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What is Travertine?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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Travertine is a natural stone material from the limestone family. It is made of calcium carbonate and is usually found in the form of deposits near warm or hot springs. It was frequently used in ancient times as a building material. Because travertine is such a porous material, it should be sealed before use in construction or renovation projects. It is most commonly used for countertops and flooring, but may also be used in showers and tub surrounds as well as in exterior decor.

One might think that since stone can withstand the ravages of weather and outdoor elements, it is unlikely to be damaged when used in the home. Aside from its obvious beauty, durability is one of the elements that lead people to choose natural stone for home building and home improvement projects. The truth is that unpolished travertine is highly susceptible to heat, scratching, staining and acidity, including citric acid, so it should only be cleaned with special products designed for use on natural stone.

Never use cleaners that contain vinegar or citrus oils on travertine. Even water can be harmful to the texture of travertine if it is allowed to sit on the stone for long periods of time. One must also take care to use a hot pad or a trivet when placing something on hot on stone surfaces, and homeowners should never cut or slice directly on the stone.

Travertine is available in different colors and finishes, from natural, neutral colors such as creamy white and beige to tan and reddish brown. The color depends quite a bit on the impurities and iron content of the stone. The different finishes include honed, polished and tumbled. Honed travertine is smooth, but unlike polished, it has a matte finish. Polished travertine is smooth, but buffed and polished until shiny. Tumbled travertine has a rougher, textured finish and often has rounded corners for an antique look.

Because travertine is natural stone, no two pieces are the same. It is important to look over the material carefully and select only those pieces that you find the most beautiful. While you can save money by buying bulk parcels, you may not be able to examine individual pieces for pattern and color tone preference.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By TMulhern19 — On Nov 02, 2014

Great post. I have Travertine Flooring in my kitchen. The natural non-slip texture of travertine is the reason that makes travertine tile a good choice for floors.

By anon335220 — On May 18, 2013

I have a house with a basement. Can I put prevertine natural stone in the living room? Some people tell me that it may be too heavy to support the house.

By anon260178 — On Apr 10, 2012

"Is travertine suitable for a kitchen floor?"

Some would argue no as the natural voids are perfect for harvesting debris. I would argue that as long as a good quality travertine sealer is used, then you should not have a problem.

By anon166749 — On Apr 10, 2011

Tumbled vs. smooth Travertine tiles: Which is better for bathrooms and/or showers and why?

By anon149298 — On Feb 03, 2011

I have a travertine table with one of the side that has cracked. How can I fix it please? Thank you.

--Claire

By anon110438 — On Sep 12, 2010

To anon19387, i don't know who told you that polished travertine doesn't need to be sealed, because I am afraid you have been misinformed.

All natural stone, be it limestone, slate or any type of polished natural stone and various polished porcelain must be sealed. It all comes down to the porosity value of the tile. When the tile is mechanically polished it leaves tiny micro porous holes, and it is these holes that need to be sealed to protect the tile from staining, etc.

If you have got the polished travertine in your home i suggest you seal them before you damage them.

By anon76955 — On Apr 12, 2010

I have been selling flooring (including natural stones like travertine) for almost 10 years. To say that you don't need to seal polished travertine is a complete fallacy. Don't fall for it. Any natural stone needs to be sealed about every 18 months or so -- even polished granite. Seal your natural stone, or pay for it later. I stand by this information with my life.

By anon58980 — On Jan 05, 2010

I really think your site is cool.I did a lot of research on travertine before I did my entire house indoor and outdoor and I bought from a girl that really helped me out and my project came out to die for.

By anon58603 — On Jan 03, 2010

Too many negative comments, regarding natural stone as option. Many of you are misinformed and should really do research on "travertine". Natural stone is the way to go. it has been used all over the world and still around and beautiful. example: Rome, Italy.

By anon49452 — On Oct 20, 2009

Travertine pavers are amazing. I think they are the ideal material for outdoors, especially pool decks. We are very happy with our selection.

By anon35746 — On Jul 07, 2009

My niece put a pink swim suit that ran onto my travertine seat in my shower.... any advice on what to use to clean it.

Thank you

By anon34239 — On Jun 19, 2009

can i use natural travertine as a decorative surround for a pizza oven, outside, but will be protected from the elements when not in use? it will not be inside the oven, but am wondering about the heat aspect... will the travertine be suitable?

By anon32944 — On May 29, 2009

I purchased two very expensive 32" travertine bowls to be used as fire pits at my pool. These bowls were equipped with fire rings fueled my natural gas. As soon as these bowls were lit, both obtained huge cracks that ran the length of the bowl. I have seen travertine used in this manner. Should I have done something to treat the stone first, or was this a poor choice of material to use for a fire bowl??

By anon26397 — On Feb 12, 2009

We have 18" x 18" honed travertine tiles on our kitchen floor for the last 3 years or so. I sealed them when I put them in but not since, and they are not stained. I don't know if I would use white or very light travertine, but ours is medium/light brown/gold with no problems.

Bottom line, travertine works great in the kitchen!

By anon20649 — On Nov 04, 2008

We bought from a company called Homes in Stone. They recommend sealing the travertine prior to using it. As with any natural product it will require maintenance to keep it looking beautiful.

By anon19387 — On Oct 11, 2008

Polished Travertine is not porous. the surface tension of the stone increases as it is polished and is not only non porous but does not need to be sealed!

By anon4479 — On Oct 19, 2007

In all reality, how will travertine do for a shower enclosure? This shower is used 4 to 6 times a day. thanks

By anon3020 — On Aug 06, 2007

Travertine for the kitchen floor? Depends on your lifestyle. I wouldn't because I don't always clean as I go. If you do not clean spills right away the stone will absorb it regardless of the finish. Think about this, if you have pets or young ones, or even older people in your house that act young and they're not prone to clean after themselves then reconsider.

By anon2828 — On Jul 27, 2007

is travertine suitable for a kitchen floor?

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