Travertine is a popular option for flooring, countertops, fireplaces, showers and backsplashes. Its popularity is due in part to the rich colour variations it offers. Common travertine colours include creams, greys, corals and greens. Travertine is a beautiful natural stone and a lightweight alternative to marble. It can also be polished, honed, tumbled or left natural, offering an even wider array of looks. Though the natural beauty and design versatility make travertine the top choice for many homeowners, there are a few drawbacks to consider before ultimately choosing it for your home. Depending upon the application, travertine may or may not be your best option.
On the MOH's scale of hardness, travertine generally rates between four and five on a scale from one to 10. This puts travertine at a comparable level with marble, but it's not nearly as hard as granite. Without proper care, travertine may scratch, chip and show wear over time, especially on countertops and floors in high-traffic areas. Hardness grades vary with travertine, however, making certain grades viable for low-traffic floors, backsplashes, fireplaces and shower enclosures.
Travertine is susceptible to etching when in contact with acidic liquids. Lemon juice, orange juice, vinegar and acidic cleaners can permanently stain travertine tile unless a sealant is used. Even then, take care to clean spills immediately to avoid permanent staining. Pet accidents can also cause major staining problems with travertine floors, even when a sealant is used.
Travertine, by nature, is porous, filled with tiny craters and holes. Depending on the desired look, these craters can be filled with epoxy and polished or left natural for an antiquated look. Though travertine's porous nature can add to its appeal, the pores soak up spills and collect and show dirt over time. Unfilled travertine can also be difficult to clean.
When used as flooring, polished travertine is quite slippery, causing hazards in areas such as bathrooms, kitchens and entryways. Porous, honed or tumbled travertine does not have this problem, however.
Though various finishes offer a variety of travertine looks, such as honed, tumbled or natural, a glossy, marble-like look is achieved through polishing. Only the hardest travertine offers this option.