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Bullnose vs. Chair Rail Tile

Athena Hessong

Finishing tiles are not always necessary, but they make your tiled space more decorative. Properly used finishing tiles can make even a home handyman's tiling project look like it was done by a professional. Bullnose and chair rail tiles are just a couple of finishing options, but these are not used in the same way. Choose the right finishing tile for your tiling task before you begin your job to prevent emergency trips to the tiling store later.

Bullnose Tile

Some projects require a finishing tile at the edges of the field tile.

Bullnose tile has a distinctive shape so you can easily distinguish it from flat tile. It has a smooth, curved top edge. This edge softens the edges of the line created by the bullnose tile. This tile is best in transition areas of your tiling project, such as the narrow edge of a counter or the edges of a backsplash.

Chair Rail Tile

Wooden chair rails break up the expanse of a wall. Chair rail tiles do the same thing. These are a type of listello tile. Listello refers to tiles cut with decorative protrusions to make them stand out on a wall. The actual design of the chair rail tiles can be as simple as a half-moon shape or as complex as tiles with a carved image on top. Chair rail tiles draw attention to themselves and, like bullnose tiles, are used for transitions.


The edges of counters should use bullnose tile if you want the tile to be flat against the counter edge. Decorative chair rail tiles are best used for the horizontal edges of walls or half walls. When using bullnose tile on an edge, place the curved portion of the tile so it curves up to the top surface of the counter. This will soften the corner of the counter edge, creating a smoother look than if you used flat tile on both the edge and top.


Bullnose tile can be used at the borders of designs to distinguish different areas, but to make the border stand out, you will want to install chair rail tile. The top of wainscoting is a popular place to put chair rail tile. Embossed tiles will create a difference in texture on the wall because they will stand out from the wall tile above and below them. Even flat tile of a contrasting color can be used as a substitute for shaped chair rail tile. Use chair rail tile where you want to create an accent on the border, but opt for bullnose tile if you want the transition to be more seamless.