Do I Need to Seal Glazed Porcelain Travertine Tiles?

Written by sarabeth asaff
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Do I Need to Seal Glazed Porcelain Travertine Tiles?
Travertine is chemically identical to most forms of limestone. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Tiles are a great floor and wall covering for many areas of the home. There are several different materials that tiles can be made of, each requiring its own care and maintenance routine, which may include sealing. Glazed porcelain tiles and travertine tiles are two materials that are versatile and beautiful, and can be used on walls and floors around the home. These two materials, however, have very different maintenance needs.

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What Are Glazed Porcelain Tiles?

Porcelain tiles are a man-made product produced from compressed clay dust. The tiles are fired to very high temperatures, which renders them extremely hard and dense. Glazed porcelain tiles have a thin coating of glass melted onto them at high temperatures. This may be a solid colour, multiple thin stripes of overlapping colours or a printed pattern. Glazed porcelain tiles come in wide range of colours, textures and styles, including rustic, metallic and contemporary. The glaze on the surface of the tiles may produce a texture similar to fabrics such as linen, or it may leave the tile perfectly smooth to the touch.

What Are Travertine Tiles?

Travertine tiles are a natural stone material made up largely of calcium. Travertine is a sedimentary stone that is formed inside the earth near, on or in a hot spring. Cooling water and escaping water vapour trapped inside the stone as it cools create multiple tiny pockets, holes and craters inside the stone. Travertine tiles will have a naturally rustic pore- and hole-filled surface. These holes must be filled to help give the tile structure. The holes can be filled at the factory before the stone is honed or polished, or they may be filled with grout during installation for rustic finishes.

Care for Glazed Porcelain

Porcelain tiles, which are produced from dry clay dust and fired to high temperatures, are completely nonporous. This means they absorb little to no moisture or water that is left on their surface. Furthermore, glaze is a form of glass that's melted to the tile. This covering is also water-resistant, and does not allow moisture to penetrate the surface of the porcelain to the clay body. Therefore, glazed porcelain tiles do not need to be sealed to protect them from staining or water damage. However, some glazed porcelain tiles may have a matt texture that encourages grout to stick easily during application. In this case, a sealer may act as a grout release, helping to facilitate cleanup. Other products such as oil and oil soap will do the same job, and sealers are not necessary for installation.

Care for Travertine Tiles

Travertine is a soft, porous natural stone made of calcium. It absorbs liquids and stains easily. Even when the visible surface holes of the stone has been filled, either with epoxy or with grout, multiple pores or invisible holes remain on the surface of the stone. Moisture from spills or even normal cleaning can penetrate the stone, staining it. Sealers fill the pores and unseen holes of the travertine, preventing moisture and water from entering the stone. This keeps moisture on the surface and helps to impede staining and damage to the material. Travertine tiles must be sealed prior to grouting and on an ongoing basis.

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