What is Travertine Tile?
Travertine tiles have been used for thousands of years on the exteriors of buildings and homes and create a beautiful and natural finish, with warm, rich colors and varying textures. As long as a few considerations are kept in mind before deciding where to use travertine tiles in your outdoor space, you can enjoy the beauty and durability of this natural stone for years to come. Travertine tile is a porous natural stone in the limestone family that comes in a number of different finishes and colors.
How Is Travertine Formed?
Travertine is a sedimentary stone which is formed over millions of years by minerals being laid down at the bottom of hot spring pools. As the hot water travels through the earth, it leaches out the surrounding chemicals. Then this mineral laden water erupts through the earth’s surface and forms in pools. As the water evaporates, it leaves these minerals which build up over time into layers of many colors and patterns. At some point in the future, these pools are covered over by debris and earth. The resulting pressure on the sediment compacts it and forms stone. This stone is then quarried and cut into pavers and travertine tiles.
Travertine Pavers and Tiles
Travertine pavers come in a variety of natural earth tones, which makes matching them to your backyard décor very easy. One way of laying the pavers that looks really interesting is to lay the travertine pavers along the walkway at a distance which will match a short stride, and then to surround them with small crushed rock of a different color. This sets off the color and patterns found in the pavers very nicely. I have also seen a small rounded river rock used for this filler, which again adds a nice touch.
Colors vary from shades of ivory and beige to golds, reds, and walnut colors.
Outdoor Uses for Travertine Tiles
For outdoor purposes, polished travertine is not often used due to its smooth and shiny finish. Tumbled travertine tile, brushed travertine tile, and honed travertine tile are the finishes of choice for outdoor use. The main difference is that honed travertine has a flat, smooth finish while the other two types have a textured finish, so honed travertine is not often used on floor surfaces outdoors due to its potential to be slippery when wet.
Travertine tiles can also be used outdoors on patios, outdoor kitchens, stone fireplaces, walkways, inground pool surrounds and as exterior home siding, and they provide a natural feel to any space. Using travertine tiles outdoors can add interest to your exterior décor, but a few points need to be kept in mind before making the decision to use travertine over other types of natural stone.
Pros and Cons of Travertine Tiles
Trapping of Moisture
One consideration in choosing travertine tiles for your outdoor space is that the tiles are porous and therefore will naturally retain water that then becomes trapped within the tile. This makes them a less popular choice in areas that have regular freeze and thaw cycles, since any water that is trapped within the tile can cause the tile to crack when the external temperature causes the trapped water to freeze. This problem is more likely to arise with travertine floor tiles (used on patios and walkways) than on travertine wall tiles (used on exterior walls), since horizontally installed tiles are more likely to trap water.
One solution to the problem of moisture and water when installing travertine tile outdoors is to seal the tile. Sealing travertine tile not only helps to keep moisture out but also makes cleaning the tiles easier. This is especially true of tumbled travertine, which is more prone to collect dirt due to its textured finish.
If sealed, cleaning travertine tile outdoors requires a periodic hosing down of the tile, along with a brushing to loosen up some of the debris.
Softer Compared to Other Tiles
Another consideration to keep in mind is that travertine is softer than some other natural stone products. While this is not as much of an issue when installing travertine as siding on a home or installing a travertine tile backsplash in your outdoor kitchen, it may be an issue if you are installing the tile as the flooring on your patio, where outdoor patio furniture will be moved around often and may scratch or chip the tiles. This is not to say that travertine is a soft stone.
It is a durable stone that has been used on the exteriors of buildings dating back to Roman times – it just may be more likely to scratch or chip than other natural stones.
Despite the fact that there are some aspects of using travertine tiles that should be kept in mind in relation to moisture retention and the strength of the tile, travertine tile installation is very popular on the exterior of many homes due to its sheer beauty. It is a more appropriate material choice in climates that are not subject to freezing, but if care is taken to properly seal the tile, it can be used in colder climates as well.
Choosing a Travertine Tile finish
Choosing the finish for your travertine tiles will depend on the location in which they are being used and the look you are interested in achieving. Honed travertine tiles have a smooth texture with a matte finish, so they can become slippery when wet and are not the best choice for a patio floor.
They are a great choice, however, for kitchen countertops and backsplashes, outdoor shower walls, or exterior siding. Brushed or tumbled travertine tiles are a better solution for patios and walkways due to their rougher and more natural texture and better slip resistance.
Installing Travertine Tiles
Laying travertine tiles requires a similar installation method to most other natural stone choices, with the one exception that if it is laid in a location subject to freezing temperatures it should not be set with mortar. When any moisture inside of the stone freezes, it expands and can pop the mortar joints. It is best to install travertine tiles over a solid uniform surface outside, such as a concrete patio slab.
Laying travertine tiles can be performed by do-it-yourselfers that have the knowledge of how to properly lay any type of natural stone product, or of course can be handled by professional installers.
Where to Buy Travertine Tiles
You can buy travertine tile from landscaping supply companies, hardscaping suppliers, natural stone suppliers, quarries, garden centers, and home improvement stores. You can even buy travertine tiles online, although it is usually best to use the internet to locate local suppliers in the area and compare prices and selection available (such as color, finishes and sizes), since the weight of travertine tiles doesn’t make them easy to ship inexpensively (unless you are purchasing a small quantity).
Travertine mosaic tiles (for backsplashes), and travertine floor tile or wall tile can be purchased online and shipped, but if you are looking to complete an entire patio or large walkway or are planning to side the whole front of your home, buying travertine tiles online is probably not the best option and you should look for places that sell travertine tiles in bulk or discount travertine tile if you order over a certain quantity.