Cost is Also a Factor

A simple solution is to cover the entire wall in floor-to-ceiling tiles. I have actually seen this done beautifully on an accent wall using a decorative tile.

However the labor costs and additional material can quickly add up.

This is the Bathroom Wall Tile Height That I Chose

bathroom wall tile with white subway tile on bottom of wall to 42 inches up from floor

For our bathroom, I decided to use a 42 inch high tile height for my tile wainscoting.

This measurement met all of the above criteria in our space.

To keep the cost down we decided not to use expensive tiles and go with porcelain tiles instead.

We used a simple white subway tile wainscoting and this connects with the same tiles in the bottom two thirds of our walk-in shower area. So there is a nice flow.

The pictures that I include here don’t do it justice.

Other Considerations

Once that beautiful wainscot is attached to your wall – you will have a hard time convincing yourself to drill through it.

We bought a freestanding toilet paper holder instead of a wall mounted fixture for this exact reason.

And if you also have a tricky situation of having a window in the shower area like we did – then these tips will help you deal with that too.

How High Did You Go With Tile On Your Bathroom Wall?

Tile wainscoting in a bathroom is both functional and decorative.

When deciding on the height be sure to consider:

  • the placement of your outlets
  • whether the tile will function as a backsplash
  • the height of your mirrors and wall hangings,
  • and, of course, the cost.

If you installed tile on your bathroom walls, let us know what height you chose in the comments below.

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  1. where did you find your white subway tile wainscoting, please? Ive looked everywhere, asked every professional installer that I found, and nobody seems to be able to tell me where to buy it in wainscoting style. They all recommend I tear out my existing 70 year old tile and replace it with the new white glossy subway tiles in my bathroom. Thanks for any help you can offer me. I certainly would appreciate it.

  2. Thanks for the article. I definitely learned something. This could be a good look for any bathroom. Adding this and new fixtures to your bathroom can give it a great look.

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