What Is the Durability of Travertine?


Travertine is one of the most sought-after types of natural stone for use in home and office installations around the world. It has remained one of the most prized types of construction stone for centuries, with such ancient structures as the Coliseum in Rome or Burghausen Castle in Austria being two of the most recognized structures which have used travertine as one of the main elements in their construction.

An Overview of Travertine

  • At its very basic level, travertine is nothing more than a sedentary rock much like slate, built up over the years by minerals in the ground combining with surface waters and geothermally heated springs, otherwise known as hot springs. One of the most common places to find travertine in the 21st century is in Turkey, although deposits exist in places like Yellowstone National Park.

Hard Facts

  • Travertine is formed over the course of hundreds and even thousands of years of minerals building up, so the stone in its natural state is extremely porous. The stone grows outward in a precipitating movement, creating shelves or terraces of natural stone. In some cases, they even form travertine waterfalls, where the water has carried minerals over the edge of cliffs for years and eventually built up over time.

Natural Beauty

  • Because of the fact that travertine is a natural stone formed by the collection of elements over time, it is completely natural in its formation. This means that there are natural defects within the stone. These defects carry over when the stone is hewn for commercial use, resulting in the most common form of travertine sold: tumbled travertine. This type of travertine features holes and pits that are scattered across the surface of the stone, creating a completely porous material that is used in a wide variety of applications.

The Test of Time

  • Given the nature of how travertine is formed over the years via natural processes of the Earth, it is one of the most durable types of stone specifically because of the many different types of minerals that have calcified over the years to ultimately result in a building material that is unlike any other. It has been used as a building material for thousands of years, and to this day remains one of the most frequently used stones in modern architecture, such as the UCLA Medical Center and the Willis Tower in Chicago.

The Bottom Line

  • While travertine is still one of the most common types of natural stones used in construction, it is also one of the most expensive due to its durability and beauty. And, since it is not a man-made stone, it must be quarried and hewn from locations where it has naturally built up over the years. As an increasing amount of natural resources around the world are used up, it has continued to increase in value. While it can definitely stand the test of time, it is significantly more expensive than other types of natural stone such as slate or marble.

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  • Photo Credit coliseum image by TEMISTOCLE LUCARELLI from Fotolia.com
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