What Is Travertine?

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated June 11, 2021
Pool with travertine tiles
quackersnaps / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Travertine is a natural form of limestone commonly formed into tiles for kitchen countertops, backsplashes, interior floors, shower walls, and more

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Travertine is a dense and banded stone, generally displaying warm colors that include cream, beige, and brown. It is formed by mineral deposits from natural springs and is a popular material in home building as a unique-looking alternative to marble or granite. If you’re looking to add some class and romance to your home, this is the stone for you.

How Is Travertine Formed?

Travertine is a natural stone that often forms near hot springs. In the U.S., the most well-known place to find it is in Wyoming at Yellowstone National Park. If you’re looking for another reason to finally take that family road trip, this is it.

However, the most extensive travertine deposits exist in Tivoli, Italy. You can also find them in Turkey, Mexico, Peru, Croatia, and Iran.

Essentially, travertine is formed by evaporating water. 

If you’re up for a science lesson, here’s exactly how it forms: Water dissolves and becomes saturated with calcium carbonate, or calcite. The calcium carbonate then precipitates off the liquid, releasing the carbon dioxide as gas and causing the calcium carbonate to recrystallize to ultimately form travertine.

Travertine is a sedimentary rock. That means it’s formed from pre-existing elements on the Earth’s surface versus igneous rocks, which form from intense heat or pressure underground. Like leaving handprints in wet cement, carbon dioxide bubbles form while the sediment is setting, and as a result, travertine has tiny air bubbles inside.

Travertine Characteristics

With colors ranging from rust to cream, travertine has a rustic look that can create a romantic atmosphere in any room. Because it polishes well, the stone’s texture can differ. Ask a tile expert for more details on what’s available to you. But generally, you can get travertine tiles with finishes in glossy, aged, matte, or anything in between.

Travertine kitchen floor
mtreasure / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Travertine Pros and Cons

Like all building materials, travertine comes with its own set of pros and cons. Consider the following before deciding to install travertine in your home.

Pros

  • Beautiful (at least we think so!)

  • Durable

  • Adds value

Travertine is a stylish stone that gives any space a more rustic and romantic feel. Its beauty is classic, and it can hold up for over 100 years with proper treatment and maintenance. It even holds up against scratching and cracking, so installing it in a home with rambunctious kids and pets running around won’t be an issue. Because of its durability, travertine increases your home’s value. If you’re planning to flip a house or eventually resell your own home, installing travertine will most likely pay off.

Cons

  • Expensive

  • Cold

  • High maintenance

Unfortunately, travertine tiles can be expensive, especially if they hail from a faraway quarry. On average, travertine tiles will run $15 per square foot, which is higher than other flooring materials. For comparison, that’s slightly less than marble but more expensive than granite.

Travertine is also cold and sometimes uncomfortable underfoot. If you live in a sunny area and use travertine around your pool, you might welcome the coolness. However, travertine as flooring in living spaces or kitchens could have you recoiling first thing in the morning.

A spilled glass of wine could permanently stain your travertine tile if you don’t maintain it properly. This is because travertine has microscopic pores that can suck up staining agents. To prevent this, you (or your contractor) must seal the tiles upon installation and repeatedly every 3 to 5 years. 

What Can I Use Travertine For?

Historically, builders used travertine in notable buildings throughout the world, such as the Colosseum in Rome.

Today, it’s one of the most frequently used stones in modern architecture around the world. Homeowners love travertine for its beauty and versatility, using it both indoors and out.

Common uses for travertine include:

  • Countertops

  • Backsplashes

  • Fireplace Surrounds

  • Walkways

  • Interior Floors

  • Patios

  • Pool Decks

  • Interior and Exterior Walls

  • Driveways

  • Bathtub Surrounds

  • Shower Walls

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