A Guide to Travertine Tiles

Travertine is a gorgeous sedimentary stone that lends itself well to interior wall and flooring applications, as well as for exterior pavers and pool copings. Find out how travertine can enhance the look of your home.

Texture Distinguishes Travertine From Other Tiles and Stones

Nemo Tile Modern Mythology

Nemo Tile Modern Mythology. © Nemo Tile

Once you see travertine, you’ll never forget it.

Travertine has a pitted, mottled texture, layering, and an even, light beige colour. Travertine is more about texture than it is about wild coloration.

Other than the meek colour, it’s not for the design-faint-of-heart; it’s a stone that gives your kitchen or bathroom backsplash, floor, or bath/shower walls or surround an ancient Roman look.

Because Travertine Is Naturally Pitted, the Pits Must Be Filled In

Travertine Backsplash

Travertine Backsplash. © About.com

Travertine is popular because of its hole-ridden surface. Yet holes, no matter how shallow, do not bode well for home installation, indoors or outdoors.

Outdoors, holes in stone can cause the stone to crack, should temperatures drop below freezing. Indoors, holes in travertine flooring quickly fill up with dirt, and in shower/bath installations they become clogged with soap scum, rendering them virtually impossible to clean.

What to do? Fill the holes in advance.

Most travertine used in the home is filled with an epoxy resin, and then it is honed (or sanded down) so that the filler and stone surfaces are equalized.

Rectified Edges Mean a Crisper Look


© Arizona Tile

One advantage of travertine tiles–as well as other types of stone tiles–is that they have cut edges.

This means that, unlike ceramic tile (except for rectified tile), travertine’s edges are perfect: both perfectly straight and perfectly at 90-degree angles.

You only need to butter the back of the travertine tile with mortar, then push it against the other tiles–no gap necessary. No gap means no grout.

Where Can Travertine Be Installed?

Travertine Kitchen Backsplash

© About.com

In theory, travertine can be installed in any part of the house where you might install stone or ceramics: shower floor and walls, tub surround, bathroom floor and walls, kitchen floor and backsplash, and foyer.

While travertine can be installed in wet locations, should you? Tile expert John Bridge recommends against travertine on shower floors. He says that it has at least two things going against it. It’s not as hard a marble (which itself isn’t extremely hard) and it is harder to maintain. Bridge recommends porcelain tile  that looks like travertine.

If you want to ensure that your travertine always stays beautiful, try to install in places that don’t receive heavy amounts of moisture, such as backsplashes. Any kind of vertical application will help protect against scratching and impacts.

Tumbled Travertine Signals an Old-World Look

Tuscan Style Kitchen Backsplash

© Arizona Tile

If regular honed and filled travertine tile has an attractive, rough appearance, then tumbled travertine is downright rustic and Old World.

Tumbled travertine is an indispensable element if you are trying for a Tuscan style kitchen or bathroom. Besides a slightly rougher surface, the tumbled variety will have more rounded and uneven edges, further giving it an antique look.

Should You Fill the Holes In Your Tumbled Travertine?

Split Face Travertine

© Arizona Tile

Vertical applications are less of a concern. But for horizontal applications (floors, counters, etc.), it’s your choice of whether you want the holes to fill with dirt or grout.

To avoid debris from filling the holes, quickly pull a thin layer of sanded grout across the surface and let dry. As grout tends to darken over time, it is recommended that you apply dark rather than light grout.

Even filled/honed travertine’s fill spots can pick up dirt over time. It’s just the nature of travertine to be imperfect: love it or leave it.

Should You Seal Your Travertine?

Polished Travertine

© Arizona Tile

You should seal interior travertine. There is no product specifically called “Travertine Sealer.” Instead, use any off-the-shelf stone sealer that indicates it can be used for stone.

Professional Sealer is easily obtainable and can be used on travertine. Exterior travertine does not need to be sealed but can be if so desired. Two coats are required for interior sealer, and it usually lasts 3-5 years, depending on traffic/usage.

For exterior sealer, you may need to reapply as often as once per year.

By Lee Wallender