Is travertine a good choice for a shower wall?

Updated February 21, 2017

Travertine tiles are used throughout homes as both a floor and wall covering. While travertine is frequently used in bathrooms as both floor tiles and vanity tops, there are considerations when using the stone on a shower wall. Since travertine is a natural stone, it needs attention when used in wet areas. Travertine does have a rustic appearance, which can help it hide wear and tear better than polished stones.

What is Travertine

Travertine is a type of limestone, a sedimentary rock made up mostly of calcite. Travertine was formed deep inside hot springs, the water vapour escaping the rock as it cooled formed multiple holes and pores throughout the stone's surface. You can fill these holes with grout or epoxy.

Travertine and Stone in Wet Areas

Travertine and limestone are basically softer, untransformed marbles. Therefore, like marble, they need specific care when used in wet areas. This means sealing travertine that is used in a shower on a regular basis, cleaning it with stone cleaners and using a squeegee to keep it dry after each use.

The Effects of Water on Travertine

When travertine is exposed to water in a shower, several things can happen. The stone can absorb the moisture, through steam or actual water droplets. This water can contain impurities such as iron or magnesium, which stain the stone. Soaps, shampoos and body oils can also damage the stone, etching or marking its surface.

The Benefit of Travertine

While all natural stone is porous and subject to staining in wet areas, travertine does have an advantage over some other stones. Travertine has a naturally rustic appearance, full of pits, uneven edges and surface texture. The fill used to seal up the holes of the stone can help give travertine additional depth of surface colour. Together, this colour variation and surface variation help to disguise wear and tear. Therefore, travertine will wear in a shower, but this wear will be less noticeable than it would be with a polished marble.

Making the Decision

Travertine, like all natural stones is not the best material for a shower wall. However, of the available natural stones on the market today, travertine does have a distinct advantage over others. Select travertine for use in a shower if the shower is seldom used, the appearance of the bathroom is extremely rustic in nature, you are able to accept the change and patina of the stone or you feel comfortable with the additional care and maintenance a natural stone shower will require.

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About the Author

Sarabeth Asaff has worked in and has written about the home improvement industry since 1995. She has written numerous articles on art, interior design and home improvements, specializing in kitchen and bathroom design. A member in good standing with the National Kitchen and Bath Association, Asaff has working knowledge of all areas of home design.