Travertine Tile Flooring Buyer's Guide

Travertine Tile Flooring
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Travertine tile 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. Interior floors can use travertine tile or pavers, while exterior applications usually call for pavers. Like most natural stone, travertine usually should be installed by a professional. It is heavy (a 12-by-12-inch sheet of travertine mosaic can weigh as much as 5 pounds), it is thick (tiles are often 1/2-inch thick, and pavers are 1 1/4 inches thick), and it can be tricky to align the tiles or pavers for a perfectly flush surface. 

Travertine Is Porous

One central fact of travertine is its porosity. The pocked surface of this stone gives it its distinctive natural, chaotic texture. But the porosity also represents added maintenance issues that are not found with most man-made flooring and even some other types of natural stone.

Travertine is a sedimentary rock. As opposed to igneous rock, which is formed deep within the earth from magma and is extremely hard, sedimentary rock is formed by the settling of minerals and organic matter closer to the earth's surface. 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 help minimize this natural vulnerability, travertine's holes are filled in the factory with resins that blend with the surface and are difficult to detect.

Travertine Is Moderately Durable, Compared to Other Stones

Travertine porosity does not significantly diminish its durability. One measure of tile durability is the Moh's Scale of Hardness, a crude but basically effective tool for 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 other interior floor coverings, including wood, laminate, vinyl, and some other types of tile.

Travertine Comes in Different Textures

In its natural state, travertine is rough-textured. Polishing travertine changes its nature, creating a patina that makes the stone's colors pop out, resulting in an overall richer look. In addition, polished travertine's glossy finish reflects light from the room more than tumbled or brushed travertine.

Surface Description Comments
Polished Extremely 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. Not suitable for outdoor use.
Honed Filled 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 aged, antique look and provides ample traction for outdoor surfaces.
Brushed Brushed travertine has the most subtle colors of all types of travertine. It can either be tumbled or not. The surface of the travertine is treated with wire brushes to produce a flat, matte surface.

Travertine Can Be Installed Outdoors

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 slab). Stones should be placed as close together as possible. Rectified edges ensure minimal seaming. Being one of the softer stones, travertine can be cut with a circular saw and diamond blade or a tile saw. 

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.