We have all heard of travertine tiles and some of us can pick them out of a random selection of tile samples. Not many of us really know much about them, though. What are travertine tiles? Where do they come from? What are the best ways to use them?

What Are Travertine Tiles

Travertine is a natural stone, sometimes mistakenly said to be a form of limestone or marble. Although related to limestone, it actually has a unique composition. Travertine is basically formed from the accumulation of calcareous (calcium carbonate) deposits in areas where mineral rich, carbon dioxide saturated waters exist, such as natural artesian springs, hot springs and caves. Travertine is a very porous stone. Its pits and rough texture are caused by air bubbles and organic matter that appeared over the aeons of time nature took to produce the stone. The variations in colour, from nearly white to red, come from the mixtures of minerals that found their way into the stone as it was being formed.

Origins of Travertine Tiles

If you’ve ever been to Italy, you will have seen thousands of examples of travertine. In ancient Rome, the stone was used in the construction of temples, bathhouses, statuary, aqueducts and theatres. In other words, travertine, when used as a building material, has withstood the test of time. In Italy, it is called ‘travertino’, a derivative of the Latin ‘lapis tiburtino’, which means “stone from Tibur”, the region now known as Tivoli. Wherever cold and hot water springs can be found, so can travertine. These are in short supply in Australia, so most of ours is imported from Italy, but it is also imported from Mexico, South America and the Middle East.

Uses for Travertine Tiles

Travertine tiles are excellent for use both indoors and out. Contrary to popular belief, travertine is actually less porous than marble, limestone and many types of sandstone.  It is still a a relatively  porous material, though, and needs to be thoroughly sealed if it is going to be used indoors. Sealing and polishing travertine tiles will make them stain-resistant and enhance their natural beauty and colouring. Because travertine can be broken down by acids such as those found in citrus fruits, it is not generally recommended for use on kitchen benchtops, but if thoroughly sealed and if any spills are cleaned up immediately, it is acceptable. Naturally slip-resistant, travertine is an excellent choice for walkways, pool decks and other applications where water is present. You can choose from a variety of different tile shapes, each of which produces a distinct look when laid. Smaller “cobblestone” pavers are very popular right now and give you the feeling that you are walking down a laneway in Milan. As anyone who has seen the exterior of a Roman cathedral can testify, travertine makes a marvellous building material. While building a house out of travertine would be outside almost every Australian’s budget, travertine tiles can affordably be used as wall coverings in a variety of ways. Rough-tumbled travertine tiles used as cladding accents can transform an ordinary wall into the exterior of a Tuscan villa. If you are thinking of using travertine on your interior walls, look into cross-cut “saturnia” travertine. Travertine cut across its natural grain structure like this has a distinctive appearance all its own. If travertine tiles sound appealing to you, contact us directly on 03 97069767