Pros and Cons of Travertine Flooring

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Travertine is a type of limestone that forms around mineral spring deposits. As a flooring material, it is typically sold in tile form and comes in a variety of earth tone colors, including tans, browns, rust, and beige hues. Like all natural stone, it has some specific maintenance requirements, and it is not appropriate for all locations. But a properly installed and cared for travertine floor can add a unique blend of mountain-born beauty to any interior space.

Advantages of Travertine Tile Flooring

Looks, strength, and long-lasting quality are the hallmarks of travertine flooring:

  • Stylish: This is one of the oldest building materials in existence, and its presence in a flooring installation can add a sense of age and prestige to the environment. At the same time, it has an inherently dominant energy that draws attention in a subtle, subdued way, with mild tones found swirling in its hazy, shifting surface effects. Each piece is also a nature-formed work of earth art, making any floor created from them a one-of-a-kind installation.
  • Subdued: Another style effect of travertine is that it has the unique power of natural stone but also maintains a reserved dignity that comes from the soft palette of colors in its spectrum. Available in tans and beiges, grays and speckled off-white hues, these tiles can bring the towering dominance of earth to a flooring installation without overwhelming a room with dramatic colors.
  • Durability: Hard tile materials such as travertine are made to take a beating without showing significant damage from scratches, cracks, or chips. Over time, a weathering effect can occur, which is often prized for giving the individual pieces a distinct character that evokes ancient architecture. With polished and honed materials, there is a greater risk of scratching, while natural-finish tiles are more resistant to damage and blemishes.
  • Long-lasting: While regular maintenance and care are required with travertine floors, these materials have the potential to last literally for decades. The weathering effect that occurs with years of use is often considered attractive, but if you wish, you can prevent weathering with a periodic application of stone-sealing agent. 
  • Ease of repair: Since travertine comes in tile form when a particular piece breaks it can be removed and replaced. If you're installing a new floor, be sure to keep a few extra tiles for perfectly color-matched repairs. 

Disadvantages of Travertine Flooring

Travertine's durability doesn't make it necessarily low-maintenance, and it's more difficult to install than other types of flooring:

  • Complicated maintenance: While these tiles are solid, strong, and durable, they also have microscopic pores in their surface that can allow spilled liquids and staining agents to seep into the material. Luckily, this problem can be resolved by applying a penetrating sealer followed by a barrier surface sealer. This dual-sealing treatment should be applied during installation, and then periodically throughout the life of the floor. Re-seal more often if you want to maintain the glossy original finish of the material.
  • Heaviness: Travertine tiles tend to be quite heavy, making installation difficult and time-consuming. It's usually best to leave installation to professionals. The weight of the flooring also a concern with regard to the floor structure, which must be strong and stiff enough to support the flooring without excessive bowing or flexing. 
  • Expense: Travertine can be somewhat expensive, falling in the mid-range of natural stone options but on the high end of the general range of flooring materials. In addition to the cost of tile, there are costs for installation materials, including adhesive and grout, as well as professional labor.
  • Coldness: Like most solid-stone materials, travertine flooring retains heat well, but it also retains cold. On chilly mornings the floor can be uncomfortably cold on bare feet. You can minimize this problem with area rugs placed in strategic positions. On the flip side, a travertine tile is a good option for flooring over radiant (in-floor) heating systems. Once the tile heats up it is an excellent conductor (rather than an insulator) of heat to help warm up the room.