Travertine tiles are available in a number of sizes, colour and finishes for use in the home. The tiles can be tumbled and rustic, or given a more modern look through a process called honing and filling. Understanding what happens to the stone when it has been filled, and why this filling is necessary, can help you take better care of it once it's installed in your home.
Travertine is a type of limestone formed inside hot mineral springs. During this formation process, gasses escaping mud and calcite leave behind holes in the limestone. These holes can range in size from invisible to the naked eye up to holes large enough to put a fist through.
The holes in travertine are in no way a defect in the stone, and in fact give it some of its beauty. To help the stone hold its integrity, these holes should be filled either at the factory or during installation.
In honing the surface of the tile is ground down to a smooth, flat finish. Travertine, like other limestones, is frequently too soft to take a high polish. Therefore, a dull sheen is achieved through grinding and polishing the surface of the stone--this is known as a honed finish. Depending on the type of travertine, this honed finish could be considered a "high hone" or nearly polished finish, or a "dull hone" with little to no light reflection.
Along with the surface grinding, honed travertine tiles have a square, slightly bevelled edge for a crisp- looking installation.
Filled Travertine Tiles
Since the holes in travertine must be filled both to reinforce the stone's integrity and to prevent the holes from becoming a catch place for dirt, honed tiles are frequently filled at the factory. Factory honed and filled travertine tiles have an epoxy resin applied to the holes, filling them before the stone is ground down. This gives the travertine a smooth finish. If the tiles were to be filled during installation, they would be filled with grout. This provides a more rustic look and is typically down with tumbled, rather than honed travertine tiles.
Colours of Honed and Filled Travertine
Travertine is available in a range of colours from tan and deep mocha brown to shades of red and gold, as well as a silver grey. Most times, care is taken at the factory to choose a shade of epoxy resin that closely matches the colour of the stone it is filling. Since all natural stone tiles can have variation, sometimes the fill does not match each section of the tile completely, leading to light or dark patches on the tile's surface. This is not a defect and should be considered part of the stone's appeal.
Occasionally, colours such as pink or green are used to fill the travertine. This is rare, but has been known to happen when the correct colour has been exhausted in the midst of manufacturing the stones.
Purchasing Honed and Filled Travertine
Since the fill in travertine may not match the stone exactly, always ask to see a sample of the stone from a current lot before purchase. Normally you can order ahead of time one box, or 10 tiles, from the lot. Examine the tiles for colour, to ensure the colour is acceptable to you. If the fill is pink, green or much lighter or darker then the tiles, you can request tiles from a different lot.
Honed and filled travertine tiles may be more expensive than tumbled or unfilled travertine tiles, due to the manufacturing process.