here’s nothing like natural stone to add living, breathing soul to your home. With its creamy colors and rich texture, travertine is a lesser known option you should consider whenever you’re planning a new project or renovation. Travertine tile can deliver the rustic yet polished effect you want for your kitchen island or back patio—and those are just two of many ideal applications for this versatile stone.
Like the most popular natural stones on the block—marble, soapstone, and granite—travertine is beautiful and durable. But it also has a certain rough-and-tumble appeal that makes it design pros’ go-to for warmth and texture. It could be the finishing touch you’re looking for too—there are just a few caveats you should be aware of before you commit. Below, we delve into everything you need to know about travertine, including how to care for it and where to use it to best effect.
What Is Travertine?
Travertine is a natural stone that forms when mineral-rich water seeps through sedimentary rocks, leaving behind deposits that harden over time—which makes it a type of limestone. That chemical process gives travertine its stunning pitted texture and makes each piece unique.
Whole structures can be built of travertine—classical case in point: the Colosseum in Rome—but in homes today you mostly see tile. Travertine tile can be used indoors and out to cover walls, floors, patios, and even pool decks. When it’s used for flooring, travertine often gets refined to make cleaning it easier and prevent wear and tear. The pitting is typically filled in with clear epoxy, then it gets sanded down to a smooth surface.
You can find travertine in a broad range of colors, from white to pink and yellow, but the most common colors are cream, ivory, beige, and tan.
There’s also a range of travertine finishes, including honed, polished, tumbled, and brushed, so you can pick the one that suits your style. Honed travertine is the most popular option; it has a matte texture that works indoors and out. Tumbled and brushed travertine look more rustic and are popular for an old-world or Mediterranean villa vibe (White Lotus fans, this finish is for you!). Polished travertine has a highly shiny, highly smooth effect, but it’s very slick when wet so it’s not recommended for bathrooms or pool or spa areas.
Travertine Pros and Cons
Like all types of natural stone, travertine has perks and downsides. Below, we’ve outlined some of this pretty material’s pros as well as the less desirable features you should know about before you go all in.
Our opinion? You simply can’t beat the charm of natural stone. While many types of tile can mimic the look of travertine, none come close to its beautiful patina or rustic appeal.
Travertine is also very durable: It can hold its own against heavy foot traffic and rarely cracks or chips. Being installed as tile rather than a slab gives travertine long-term staying power too, since you can remove and replace a single tile should it get damaged.
Travertine is porous, so like marble and granite it’s susceptible to etching and staining. If you want to use travertine tile for a countertop or backsplash (or really anywhere it could come into contact with substances like citrus juices, sauces, or vinegar), you should apply stone sealant upon installation and periodically going forward.
Travertine also has holes on its surface. Many homeowners seal them with epoxy. That’s particularly important to do when it’s used on a floor; if you don’t, water can get into the holes and weaken the stone. When you’re installing travertine tile vertically, it’s less important to seal the holes, but you might still want to do it to prevent the crevices from hanging onto dirt and grime.
Travertine tile can be cold. It reflects the ambient temperature around it, so peak summer and winter can be uncomfortable. If you want to lay it down as a floor and are concerned about cold feet, an area rug can help soften its appeal (and warm your toes).
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The Cost of Travertine Tile
Travertine is a midrange stone costing somewhere between $3 and $17 per square foot plus the cost of installation, according to Angi. That makes it less expensive than granite. That doesn’t take into consideration any sealing or epoxy you may need to have done to the tile or unique installation methods, like up a column or around an intricate pool deck.
How to Care for Travertine Tile
When it’s installed and sealed properly, travertine tile is as easy to care for as any other type of flooring or counters. Plan to wipe it down periodically with a soft cloth dampened with soap and water or sweep away debris with a broom. For in-depth cleaning, wipe or mop with a cleaner specifically designed for stone surfaces to ensure you don’t expose it to anything that could stain or etch it. As for long-term maintenance, periodically seal travertine with a stone sealant, and be sure to address any cracks or chips promptly.