What is Travertine Tile

travertine tile on the Gettty Centre buildingTravertine tile is a form of limestone also referred to as Calcium Carbonate. It comes about when minerals are dissolved in ground water and then wind up above ground after being transported by natural springs and rivers. It is an increasingly popular material to use for flooring, as cladding for buildings, on countertops and on walls.

Harks Back to Ancient Times

Its historical use dates back millennia to the construction of the Colosseum in Rome and is found in most profuse quantities in Rome and Turkey. Applied as slabs to concrete and brick walls, it provided decorative appeal that is enjoyed even today, and its use as a pavement material demonstrates its enduring qualities. In more modern architecture, New York’s Lincoln Center makes glorious use of travertine, as does the Getty Centre (shown above) in Los Angeles.


Travertine is quarried in huge blocks and is processed, sometimes onsite, into smaller ones. It can be cross-cut which means it is cut along with the grain of the stone, making it more uniformly textured and colored. Or it can be vein-cut meaning it’s cut across several layers of the stone bedding. This method results in a tiger-striped, mottle effect when processed into tiles.


One of the greatest appeals of travertine tile – other than, of course, its longevity and durability – is the range of colors in which it’s available. Thanks to the influences of iron compounds and other ‘flaws’, it can be found in beautiful, natural hues of basic ivory and beige through to a range of golds. No two tiles will ever be the same and consumers find this endless appealing because of the diversity of patterns that can be created.

Depending on the treatment applied, travertine tile can take on a shiny, matte, tumbled or brushed surface. The first two are beautifully smooth while the others are textured. This versatility means it can be used variously throughout a home and look different from room to room. The matt surface remains the most popular in today’s modern applications.

Pattern consistency

Once you take delivery of your order of travertine tile, it’s a good idea to conduct a ‘dry run’ and lay the tiles out on the surface you will be covering. Since it’s a naturally occurring product, there will be color variations as mentioned above, and by mixing up the individual tiles before you install them, you will ensure that the pattern is created evenly.


Due care must be given to travertine tile surfaces, keeping in mind that this is a natural substance, subject to porosity issues. If anything acidic such as orange juice or vinegar comes into contact with it, it can damage the appearance permanently. Sealers can be applied to protect the surfaces but if you feel there is a significant risk of damage caused by the activities in the room where you want to use it, you may be better off considering an alternative.

Edge designs

You can buy travertine tile with a variety of edges from top and bottom bevel to ¼ round, stair thread and cove dupont. Consult your retailer for the kinds that they supply and you’ll also learn which edges are appropriate for which applications.


It’s vital that you read your travertine tile warranty before you start to install. Even better, being aware of what your warranty covers before you purchase, will help you to understand if the material is suitable for the purpose you have in mind. Travertine offers great long-term wear and stunning good looks, but remember its porosity when deciding where to use it.

photo by Ilpo’s Sojourn – CreativeCommons Attribution