Travertine can be considered the classic decorative stone. Its popularity is timeless. The Romans used travertine in many constructions that are still standing today; even after 2000 years. Travertine was useful in ancient Rome because it was not as rare or expensive as marble but gave a structure that important stone look and durability.
Today, Architects and designers use Travertine widely in commercial and domestic applications for many of the same reasons. It’s versatile, looks great, is resistant to the elements and it’s not overly rare or expensive.
In this article we cover stone care techniques for Travertine and disclose the truth about how effective impregnating sealers are at preventing staining on Travertine. It is a must read for Architects, designers and builders who regularly incorporate Travertine in their projects.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT TRAVERTINE
COMMON ROCK-FORMING MINERAL GROUP: Calcareous
COMPOSITION: Calcite, calcium carbonate and accessory minerals and organic matter acting as colouring agents
MOHS’ SCALE: 3
POROSITY %: 5.0 – 12.0
ABSORPTION %: 2.0 – 5.0
WEATHERING CHARACTERISTICS: Will fade over time in direct sunlight
TENDENCIES: Absorbs oil and liquids. Easily scratched. Acid sensitive. Cavity filling has a tendency to come out in high use areas.
COLOURS: Multi-coloured earth tones…creams…buffs to darker shades
FINISHES: Honed; Polished; Unfilled (pitted holes); Filled; Tumbled
NOTATIONS: It is recommended that Travertine is treated with an impregnating sealer that repels both oil and water.
Travertine is a form of Limestone deposited by hot mineral springs. In simple terms, it’s from the Limestone family but sits somewhere in between Limestone and Marble.
In technical terms, it is a product of chemical reactions; a geological chemical inorganic rapid precipitated limestone formed by the evaporation of supersaturated calcium carbonate rich waters, generally in hot springs.
It is predominated by a cavity structure (pits) up to 1/2 inch (12mm) in size. These cavities are often filled with matching or contrasting coloured cement or epoxy.
Commercially, Travertine has been placed into the classification of the trade term “Marble”, because it can take a reflective polish, however, due to its peculiar characteristics (its cavity structure) it is generally considered unique to marble and limestone.
Great for both indoor and outdoor applications, Travertine is most commonly used for countertops, flooring, pool surrounds, bathrooms, patios, balconies, pathways and exterior decor.
1. Working with Travertine
We spoke with Brad Dawson from BD Tiling about working with travertine. Brad and his team have gained loads of experience working on high end projects on the Sunshine Coast that incorporate this stunning natural stone.
Brad explains, “not all travertine is the same. The quality varies and better quality stone makes a massive difference”.
Better quality tiles are generally more dense, less crumbly, less prone to moisture problems like efflorescence and picture framing, and some give a stunning sheen when polished with good quality impregnating sealer.
We asked Brad what sealer he prefers for travertine and he started proudly flicking through Travertine photos on his phone. “I prefer PROTEX (Dense Stone Sealer) because it gives good penetration into the Travertine plus it polishes up awesome with our finishing machines. Check it out” he said while showing us photos of some of his projects.
As travertine is a porous material, Architects / Specifiers should ideally specify the stone be sealed with a quality impregnating sealer that is both oleophobic and hydrophobic. This simply means specifying a sealer that repels both oil and water such as Solutions Sealers PROTEX Dense Stone Sealer.
Don’t be fooled by the pits in some travertine (holes that look like swiss cheese). Travertine is a dense porous stone and any sealer must have a fine enough molecule to penetrate. In more dense Travertines, the applicator may need to push in or buff in the sealer mechanically to ensure good penetration.
Remember porosity varies depending on the quality, source of origin and manufacturing process.
For pool copings and wet areas, it’s best practice dip sealing tiles before installation with CONSOLIDATE.
Whilst dip sealing is time consuming and adds to the overall cost, it will help prevent moisture related issues rising from under the tiles around the pool. Dip sealing will extend the life of the Travertine in high moisture environments. Well worth the trouble and expense in our opinion.
For more information about dip sealing and moisture related issues see our article https://solutionssealers.com/preventing-moisture-related-construction-problems/
*IMPORTANT: test a sample first with the sealer and allow to cure for 24 hours. This ensures any change in colour or shading is acceptable.
3. Stain proof not etch proof
Whilst a quality impregnating sealer will greatly accelerate the cleaning process, at this point in time we can safely say that there is currently no impregnating sealer on the market that can protect Travertine against acid attack or acid etching. You must ensure that acids are cleaned off promptly as etching WILL occur almost instantly.
Etching is where the acidic substance eats into the surface. Pictured above is a good visual example of etching on Marble. In this example we show a Solutions Sealers lab test using red wine on Marble because it really visually stands out on a polished white stone. Marble, like Travertine, is also an acid sensitive stone.
Even though the stain cleans off the sealed stone, as you look down on an angle you can see the etching very obviously (although if you look down from directly above the etching is less obvious). This is due to the change in the way light refracts on the etched surface compared to the smooth surface.
If you want to repair etching you may need to contact a professional and have the stone mechanically honed and polished. Prevention is certainly better than a cure, however, and etching happens fast, so be quick to mop up spills.
4. Tips for Maintaining Travertine
Just because durable Travertine can withstand the ravages of weather and outdoor elements, doesn’t mean it can’t be damaged when used in the home. The truth is that travertine is highly susceptible to heat, scratching, staining and acidity, including citric acid, so be careful with acidic foods, beverages and cosmetic products (e.g. wine, orange juice, vinegar, tomatoes, some hair products, even some toothpastes). Clean these up quickly.
Travertine will get dirty over time and should only be cleaned with special products designed for use on natural stone; for example Solutions Sealers “Natural Clean” and “Replenish”.
