Travertine is hacked from mountainsides primarily in Turkey, fabricated to apply any number of finishes. Travertine tile's appearance can range from sleek and glossy (polished) to rough and antiqued (tumbled). In all cases, the edges are rectified so that tiles can be butted without the need for seams and grout. Edges may be square, rounded, or beveled.
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Travertine is a porous, pitted stone to begin with. Now, imagine making it look even more aged and antiqued: that describes tumbled travertine. The stone is gently machine-tumbled with small stones to produce soft, rounded edges. Tumbled stone is perfect for homeowners interested in an Old World, Roman, or Tuscan look. A popular treatment for areas where there will be little or no direct contact, such as backsplashes or wall wainscot, and also for exterior paving.
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The most popular travertine finish. This treatment allows manufacturers to offer lower-grade travertine with excessive pitting (as well as high-grade stone with fewer pits). In this method, the natural pits are filled with epoxy resin and then the surface is sanded down or honed. In this accompanying photo, you can see a good example of poor grade filled-and-honed travertine. In the lower right quadrant are large cavities that have been filled.
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Split face is the roughest finish available for travertine. The stone is cut at varying angles; it is not honed or filled in any way. Split face is used exclusively for walls, fireplace surrounds, and backsplashes.
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The most clean, modern, and sleek finish. Edges are precisely cut to perfect 90-degree angles and the surface is polished to a glass-like high gloss. Polished finish is by far the fanciest, showiest look for travertine, and it works well for high-end spaces such as entrances, where first impressions count.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Chiseled is an edge treatment only. Edges are chipped away either manually or mechanically to produce a ragged bevel that accepts more grout than would a conventional round or beveled edge. In this image from Arizona Tile, the chiseled edge has small, V-shaped indentations. This is an attractive edge treatment for floor tile or exterior pavers.
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Not a popular finish. A bush hammer has a unique waffle-like face. Striking the travertine with a bush hammer produces a distinctive, even, pitted face. Commercial travertine is machine bush-hammered.