Travertine is a type of limestone that forms around mineral springs and caves. The stone formations may present themselves as thick slabs in neutral, muted colors, or as stalagmites and stalactites when formed in caves.
The stone is often quarried for its color, porous composition, and hardness, which may vary depending on the concentration of minerals present, the temperature of its ambient surroundings, and soil profile. All travertine is created via the rapid precipitation of minerals like calcium carbonate, giving the stone a slight soft, spongy texture in cold springs.
The majority of travertine is found in Italy, and the country has been using the stone for infrastructure for millennia. The properties of travertine were first recorded around 75 BC to 15 BC by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, who lived during the rule of Julius Cesar. In fact, the famous Roman Coliseum is the largest structure constructed out of travertine.
The Italians weren’t the only fans of the porous stone as the Egyptians used the stone for stone masonry, and the sacred city of Hierapolis in Turkey is surrounded by stunning white and tan deposits of travertine among its many natural springs.
Today, travertine continues to be a popular stone used in many homes and commercial spaces due to its stunning appearance and durability. Travertine tends to harden over time as the mineral deposits within the stone calcify within the pores, increasing the density of the stone. In modern structures, travertine is renowned for its coloration and cool feel.
Travertine typically falls under beige tones, with hues of cream, tan, and rust red that mimic the veining of marble. The color of the stone is dependent on the composition of minerals in the surrounding springs and caves, which contributes to the overall appearance of travertine.
Travertine is known to be a porous stone with fresh travertine registering a porosity between 10% to 80%. Older travertines, as seen in ancient structures, have a lower porosity of 2% due to the crystallization of minerals within the stone. The porosity of the stone is highly dependent on the temperature of its surroundings, with cold springs creating 50% porous travertine.
In nature, travertine terrestrial formations are revered for their clandestine attractiveness, with their structures hidden deep within natural deposits. Caves filled with travertine stalagmites and stalactites are turned into tourist attractions for nature-lovers, while terrestrial mounds around geysers and springs present a unique take on the natural stone.
In design and architectural applications, travertine is often used alternatively to marble as the patterns of the stone mimic that of marble, and is called the aesthetically appealing limestone due to the variety of its colors, patterns, and overall eye-catching appearance.
Beneficial Features of Travertine
Despite its relative sponginess compared to other stones like granite and slate, travertine is a durable material that can be used as the support structure for light construction, or to show off the natural patterns of the stone when used as flooring, walls, and countertops.
Travertine is also water-resistant, mold-resistant, and is a cost-effective option when compared to other natural stones. The stone is easy to maintain, and does not require hefty cleaning tools or specialized cleaning formulas to remove grime and dirt. Travertine is also non-slip, as it has a good frictional resistance against water.
The low maintenance properties of the stone is what makes travertine a popular choice for many designers over the years, with the stone offering similar durability to limestone, while having more aesthetic appeal in its patterns.
Uses of Travertine
Because of its non-slip and water-resistant properties, travertine is popular to use in swimming pools and decks. The stone stays cool to the touch even under the heat of the sun, and offers moisture-resistance that prevents the growth of mold. Other moisture-frequent areas where travertine is used include patios, gazebos, courtyards, and other outdoor areas.
In designed homes, travertine may be used in place of marble, offering a low cost and low maintenance option for homeowners. Travertine is most commonly used as wall tiles or flooring, and can be shaped into mosaic-styled designs with different colorations.
Travertine staircases have increased in popularity, as the stone features a stunning display of colors and patterns, while offering a practical non-slip, waterproof surface. Travertine steps have been used for sunken living rooms, elevated dens, and more.
Much like most natural stones, travertine and acidic solutions do not mix. Avoid using vinegar-based products, lemon juice, and acidic commercial cleaners on travertine surfaces as these substances may dissolve the stone. Etching may occur with acidic chemicals, so best to stick to stone-safe cleaners for travertine.
Generally, travertine care is simple with the right tools and cleaning solutions. Using soap-based solutions such as dish soap or castile soap will provide a gentle care for the stone while removing the grime and dirt. Travertine may require regular polishing when used frequently such as on steps, flooring, and the like.