Pros and Cons of Travertine Tile

Travertine offers a luxury look at a fraction of the cost of marble.
Travertine offers a luxury look at a fraction of the cost of marble. (Image: John Wollwerth/iStock/Getty Images)

Travertine tile is a natural stone material used for both flooring and countertops. Since natural stone is a big investment and one that you will have to live with for years, understanding the pros and cons of travertine tile is an important decision. Travertine is often sold as "travertine marble" or limestone, though, technically, it's neither. It's a sedimentary rock, similar to limestone.

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Appearances Matter

On the positive side, travertine is manufactured in a wide range of colors, ranging from cool gray or light-brown neutrals to bold shades of coral, and reddish-brown to gold. One of its negative characteristics is that even if it's from the same batch and produced by the same quarry, it can vary greatly in color and appearance. Another trait of travertine is its ageless appearance. Even brand new, it looks old and weathered, which for some homeowners is a positive trait, but you may not like that look or it might not suit your decorating scheme.

Wear and Tear

A positive characteristic is that travertine is nearly impervious to temperature fluctuations that can cause damage to other types of natural stone. Properly laid, it will expand and contract without cracking, making it ideal for entryways, mudrooms, bathrooms and even outdoor spaces. The downside of travertine is that it can be easily scratched or marked. Polished travertine is more scratch resistant, and keeping it clean will help prevent scratches. Travertine is also sensitive to mild acids like vinegar or orange juice, which will leave marks and stains on the stone. Sealing the stone can help reduce or eliminate the risk of staining. Travertine is best cleaned with a mild liquid dish soap and water or a specially formulated stone cleaner.

Other Pros of Travertine

Travertine feels soft on the feet compared to other stone, but, despite its softness and the relative ease with which it scratches, it's incredibly durable. The Colosseum, Bernini's Saint Peter's Colonnade and many other structures throughout Rome have travertine in their construction. Because of its natural porosity, travertine makes a relatively low-slip surface, suitable for wet areas like a bathroom. It also offers the look and durability of marble at a lower price point than traditional marble. Additionally, travertine does not heat up as much as other stone materials, even in direct sunlight.

Other Cons of Travertine

Many of the pros of travertine also contribute to some of its major cons. It is a porous stone; in its natural state, it has a variety of holes, ranging from small to large. They can be filled in with resin, but that will wear over time. Most travertine will not take a high polish: It requires sealant and heavy maintenance to preserve the high gloss. As will any natural stone, travertine is easily stained and requires special cleaners and treatment to preserve its look.

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