Subway Tile: A Classic, Clean Look for Pools Too!

Subway Tile: A Classic, Clean Look for Pools Too!
by AquaBlu Mosaics

There are many things to consider in designing or refurbishing the perfect pool such as determining a shape and size, water features and decorations. One of the most important (and overlooked) elements, is pool waterline tile.

Waterline tile is the perfect way to give your pool an extra design jolt. The water in your pool will appear extra shiny and luminous when the sun reflects off the surface of the tile. Additionally, you can use waterline tile to add a pop of color to your pool.

Glass is an especially popular choice for pool waterlines because of the way it captures sunlight and mirrors the water’s movement. The installation process of glass pool tile is more labor intensive, and this typically results in higher costs but the results are unique and studies show glass tile increases the resale value of your property.

That leaves the style of mosaic tile for your waterline. While there are many styles to choose from, one of the most tried and true is the same clean and classic style that is still popular in interior home design – subway tile.

There’s a reason this timeless look has been going strong for more than 100 years. This classic tile shape is so streamlined and modern that it literally works for any style of space including pool waterlines due to subway tile’s symmetry and balance. Glass subway tile is particularly compelling.

To get you started, here are a few ideas to think about:

Offset Subway Tile

The most common way to use subway tile for a pool waterline is by offsetting. This is the classic staggered brick pattern beloved by so many designers and pool owners.

Created more than a century ago by architects Heins and LaFarge, the original subway tiles were used for the New York City subway in 1904. These tiles were perfect for subways because they were simple, clean and economical.

They were so efficient that other major cities adapted subway tiles, from London’s Underground to Paris’ Metro. Soon, subway tiles became popular above ground as well, adorning Victorian kitchens and bathrooms because of their sanitary qualities.

AquaBlu offers some nice selections in 2” x 4” such as our Blue Gray tile and 3” x 6” sizes such as our Bay glass tile. There’s also a sleeker, more elongated subway tile called Ice that is 2” x 6.”  If you prefer smaller chips, we have that too with our 2” x 3” subway tiles like splendid Java

Stacked Subway Tile

The vertical stacked non-staggered subway tiles are sometimes referred to as the “new subway tile.” Some designers call it this because they feel it has an updated, more contemporary look than staggered subway tiles. They also feel stacked tiles look cleaner, sleeker and less busy than staggered tiles because there are fewer lines since the same sized tiles sit on top of each other.

But really it boils down to a matter of taste. One design element to consider with stacked tiles is to vary the colors so that you have a pleasing blend such as our 3” x 6” Hyacinth with our 3” x 6” Anemone.

Blue Subway Tile for Sale

While just about any color of subway tile can be used for a pool waterline tile, shades of blue are still the leading choices. Psychologists tell us that blue creates a feeling of tranquility. It also represents the coolness of water. As a waterline, blue will help give pool water a bluer hue, which most pool owners find appealing.

The only problem with blue is that there are SO many outstanding shades to choose from. Several we really like include Stratus Blue, Bluebell, Aspen, Steel Blue and Light Blue Blend.

The Impact of White Subway Tile

While blue is popular, don’t overlook the impact of white subway tile such as our Stratus White. Hotels and spas like white waterlines for their pools because white gives a sensation of purity, relaxation and harmony. It also tends to make the pool water look sky blue, which is a preferred color for many travelers.

White tile also can be enhanced with tile grout. By playing with the color of the grout, you can personalize the look further. Use white tiles with high contrast black grout for a more sophisticated feel; or white on white to create a seamless look; or you can even get that pool favorite blue color with an epoxy grout like our Blu Zaffiro Evo tile grout.


Have a question about subway tile for pools? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind. Talk to one of our experts. You can call us at (800) 971-1442 or fill out our contact form. You can visit our website at