Stone tiles are a great way to change up the look of a room. There are several styles that you can use in the walls or floor of your home, and Travertine tile is one of them. This sedimentary rock was used in ancient temples long before it became a modern tile, but there are some things you’ll need to know about this wondrous material before using it in your home.
What is Travertine Tile?
Travertine tile can be tricky for newcomers as it’s a material that’s often mislabeled. We’ve seen it referred to as travertine marble or limestone travertine which can lead to some confusion. Travertine is a form of limestone that’s typically found near mineral springs. It has to be harvested like other natural stones and generally comes from Mexico, China, Peru, and Turkey.
Once a stone slab has been delivered to a manufacturer, it’s basically cut down to size and made into tiles. The type of surface treatment and finish it has varies depending on the look you want, but the overall process is generally the same worldwide. As travertine tile isn’t pressed or extruded into molds like ceramic tiles, more labor goes into producing the tiles, which increases the cost.
The Pros & Cons of Travertine Tile
Natural stone is a material that can bring some interesting benefits to the table… along with a few drawbacks. As travertine limestone falls into that category, we’re going to tell you what to expect from this earthy style of tile.
Travertine Tile Pros
Saying travertine tile has a unique appearance is a bit of an understatement. This old-world building material can transform your living room into a modern roman villa or add some class to your patio. As it’s a “natural” product, it’s more eco-friendly than laminates or engineered flooring considering natural stone tile is often recycled or repurposed.
Another advantage is a perk you’ll find with other forms of tile – they are easy to replace. Repairing a 6” x 6” travertine tile is easier than removing linoleum that’s been down for 30 years. While an acquired taste, we like the fact this type of limestone weathers naturally over time.
Having ceramic tiles in your kitchen or luxury vinyl in your bathroom may look nice, but travertine floors throughout your home can actually increase its price. While there are harder stones around, you can also expect travertine to outlast other styles of flooring as long as you keep it maintained.
Travertine Tile Cons
Travertine is a porous stone, which is a major drawback depending on where you plan to install it. You can seal it to prevent stains, but it will absorb liquids rather quickly in its natural form. That includes grit and grime along with acidic beverages like orange juice or even ketchup.
Maintenance can also be an issue, especially if you prefer flooring that doesn’t need as much care. Travertine may need to be sealed every 6 to 12 months if you want to keep stains away. It can certainly handle foot traffic, but it doesn’t rank very high on the hardness scale and is cold beneath your feet.
Despite not being as durable as other building materials, travertine is heavy. That can lead to increased shipping charges if you need to order online, and make your job significantly tougher if you want to install the flooring or wall tiles yourself. Travertine is slick when wet, which can be a significant issue, and while we love the color array, the options are limited to natural earthen tones.
Travertine vs. Marble
One of the biggest competitors to travertine tile is marble. When travertine is polished, it can resemble marble, although it’s easy to tell the difference between the two if you look close enough. Marble is usually veined and comes in colors like white, gray, and black. Green, pink and blue are also options if you want something exotic. The colors are created by impurities within the stone, which is formed in a completely different fashion.
Marble is created through a combination of heat and pressure over time. It has to be mined more carefully than travertine and experiences the same difficulties as limestone or travertine when exposed to certain substances. Both are heavy, which can make them difficult to work with, and both types should be sealed.
Travertine tiles can provide more grip than marble and come in more varieties. While marble is hard and found in residential and commercial properties, it’s also brittle by comparison, which means manufacturers can use more techniques with travertine. When it comes to cost, natural travertine is cheaper than natural marble but more expensive than cultured marble.
Travertine Tile Buying Guide
Whether you want to add a few rows of travertine around your pool or tile the bathroom walls, you need to know what to expect from this natural stone tile. In our buying guide, we’re going to discuss all the critical areas which will help make your shopping experience painless and simple.
Where will you install Travertine Tile?
Travertine works better in some areas than others, but you can use it in almost any room of your home. Obviously, you don’t want that in the garage or a children’s playroom, but kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and other rooms are all fair game.
Before you start to calculate your square footage, think about the condition of your home. Is your foundation solid, or do you have any cracks over doorways?
Settling can be an issue in older homes as well as new ones depending on the builders. Before you spend thousands of dollars tiling your floors or walls, make sure your home's foundation is sound. That said, if you have radiant heating in your home, you’ll be pleased to know travertine tiles work well with those systems.
The tiles can be used as accent pieces outdoor around your pool or in your garden area as well, as long as you keep its porous nature in mind. While most people use travertine on their floors, it looks just as good on the walls.
If you follow our site, you know that almost every type of flooring has grading systems in place. It can be something simple to let consumers know it’s a “green” product or an in-depth scale for hardness or slip-resistance. Both of those statistics are important with travertine tiles, and if you want to know about hardness, you need to understand the Mohs hardness scale.
