Benefit of Honed Vs. Tumbled Travertine

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Travertine tiles are a durable and popular building material used in all areas of the home. Travertine can be used as floor tile or wall tile and can come in honed and tumbled finishes.


The selection of a travertine tile finish for your home should be based mostly on aesthetics, although maintenance can figure in as well.

Honed Travertine

  • Travertine is a form of limestone, comprised mainly of calcite/ The stone was formed in hot-water springs and river beds. As gases escaped from the stone over time, bubbles, holes and pockets were formed within the stone.

    Like most limestones, travertine is too soft to grind to a high polish. Therefore, when the stone is cut into tiles, it is most often ground to a flat finish known as honing. Honed travertine tiles will usually have their holes filled with an epoxy resin at the factory. This gives the stone a smooth, flat appearance with clean, even edges.

Tumbled Travertine

  • Tumbled stone is a frequently used material in homes where a more rustic or natural look is desired. The tiles are literally put into a drum with rocks and chunks of cement and "tumbled" to be finished. The result is a tile that has a worn face and edges, chipped corners and visible fissures.

    Tumbled travertine is frequently left un-filled, meaning that its holes are intact. These holes should be filled with grout during the installation process. Filling the holes not only keeps them from filling up with debris, it helps the stone to maintain its structural integrity.

Care of Travertine

  • No matter which finish of travertine you purchase, you will need to wash the stone with a stone cleaner and seal it on a regular basis. Like any natural stone, travertine is porous, covered in millions of tiny holes undetectable by the naked eye.

    Travertine of both honed and tumbled finishes will stain or etch if not properly sealed and maintained. Tumbled travertine may be more forgiving to etching, or removal of the finish of the stone due to contact with acids. This is because the surface is already rough and uneven. A honed travertine tile will show marks more easily, since the surface has been ground to a smooth finish.

Travertine in Tile Designs

  • Honed travertine is available in sizes from mosaics of 3/8 inch up to large-format tiles 24 inches across. This range of choices, along with the flat finish and crisp edges, makes the tile ideal for many contemporary homes and tile designs. The stone will still vary in color from piece to piece and within one piece, like all natural stones, but its finish will remain consistent, perfect for quiet and modern installations.

    Tumbled travertine is frequently not available beyond 12-inch or 16-inch sizes, due to the difficulty of tumbling large-sized tiles without breaking them. The look of tumbled travertine is more rustic, and there will be greater variation within the stones. Traditional designs, Tuscan designs and rustic homes will all benefit from the look of tumbled travertine.

Travertine Finishes and Grout Joints

  • The final aspect to consider when deciding between honed and tumbled travertine is the grout joints. Honed tiles have smooth, even edges, which means the tiles can be installed with a grout joint of 1/16 inch. This small grout joint will help to keep the installation looking clean and contemporary.

    Tumbled travertine tiles will require a grout joint of up to 1/2 inch in width. This is because the edges and corners of the tiles will be broken, worn and uneven. The larger grout joint will be required to offset these edges while keeping the tiles in even rows when installed. Sanded grout will be required to fill these large grout joints, which will enhance the rustic look of the tile installation. Homeowners who dislike wide grout lines may not enjoy the look of tumbled travertine tiles.

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