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Natural Travertine Information

Our collection of stone materials would not be complete without the inclusion of a very distinct and notable natural stone that cannot be mistaken once you learn to recognize it. Travertine is that stone. Natural travertine offers a number of specific characteristics and it is used for a number of applications. In this article we will take you on a tour of this marvelous natural stone and cover some interesting points about it along the way.

What is Travertine

In layman's terms, travertine is a specific type of limestone. In fact, if you want to elaborate a little bit, you will find the following explanation on Wikipedia:

Travertine is a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. Travertine often has a fibrous or concentric appearance and exists in white, tan, cream-colored, and even rusty varieties. It is formed by a process of rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate, often at the mouth of a hot spring or in a limestone cave.

As the above summary says, travertine is limestone that forms in a particular way. So, it is composed of the same stuff as limestone as far as the majority of the minerals are concerned. The difference lies in where it forms. That may seem like a minor detail. However, the location variance causes changes that produce a material that is different enough from limestone that it is itself a specific kind of rock. So as you are reading the information online, you may see natural travertine referred to as "limestone". However, travertine is visually distinguishable from limestone.

Visually Distinct Characteristics

The formation process of natural travertine influences the final material. Therefore travertine, although it is made up of the same main material as limestone (clacium carbonate), looks different. The distinguishing trait that identifies travertine is the porosity. The stone is marked by holes (also called voids or pits) in an otherwise solid surface. These holes in the stone can either be treated with a product to fill holes in travertine or left as is. Since filling the holes can somewhat strengthen the stone, manufacturers often times use a colored filler or transparent filler to fill in the holes so that the stone looks smooth.


Travertine is composed of calcite - a crystalline form of calcium carbonate - and therefore takes a polish well. Calcium carbonate is a result of both organic and inorganic processes. Much of the organically formed calcium carbonate is composed of the remains of sea organisms. As a result, many of the things made of travertine, contain matter that at one time was ocean life.

Travertine Uses

Travertine has a number of applications. Two of the most notable uses for travertine are flooring and backsplashes. Tiles are fashioned out of natural travertine in a variety of sizes. Pool descks, floor tiles, and smaller tiles used for walls are all applications in which the material is travertine.

Distinct Appearance

The distinct look of travertine means that it is a notable material. Once you have seen it and learn what it looks like, you are able to spot it very easily. The holes (filled or unfilled) are very notable and they stand out.

The distinct look of travertine makes it a very good fit for use in rustic design style interiors. It also works very well as the material used for focal points in a design and even though it is a relatively soft material, it holds up nicely with the proper care and maintenance.

Maintenance Process for Natural Travertine

Travertine is a natural stone and as such, it needs to be cared for in a manner that is common for natural stone surfaces. Let's take a brief look at one good routine for maintaining natural travertine.

Periodic Sealing

As with any natural stone surface, travertine must be periodically sealed to help it resist staining from water based and oil based liquids. Acidic liquids can discolor travertine too, but we will get to that in a bit. For now, let's look at how to seal natural travertine so that it resists water and oil based liquids that can stain it.

Travertine Sealer

Sealing natural travertine need not require a professional restoration or maintenance company to keep it looking its best. Do-it-yourselfers can simply purchase a premium stone sealer for travertine and follow the instructions on how to apply it to their stone. The sealer though is only ane part of the maintenance process. The cleaner plays a role too.

Cleaning Travertine

The cleaner that is used on travertine matters too. Natural stone sealers do not withstand acidic substances very well. As a result, if the wrong cleaner is used on a travertine material it will destroy the sealer and the stone will not repel oil and water based liquids. Hence, pH neutral cleaner is necessary. Using an appropriate cleaner on travertine is what will allow you to get the most miles out of your stone sealer.

Etched in Stone

One other noteworthy aspect of owning travertine is the fact that, as a stone made up of calcium carbonate, it is susceptible to etching. Earlier we mentioned that sealers protect from water based and oil based liquids. However, sealers do not protect travertine from something called "etching". Calcium carbonate reacts with acidic substances. The acid disolves the calcite in the stone and leaves a discoloration.

When travertine gets etched, an etch remover can be used to remvoe the etch. The etch removal process can be tedious and it definitely takes some elbow grease to remove the discoloration. But there are etch removers available that cna be used to correct this type of marring.


As we have seen, travertine is a very notable material that can be used for flooring and wall tile applications. It is particularly useful in rustic design styles and offers distinctive traits when properly cared for. If you like the look of this natural material, and choose to use it in your project, you are sure to have a distinctive and beautiful design.