Travertine Tile Flooring: Buyer's Guide and Overview

Travertine Tile Flooring
Travertine Tile Flooring. Doug Bennett / Getty Images

Travertine flooring is highly durable and lends natural beauty to a home.  It is one of the few types of flooring that works as well for interiors as it does for exteriors.

Like most natural stone, travertine works best when professionally installed, as it is heavy (a 12" x 12" sheet of travertine mosaic can weigh as much as 5 lbs.) and thick (tiles are 0.5" thick and pavers are 1.25").

Travertine Is Porous

One central fact of travertine is its porosity.

 The pocked surface gives travertine its distinctive natural, chaotic texture.  It also represents added maintenance issues that are not found with man-made flooring (laminate, luxury vinyl flooring, etc.) and even some forms of natural stone.

Travertine is a sedimentary rock.  As opposed to igneous rock, which is formed within the earth from magma and is extremely hard, sedimentary rock is formed by the settlement of minerals and organic matter closer to the earth's surface.  

What this means in terms of flooring is that travertine is softer than igneous rock and is laced with holes and pockets created by bubbling carbon dioxide.  This is what makes travertine so porous.

To mitigate this, travertine's holes are filled in the factory with resins that blend with the surface and are difficult to detect.

Travertine Is Low- to Mid-Range Durable, Compared to Other Stones

Travertine's porosity does not translate to a lack of durability, though.

Moh's Scale of Hardness is a crude but basically effective method of gauging natural stone's resistance to abrasion (but not to fracturing).  On Moh's scale, calcite (travertine is classed as a calcite) receives a 3 rating on a scale of 1 to 10.

Lowest on the scale are soft minerals like talc and gypsum.

 Highest are the incredibly hard gems like diamond, topaz, and quartz.

Travertine ranks lower than marble in terms of hardness.  But still, travertine is a stone, and stone will always be more durable than most interior floor coverings like engineered wood, laminate, vinyl, and ceramic or porcelain.

Four Types of Travertine Surfaces

In its natural state, travertine is rough-textured.  Polishing travertine changes its nature.

With polishing, the patina of the stone suddenly looks different--colors pop out and the look is richer. In addition, polished travertine's glossy finish reflects light from the room more than tumbled or brushed travertine.

PolishedExtremely glossy and light-reflective, this travertine has been filled, polished to its maximum smoothness, and sealed.Best travertine surface for resisting stains.  Very slippery when wet.  Do not use outside.
HonedFilled and lightly polished.  Honed travertine has a matte-like appearance and is less slick than polished travertine.Honed is the most popular type of interior travertine.  For many, it represents a sweet spot between polished and tumbled travertine.


Rounded corners and edges and subtle colors.

Travertine is tumbled in a machine with other stones to gently round off the corners and edges.  Tumbled travertine has an older, antique look and provides ample traction for outdoor surfaces.
BrushedBrushed travertine has the most subtle colors of all types of travertine.  Brushed travertine can either be tumbled or not.The surface of the travertine is treated with wire brushes to produce a flat, matte surface.

Installation Basics

  • For exteriors, travertine can either be dry-set (laid in a bed of sand) or mud-set (set in mortar on top of a concrete base).  Stones should be placed as close together as possible.  Rectified edges ensure minimal seaming.
  • Travertine, being one of the softer stones, can be cut with a conventional electric saw and diamond blade.
  • For dry-set applications, sand is swept between the pavers after they have been set.  A newer method is to sweep polymeric sand into the joints.  Polymeric sand is a combination of filtered, size-calibrated sand and polymer adhesives.  When sprayed with water, the adhesives first soften and then combine with the sand, hardening and binding the sand together.