Named for Tivoli, Italy and formed as a result of geologic processes and chemical reactions between different minerals, travertine is a sedimentary stone that has long been appreciated for its natural beauty and ruggedness in standing up to use.
Originally a common building material that was used to build the Roman Colosseum among other buildings, travertine has recently come into common use as tiling, a paving material for garden paths, and in other ways that serve to beautify our homes.
Besides Italy, there are several other places in the world where travertine deposits are naturally occurring including the Southwestern United States and Mexico, Eastern Europe, and many other areas where the unique stone is to be found. As it is a natural material, travertine from different areas will vary in composition and hence appearance, and samples from the same deposit will also show variation in color, markings, density, etc.
In general, travertine tiles are known to be hard-wearing and beautiful, holding up to use better than many other natural materials. It is used to give a luxurious, some would say decadent feel to a space as it is a very attractive, quality material that ranges in color from deep beige to almost white.
People often use it in their bathrooms to create an elegant space, as bathrooms tend to be smaller and can thus be done in all travertine, from walls to flooring and for countertops as well. There are three main types of travertine tiles available for purchase, and we will explore these in this article.
The differences come from the unique ways in which the tiles are processed, creating tiles with unique characteristics. There is tumbled travertine tile, chiseled and brushed travertine, and honed and filled travertine.
Types and Uses of Travertine Tiles
Travertine tile that has been tumbled has softened edges and open pits and pores that are usually filled with a grout of compatible color. These most often find use as travertine wall tiles due to their rougher texture, which can be uneven for walking on but are fine on a wall. This type of tile would be a good choice for a travertine tile backsplash.
The Chiseled and brushed style is usually used for travertine floor tiles. Its edges are rough and it creates a floor that has character.
Honed and filled travertine is the low-maintenance option because holes and other depressions have already been filled during the fabrication process. The finish of the stone is satiny as opposed to glossy like in polished travertine.
Other areas where travertine is commonly used are for tabletops, and in the bathroom as tub surrounds and flooring tiles.
In terms of care for this wonderful stone, there are a few things to be aware of. First of all, even though it is hard, untreated travertine is not impervious to certain substances. Like marble and limestone, it is susceptible to etching from acidic substances.
For this reason, travertine is a poor choice for kitchen counters and splashbacks. Even if it is sealed, etching may not be avoided if the tile comes into contact with an acidic substance if the sealant used only prevents staining. Make sure to get a penetrating sealant that can prevent etching if you want to use travertine in these slightly riskier areas.
Sealing can also prevent water from seeping into the stone and altering its appearance, and this treatment is usually done for travertine tiles that will be used for the bathroom. One thing to keep in mind is that re-sealing will be a fact of life with travertine, and its similarity in structure to these other stones means that care and maintenance are about the same for all three types of stone.
If you need something that doesn’t etch or stain and doesn’t need to be sealed, ceramic tile can be an appropriate low-maintenance option.
Personally, I would use travertine in a non-bathroom application. It would be great for normal flooring as it stands up to use very well. Outdoors, too, would impart a great atmosphere to a patio or as a walkway.
For those on a budget, these are great ways to get travertine into your home. Mounting the tiles on walls gets a bit more involved and there is generally more space to cover. Covering a wall would probably also require cutting out holes to accommodate light switches, electrical sockets, etc.
This will require either more time and effort on the part of the homeowner installing the tile himself or more money if using hired labor. Of course, another great way to do more with less is to make use of smaller pieces of travertine in the creation of travertine mosaics.
There are ready-made mosaics that can add an artsy or old-world feeling to the home, and simpler designs can be incorporated with larger tiles. You can also get creative and design your own mosaics, or work with a company to create the mosaic you have in mind.