Travertine is a natural limestone used for tile floors, walls and cladding in residences and commercial buildings. By its nature, travertine is porous, and needs careful sealing and cleaning to hold up well, especially in high-traffic areas where stains and spills commonly occur. Travertine is sorted into quality grades at the factory, but it's still wise to familiarise yourself with the characteristics of each quality grade before making the choices that fit your taste and budget.
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Look at the amount of "fill" in the voids, or pores, of the travertine tile. This is the biggest indicator of quality. Tiles that show a large amount of filled voids are poorer quality and more likely to be brittle. High quality travertine has very few voids, is extremely dense, and will last a lifetime.
Observe the uniformity of the travertine tile's colour. High-quality travertine has uniform colour and markings, with very little colour variation between tiles. It's much like hardwood flooring -- high quality woods have uniform grain patterns. If there is a large variation of colour between tiles, it's lower-quality travertine.
Check for uniformity of tile size and thickness. When stacked, the tiles should be cut to the same size. When viewed from the side, width should be equal as well.
Look for unusual mineral deposits in the travertine's surface. High-quality travertine is mined from pure veins that are deep in the quarries, and have very few deposits of other minerals. Lower-quality travertine is mined from areas of the quarry that have been infiltrated by other types of stone and minerals, giving it a blotchy look.
Tips and warnings
- Don't allow water or spills to stand on travertine surfaces for any length of time. Wipe up spills with a soft cloth or sponge as soon as they occur.
- Use natural stone cleaner to wash travertine floors. Many commercial floor cleaners contain acids that will destroy and etch travertine finishes.
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