Travertine is a sedimentary rock that belongs to the limestone family. It has been formed by millions of years of
precipitation of carbonate materials from hot springs. The name originates from Tivoli, Italy which has vast deposits of such
stone. For centuries, travertine has been used as a building material, including flooring that is easily accessible from
nearby quarries. The Colosseum in Rome is one of the oldest and a spectacular example of travertine construction.
The United States uses about 0.85 million tons of travertine annually, most of which is imported. Till recently, Italy had
a near monopoly in supply but now supplies come from Peru, Turkey and Mexico as well.
The characteristic of travertine is the pitted holes and troughs on the surface. The holes are actually gas bubbles
millions of years entrapped. Some builders prefer to leave these open as in the natural state, while others fill them with
grout. In fact, travertine is sold ‘filled’ or ‘unfilled’. Unfilled travertine is less durable, attracts dirt and is more
difficult to keep clean. Furthermore it is susceptible to scratches and will permit staining which is difficult to remove.
Travertine flooring can be polished to a smooth, shiny surface. In color, it comes in a variety from grey to coral red.
Travertine flooring is most commonly sold as tiles up to 36” x 36” square. It can be bought in slabs as well. Travertine is
also used for garden paths and paving patios. The stone is popular for counter-tops, showers and wall coverings.
Travertine floor tiles come with four basic finishes:
Brushed and tumbled tiles are textured, while polished tiles as the name implies, are polished to a degree where the
surface reflects light. Honed travertine floor tiles are left with a matte finish.
In hardness, travertine compares with other stone tile floors. Like other stones, it is brittle enough to chip, crack and
break. A sealant is often added to increase the durability of the tile. Unsealed travertine is absorbent and not recommended
in food preparation areas which call for high hygienic standards. An unsealed travertine floor is extremely vulnerable to
staining from spills. Polished travertine is very slippery hence best avoided in bathroom flooring.
Travertine flooring is largely popular because of its intrinsic beauty. The little nuances in its wide color spectrum can
enhance any room. Travertine floor colors are the result of the iron content and the impurities in the stone. Sealed
travertine stone flooring is very durable and easy to maintain. Dirt remains on the surface and does not get ingrained, which
can easily be cleaned. The stone is impervious to odors, chemicals and gases.
Because of its beauty, travertine flooring is often referred to as onyx marble, Egyptian alabaster, Mexican onyx and