*Important – Natural Clean is a “Super Concentrate” and must be diluted with water as per product instructions (see below)
If you don’t dilute Natural Clean, you may be left with a sticky residue that attracts dirt and leaves footprints. Be sure to measure it out properly.
For general cleaning, first vacuum with a soft bristle vacuum head or dust with soft duster. Be careful not to use vacuum heads that have hard wheels or hard edges in contact with the stone as this can scratch the surface.
Next, mop with the diluted Natural Clean and warm water in a squeegee bucket so the mop is wrung out damp, NOT wet. Change the water every 60 – 80 m2 or sooner if it looks dirty. You can also use microfibre or cotton mops, however, steam mops are not as good as they tend to push the dirt and grime into the grout lines.
For more stubborn stains and grease, you may increase the dilution and make the effected area wetter, leave the solution to dwell for several unites and then scrub with a stiff nylon bristled brush. Mop up with a wrung out mop.
For more information click see http://selector.solutionssealers.com.au/files/pdfs/products/tech/natural-clean.pdf
* Natural Clean Dilution Recommendation
- For regular maintenance cleaning (damp mopping) – dilute 1 part NATURAL CLEAN to 80 parts water
- For greasy/dirty areas (floor scrubbing) – dilute 1 part NATURAL CLEAN to 30 parts water
The magic of replenish is that it contains a small quantity of impregnating sealer resin. Subsequently, it will top off the sealer protection in your Travertine.
For more information on Replenish click
Application for Replenish is a simple wipe on and wipe off with a clean, lint free cloth. Like a spray and wipe.
If you have your new Travertine sealed and you are diligent in maintaining your Travertine, these two products will probably be all you will ever need to keep it looking amazing. It is also well worth investing in rugs, coasters, place mats and table cloths.
IMPORTANT! Never use cleaners that contain vinegar or citrus oils on travertine. Even water can be harmful to the texture of travertine if it is allowed to sit on the stone for long periods of time. Also, take care to use a hot pad or a trivet when placing something on hot on stone surfaces and never cut or slice directly on the stone.
For tough stains like tannins, rust, black spot, efflorescence, heavy mould stains, we strongly recommend you contact a professional as they understand how to test more aggressive stain removers appropriately. These may include poultice, bleach, chlorine, mild cleaning acids and alkaline cleaners. Professionals also have the knowledge and machinery to restore the finish / sheen after these treatments.
Tips for Professionals:
- Always wear recommended PPE
- Use dilutions recommended by the manufacturer
- Always test the solution on an inconspicuous patch first
- Be careful not to get chemicals on surrounding fixtures, metal, glass, masonry etc. Shield or mask these fixtures well
- Allow recommended dwell time and agitation (scrubbing)
- Don’t let these more aggressive cleaning solutions dry out. Move in manageable areas at a time (ie: 20m2)
- If pressure washing, be careful not to overdo the PSI. Stand back and angle the jet at approximately 45° rather than shooting directly at 90°.
- A stiff nylon fitting to a machine like a PoliVac may be necessary for larger surface areas
- You may need a second application of certain cleaning chemicals to improve results
- With any of the above stain removers, you must neutralise the surface immediately using a PH Neutral Cleaner like Natural Clean
- On really old deteriorated surfaces, you may need to use a multi-chemical process to get the best results, i.e. chorine, alkaline, acid, neutraliser
- Using more harsh cleaning chemicals can change and/or etch the surface. The reality is, if the stone is in such poor condition, the end result may not be perfect but perhaps better than it’s deteriorated state. Create reasonable expectations and don’t clean with chemicals if it’s not absolutely necessary
- Spot cleaning and spot polishing may leave inconsistency in the look / sheen in patches. Depending on the light refraction (location and light in the room) a larger area may need to be cleaned and polished to improve consistency of look. Light will change throughout the day/night so check how it looks at different times
- Using evenness in your methodology is key to getting more even results
- You must wait for the stone to completely dry out before reapplication of a compatible sealer
5. Appearance and Variation
Travertine is available in different colours and finishes, from natural, neutral colours such as creamy white and beige to tan and reddish brown.
See pictured showcasing CDK Stone’s stunning range of colours.
The colour depends largely on the impurities and iron content of the stone. You will rarely see wild or vibrant colours in Travertine – it’s always earthy tones.
For more info about CDK Stone’s quality range of Travertine visit
6) Different Finishes
The different finishes of Travertine include:
- Honed – smooth and has a matte finish
- Polished – smooth, but can be buffed and polished to achieve a sheen
- Tumbled – rougher, textured finish and often has rounded corners for an antique look
Because travertine is natural stone, no two pieces are the same. It is important to look over the material carefully and select only those pieces that you find the most beautiful. While you can save money by buying bulk parcels, you may not be able to examine individual pieces for pattern and colour tone preference. Also consider investing in some spare tiles in the event you needed to replace them.
There is a saying that Maserati is the poor mans Ferrari. Perhaps we could say that travertine is the poor mans marble. It’s certainly ticking many peoples’ boxes regarding look, functionality, and price point and it looks like Timeless Travertine will be used by us humans until the end of time.
Solutions – Sealers for Stone & Tile and/or contributors to this article, believes the information contained in this article is accurate as general advice only. As general advice only it has been prepared without taking into account the objectives, problems or needs of the reader. Solutions – Sealers for Stone & Tile has presented this information as a guide only and accepts no liability for any loss or damage caused by any error in, or omission from, this document. Solutions – Sealers for Stone & Tile has no control over the use or misuse of this product, therefore no warranty expressed or implied shall be given.