All About Travertine: Understanding and Caring for Stone at Home

Travertine has been used throughout history in architecture, interior design, statuary, and handmade jewelry. Learn about the origins of travertine, where this versatile natural stone can be used in your home, and how to keep your travertine surfaces looking beautiful.

What do the Colosseum in Rome, the Turkish city of Pamukkale, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and Yellowstone National Park all have in common? 

The answer is travertine. 

Whether observed in its natural setting or admired as an architectural design element, this natural stone variety is impossible to overlook. Coveted for its rustic appearance and earthy color palette, travertine can be found throughout modern homes in the bathroom, the kitchen, and even the outdoor patio. 

This article will provide a brief introduction to how travertine is formed, the benefits of designing with travertine, and important tips for caring for your travertine surfaces. 

What is travertine?

Travertine is a type of sedimentary rock formed by the precipitation of mineral deposits (including calcium carbonate) at freshwater sources such as natural springs, rivers, and lakes. Though it can be found naturally throughout the world, some of the largest travertine mines are in Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Peru, and China. 

Because of how it is formed, one of the most notable characteristics of travertine is the appearance of small holes or “pits” in the surface—the result of gasses bubbling up and water flowing through the stone over time. 

The distinctive pitting may be left unfilled to retain the natural weathered look of the stone, or the holes may be filled in during the finishing process. Travertine may be finished in one of several ways, including the following. 

  • With a honed finish, the pitting is filled in and the stone is sanded down to produce a smooth, near-matte appearance.
  • Polished travertine is similar to honed travertine, but the surface has a smoother, almost glossy texture.
  • As the name implies, a tumbled finish involves gently tumbling travertine tiles with water and abrasive grit to create a weathered edge.
  • Brushed travertine maintains the natural look of the stone by using a wire brush to smooth the surface. 

Why choose travertine for interior design? 

Although travertine is a porous stone, it is also remarkably durable—as evidenced by the fact that travertine structures built over a millennia ago are still standing. With the proper care, your travertine surfaces can easily maintain their beauty over time. 

Travertine is also highly versatile and can be installed as flooring (it has a natural non-slip surface), countertops (the stone is also heat resistant), wall cladding, shower and tub surrounds, kitchen backsplashes, fireplace surrounds, and even outdoor patios and walkways. 

The range of colors available also adds to the attractiveness of travertine in design. Ranging from muted shades of ivory, beige, and gray to warmer tan, rust, peach, and reddish hues (the result of exposure to iron carbonate), the countless color options fit every style preference and make it a favorite among natural stone aficionados. 

Finally, though it looks just as opulent as other more expensive stone varieties, you will find that travertine is a highly affordable option when it comes to natural stone. 

Caring for your travertine accents

As with any luxury worth having, your travertine surfaces require regular care and maintenance to preserve their inherent beauty.

Because of its porosity, travertine is highly susceptible to staining and damage from spilled liquids—especially acidic substances such as citrus juice and vinegar, which can cause etching if not addressed immediately. 

Cleaning spills as soon as they happen, as well as using pH-neutral cleaners, can help keep your travertine surfaces looking like new. 

How often should you reseal travertine? 

Travertine should be treated initially with a protective sealant and resealed every year to prevent damage and/or discoloration. 

Arizona Stone Proz specializes in natural stone cleaning and restoration. 

Natural stone has a timeless beauty that makes it a highly sought-after design feature. If you have additional questions about travertine or need help with resealing or repairing your travertine surfaces, our team of stone restoration experts is just a phone call away. Call us today at (520) 779-2052, or schedule an appointment using our online form.