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Understanding Cement Tile Corner and Surface Bullnose Trim

Trim and molding seems to be one of the most confusing details in a tile installation. It's easy to understand why there is so much confusion. First, there are no industry standards and this results in numerous colloquial terms used to identify the same type of trim or molding (for instance, surface bullnose and single bullnose). Additionally, there are a myriad of slightly different designs of the same trim that all perform the same function. For instance, Heritage Skirting is a base trim molding with decorative ridges. Finally, many of these pieces are infrequently or rarely used, if at all. So, let's discuss and understand the most common (and useful) transition: the bullnose.

Understanding the Term: Bullnose

bullnose I often get the question, "Why use bullnose to describe a radius edge on tile?" The term bullnose originates from the rounded nose of a bull or cow. Bullnose is a common term used in building construction for trim tile with rounded convex edges, particularly tile and masonry. It's important to note that the bullnose tile provides a finished surface. You'll see the color of the cement as opposed to looking at it's unsightly edge that shows the color layer and grey concrete with aggregate.

More than likely, you've seen single bullnose and double bullnose tile in an installation similiar to the own shown in the photo below. Even though you may not be able to recognize them yet, there is single and double bullnose tile used to create a professional, polished installation.

Cement Tile Installation with Base Trim Molding
Cement Tile Base Trim Showing Single and Corner bullnose

Understanding Corner and Surface Bullnose

bullnose is a term to describe a tile with a finished edge that has a radius or filet. This finished edge allows you to transition from the tile surface to another surface, like a painted wall. A tile that has one finished edge is called a Single bullnose (SBN) or Surface bullnose (SBN). A tile that has two radius edges is a Double bullnose (DBN) and most likely these will be two adjacent edges on the corner of a tile, called a Corner bullnose. transitions ton a tile that transitions from the , the Double bullnose (DBN) trim or molding is also called Corner bullnose because two corner edges have a finished transition or smooth, rounded corner (or fillet) edge to the surface.

Now, let's take a closer look at this installation and identify the single and double bullnose trim pieces on the 3" base molding.

Cement Tile Base Trim Showing Single and Corner bullnose
Cement Tile Base Trim Showing Single and Corner bullnose

Here's another view of the same installation that allows you to see the top, finished edge of the tile.

Top View of Single and Corner bullnose Trim
Top View of Single and Corner bullnose Trim

How to Specify Heritage Cement Tile Corner Base Trim

Heritage Double bullnose (DBN) molding must be specified as either as Right Hand or Left Hand. Make sure you understand the difference and order the correct quantity of each. It.s not hard, but an important detail that if not attended to will only add frustration and delay to your project.

Right Hand Corner bullnose will have a rounded corner on the right hand side of the tile when you are looking at it. Left Hand Corner bullnose will have a rounded corner on the left hand side of the tile when you are looking at it.

Left and Right Double Bullnose Heritage Molding
Left and Right Double Bullnose Heritage Molding

Remember that there is no specific standard for right and left hand bullnose pieces. Order the wrong ones or make an assumption and you'll likely end up with a white elephant. Make sure to understand each vendor's nomenclature to get the right material the first time. Additionally, mold and trim is usually made to order, so not only will you end up with something you can't use, it could definitely delay your project.

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