15 places to find 4″ x 4″ ceramic bathroom tile in vintage colors

With Kate gathering ideas for her master bathroom design and remodel — including looking for four-inch by four-inch pink bathroom tiles — I got all Mother Hen and started sending her links to places that might have this very basic bathroom field tile in a not-so-basic color. But then, I thought, maybe it’s better if I just refresh my research and compile all my known sources for 4×4 ceramic bathroom tile in one story.  So, here is my list — I found 12 13 14 different companies that manufacture and/or are major distributors of basic 4″ x 4″ ceramic tile for bathroom walls and shower and tub surrounds — in white, neutrals, pastels and other colors, too:

be safeIMPORTANT UPDATE:
Please see my May 2, 2016 story, Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age; this article focuses on raising awareness around three other potential sources of lead dust exposure in your home – old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any era — and steps you can take to assess and, if required, address them. My research for this story also indicated that lead glazes may still be used on ceramic tile to this day — see the story for more information so you can do your own research on how to proceed in your hunt for tile.

  1. B&W Tile is our #1 go-to place for new 4×4 tile made today. Here’s their site –> B&W Tile has been making ceramic tile for more than 60 years — so they have authentic retro colors, including pink. B&W doesn’t have their tile colors online, however, crafty Pammy (that’s me) found B&W’s tile colors at Clay Squared — a company in Minneapolis that also sells the B&W line. Note, I called B&W for their price — it was $4.50/s.f. Clay Squared’s price is $12/s.f. I called Clay Squared to ask why the difference, and owner Josh said that his price (Clay Squared’s) includes all shipping and handling, while B&W’s does not. If you’re in the market, I guess you will want to crunch the numbers and see which formula — B&W’s or ClaySquared’s — would work out better for you.
  2. Classic Tile New York — Good retro colors, relatively inexpensive prices at Classic Tile New York. I talked to a salesperson there, he said many of these colors are from U.S. Ceramics — they must have a special deal, because I don’t see them elsewhere on the www.
  3. Daltile — Daltile is probably the largest brand name in tile in the U.S. — and the second place we’d look. If you can find a color you like, you might be able to buy it via your local big box or tile store — and not be charged shipping. They seem to have a number of collections that include 4×4 ceramic wall and counter tiles. The colors change regularly, so check them all, they include Semi-Gloss, which seems to be the #1 go-to collection for retro pastel colors… Semi-Gloss Color Trends has 1960s acid hues… also look at Festiva … and Natural Hues has a large palette as well.
  4. Big Box stores — You can typically find white and bisquit colored 4×4 bathroom tiles at the Big Box stores for under 20 cents each. I was just at the Home Depot, and the tile they seem to be carrying as 4x4s is from U.S. Ceramic Tile Co. White was in-stock on the shelves…. and they had a sample board with other colors, the s.f. price was not listed — ask an associate. When I renovating my bathrooms several years ago, I found rose beige at the Home Depot, trimmed it with white bullnose, and it looks smashing.
  5. Longtime local tiles stores — Ask if they have any deadstock in their backrooms or warehouse.
  6. United States Ceramic Tile Co. — 4/8/14 UPDATE: US Ceramic Tile company seems to have merged with Roca Tile Group. As I mentioned above, Home Depot (at minimum) seems to carry this line, and it is likely to be as “affordable” as you can get unless you strike gold at the Re-Store or salvage. Colors are not particularly retro as of this story update. You can see 23 colors/finishes on the Roca Tile Group website.
  7. American-Olean — AO is owned by the same company as Daltile, and I think they have the same colors just with different names. But honestly, trying to compare sends me cross-eyed. Their collections with 4×4 squares include: Bright … and Matte.
  8. Olympia Tile — Olympia tile is a Canadian-based company, but they have some distribution in the U.S. (See their location map.) I used their heron blue tile in my blue bathroom renovation (although I think this color is now discontinued.) They now look to have one collection of 4x4s with a few possible retro colors, namely buttercup, tender gray and periwinkle.
  9. Florida Tile — This Kentucky company does not have “colors”, but it has a selection of neutrals.
  10. American Universal Tile — The Brittany line looks to have some good pastel color choices.
  11. Ann Sacks — This high-end company’s Caliper collection boasts some 300 colors. However, this design does not appear to be “basic” — it has prominently beveled edges. The website says prices start at $20/s.f.
  12. Nemo tile — Nemo has this Anthologhia line with colors — Rebecca used these in her fabulous bathroom remodel. Nemo has another 4×4 line here, although no real colors, lotas greiged out.
  13. Waterworks — There’s a whole lotta crazing going on and, as my husband would say, these are faancy. But worth a shot to take a look at, especially if you are in a city with a retail location and can get an in-person look-see.
  14. Mortarless Building Supply in Los Angeles: Reader Kit suggested this place in May 2016.
  15. For hard-to-find replacement tiles: Finding replacement tiles in the exact right color can be very difficult, because there were so many makers back in the day. You can try longtime local tile stores — ask what’s in their backrooms or warehouse; salvage places; Re-Stores; ebay, etc. Readers have reported success asking neighbors, who may have renovated or be renovating and have a the color they need. You might also need to “borrow” tile from your own bathroom, taken from someplace inconspicuous and reinstalled in a more visible spot; if you take this route, get with your own professionals to assess what you are working with before proceeding; remember to Be Safe/Renovate Safe.

Again, see this story: Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age.

If you are looking for replacement tiles:

measure-tile for-trimtile-sizeBefore you begin your search for replacement tiles, it is important to note that not all 4″x4″ ceramic wall tiles are created equally. Depending on the manufacturer, age of the tile, etc., tiles may vary in their actual measurements. So-called 4″x4″ tiles might actually measure 3.75″x3.75″ or 4.25″x4.25″ square. There could also be variations in the thickness of the tile. Make sure you know what size and thickness your original tile is before you start searching to avoid buying tile that will not fit in your bathroom. Also, if you will be heading out to search through piles of salvaged tile, take a small piece of your tile with you to make color matching easier, if possible.

So there’s my list.

Readers, if you know of any other manufacturers/retailers of any other lines of 4×4 tiles, please leave them in a comment. Thank you! 

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