Natural Travertine

Travertine Tile Sample

Natural Travertine Information

This natural stone is one that is distinctive in appearance and practical in its use. In this post we will take a look at some of the basics as regards this natural material. We will consider what it is made of, its appearance, how natural travertine is used, and what is needed to care for and maintain it.

Natural Travertine

Travertine is that rustic-looking natural stone material that is often marked by its distinctive look. The weathered appearance that it is known for makes it readily identifiable.

Geological Classification

Travertine is classified geologically as a sedimentary (more specifically, a chemical sedimentary) rock. It is composed of calcium carbonate. It has various looks depending on how it is finished and it also has a very specific notable trait. The color is affected, like other natural stone, by the presence of other material.

Characteristics of Natural Travertine

As with many natural stone materials, natural travertine’s characteristics are defined primarily by the substances of which it is composed. As a result, travertine is a relatively soft material; registering at 3-4 on the Mohs scale.

The visual appearance of natural travertine is marked by distinctive holes canvassing the surface of the stone. These holes are referred to by several names including:

  • Pits
  • Voids
  • Pores
  • Spaces

This voids in the surface of the stone are sometimes filled with another material and sometimes they are left unfilled. The filler can be one of a few products. Some travertine fillers are designed for not only filling the visible voids in the surface, but also used for strengthening the stone.


As mentioned earlier travertine is primarily made up of calcium carbonate, its chemical formula is CaCO3. Calcium carbonate is the primary mineral in a number of natural stones. The fact that travertine contains calcium carbonate, means that there are specific care and maintenance requirements for this material. We won’t get into what the care and maintenance is for travertine right now. But later on in the post, we will consider it. For now, it is enough to say that travertine is composed mainly of calcium carbonate.

Colors of Travertine

Another aspect a natural stone’s characteristics that is affected by its composition is the color. Since travertine is made of up mostly of calcium carbonate, it usually is one of the following colors:

  • Cream
  • Gray
  • Beige
  • Brown
  • White

Even though the main color of the stone is one of the light colors listed above, other minerals and substances in the stone will produce darker colors or even other colors altogether.


Travertine is a rustic looking stone in its raw form. However, that naturally rustic look can be either enhanced or changed by utilizing finishing techniques. Let’s look at some popular ones and see how they affect the appearance of the stone.


The first finish we will consider is tumbled. Tumbling natural travertine tile is a technique is accomplished purposefully over the course of weeks and yields a look that is even more rustic in appearance than the raw stone. Tumbled Travertine has a weathered look and is usually left unfilled. A key indication that a travertine tile has been tumbled is that it will usually look smoother and rounder right next to the grout lines.


Another finish that can be used on natural travertine is the honed finish. This finish is a bit less rustic looking than the tumbled finish. However, it is rustic looking nonetheless. Honed travertine is smooth to the touch and looks a little more modern than its tumbled counterpart.


Our third travertine finish is ‘brushed’. This finish is a bit more textured than a honed finish but it is not as rustic and weathered looking as the tumbled travertine.


Next up, chiseled. Chiseled finish travertine has the edges of the tile chipped away to create an edge that is not straight or smooth. The removal of the material via chipping can be done using machines or it can be done manually. The result is a tile with an enhanced rustic look. Although chiseled travertine and tumbled travertine both look more rustic than raw travertine tiles do, the enhancement produces different looks.

Bush Hammered

Number five is bush hammering. Bush hammering is a finishing technique used on all sorts of stone surfaces. It creates a textured surface by using a rotary tool on the surface of the stone. Bush hammered surfaces can have a variety of textures.


Finally, we have the polished finish. Polished travertine is the smoothest of the finishes. Polished travertine is modern looking and yet also still has a rustic appearance. However, polished travertine can have a sheen which is why it works well in modern designs too.

As we have seen although travertine has a very distinctive appearance in its raw state, it can have treatments applied to it that either enhance or ease its rustic look. Additionally, multiple finishes can be applied to the same tile for even more interesting looks.

Uses for Travertine

Travertine has a number of uses tiles are practical and can be applied to vertical surface and horizontal surfaces. Depending on which area you are using travertine for, you will select one or more tile sizes. Let’s look at some specific applications.


Travertine tiles can be used in multiple ways in indoor applications. But one of the most common ways that travertine is used in vertical applications as a back splash material. Travertine behind the stove, around the kitchen above the countertops, or both, can really enhance the look of a kitchen’s appearance.

Another way that travertine is often use indoors is in a horizontal application as flooring. kitchen and hallway floors made from travertine give interior designs a rustic, elegant look.


Exterior applications for travertine exist as well. One outdoor use for travertine is that it can be used around pools and/or hot tubs. The porosity of travertine makes it great for horizontal surfaces around water. The stone absorbs the water so the surface is not as slippery as other materials.

Patios and walkways are also great outdoor applications for travertine. These are other walking surfaces that can become wet from rain, dew, or melted frost and thus could become slippery when wet if made from other non-porous materials.

Travertine Care & Maintenance

Caring for natural travertine involves various products. Depending on what the application is and where it is installed, the care and maintenance will vary.

Is Sealer Needed?

One of the big questions when using natural stone surfaces is “does it need to be sealed?” The answer is yes. Applying an impregnating sealer to travertine surfaces helps them to stay looking their best. Periodic sealer application helps to keep the water and oil out of the stone without creating a coating on the surface of the material.

As we have seen in this post, there are a variety of things to contemplate when talking about travertine surfaces. As we have seen, this material can be used for various surfaces and in either outdoor environments or indoor applications. The finish the stone has enhances its character and makes it even more unique.

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