The Mohs scale has been around over 200 years, and it’s a great way to better understand how resistant minerals like stone are. It’s a “scratch test” of sorts on a scale of 1 – 10 with diamond being the hardest at a 10. You can’t scratch a diamond with anything, but fluorite is a 4 which can be scratched by anything higher.
Travertine comes in between 4 – 5 so it’s comparable to fluorite. That means any material rated higher than a 4 will scratch your tile which includes steel knife blades, window glass, or sand. Marble, Limestone and Travertine all rank close together on the scale along with slate. Granite is considerably harder, however, at around 6 – 7.
This ties into where you plan to install travertine tile. You don’t have to worry about slippage for wall installations, but kitchens and bathrooms are two common problem areas. DCOF, which stands for dynamic coefficient of friction, is how slippage is measured in floor tiles, and a statistic you should be able to find on the best travertine tiles.
DCOF tells you how much force is needed to keep someone on their feet while moving across a wet tile. The newest standards set that limit as 0.42 DCOF for interior floors, so anything with a lower ranking will give you trouble when it’s wet. The test is only good for water, so you would want even higher numbers if you’re dealing with oils and other slick substances.
There are various other tests you can to take into account as well, and you can find more information on those standards through the National Floor Safety Institute.
One thing travertine tile has in common with clay-based tiles is the fact they both come in a variety of finishes. You won’t find glazing on travertine, however, so you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these terms.
When you see travertine listed with a Honed finish, one side has been ground down or sanded to give it a nice even finish. The surface is uniform, but not quite as shiny, and they are prone to scratches and stains.
There are also two variants of this tile to consider. A filled honed travertine tile has surface imperfections filled in whereas unfilled tiles will show off more of the tile’s natural texture. This is the most popular style in residential use.
As the name implies, a polished travertine tile has a slick surface and is shinier than other finishes. It gives the tile a look that’s similar to marble and is easy to clean with solid resistance against stain and scratches.
While dirt and the occasional spill won’t be an issue with polished travertine, you will need to polish it regularly to maintain its luster. It’s also not a great idea for flooring in wet areas due to the slick top.
If you’re looking for travertine wall or floor tiles and want something with character, tumbled tiles may be your best option. These tiles are “tumbled” in a barrel with grit which gives them a textured surface. This adds rustic charm to a room and considerably increases traction as well.
Unfortunately, tumbled tile is more porous than other styles so water can be an issue and dirt will collect in those charming crevices. You’ll need to seal tumbled tiles, just like other travertine styles, but may also need to fill some imperfections with grout.
This is a finish travertine tiles share with engineered and hardwood flooring. While not hand-scraped, brushed tiles are finished in a fashion that leaves the surface rougher and more porous than honed or polished stone.
In addition to surface treatments, travertine tile also has a few edge profiles you’ll want to consider. Any tile deemed saw cut or straight edge has been sawn from a slab and left largely unfinished aside from a light surface treatment in some cases.
Chiseled edge tiles are another option if you like the weathered look. The edges of a chiseled edge travertine tile have been chipped or chiseled away which leaves you with a rough, uneven edge and wider grout joints.
Travertine Tile Dimensions
There was a time when 99% of the tiles produced were square and limited to just a few sizes. Well, thanks to advances in manufacturing technology, you can find travertine tiles in a variety of sizes and thicknesses although the smallest square travertine tile is 4” x 4” and the largest top out at around 24” x 24”.
Sizes increase in 2-inch increments (more or less) unless you’re purchasing a patterned set. These are precut in certain sizes depending on the package, but a few popular options are the Antique and French Villa patterns. Widths are either 3/8”, 1/2”, or 5/8” for residential flooring tiles although pavers and some outdoor tiles come in considerably thicker.
DIY or Hire a Pro?
Tile, in general, isn’t difficult to install, especially if you have a nice even surface to work with. That said, travertine tile is made from stone, so it’s heavier and not quite as easy to work with. You may need help moving material around the job site due to its weight, and grouting smooth glazed tiles is far easier than laying grout lines between rough stone.
Unless you have experience working with stone or a lot of time on your hands, you could be better off using a professional to install travertine tile in your home. If you would like to know how much contractors cost in your area, use our pricing tool below.
Travertine Tile Cost
The cost of travertine tile is more expensive than ceramic, but we’ve seen high-end porcelain with similar price points. How much you have to pay for travertine tile largely depends on the grade, manufacturer, size, and type of finish you choose.
A 24” x 24” tile that’s been honed and filled is around $23 - $40.00 although you can pick them up cheaper if the quality isn’t a concern. A tumbled tile of that size is also cheaper if you can find them, while polished tiles tend to be more expensive.
No matter which style or size of travertine tile you choose, remember traction in wet areas and to keep those tiles sealed as needed!