Travertine is a natural stone material from the limestone family. It is made of calcium carbonate and is usually found in the form of deposits near warm or hot springs. It was frequently used in ancient times as a building material. Because travertine is such a porous material, it should be sealed before use in construction or renovation projects. It is most commonly used for countertops and flooring, but may also be used in showers and tub surrounds as well as in exterior decor.
One might think that since stone can withstand the ravages of weather and outdoor elements, it is unlikely to be damaged when used in the home. Aside from its obvious beauty, durability is one of the elements that lead people to choose natural stone for home building and home improvement projects. The truth is that unpolished travertine is highly susceptible to heat, scratching, staining and acidity, including citric acid, so it should only be cleaned with special products designed for use on natural stone.
Never use cleaners that contain vinegar or citrus oils on travertine. Even water can be harmful to the texture of travertine if it is allowed to sit on the stone for long periods of time. One must also take care to use a hot pad or a trivet when placing something on hot on stone surfaces, and homeowners should never cut or slice directly on the stone.
Travertine is available in different colors and finishes, from natural, neutral colors such as creamy white and beige to tan and reddish brown. The color depends quite a bit on the impurities and iron content of the stone. The different finishes include honed, polished and tumbled. Honed travertine is smooth, but unlike polished, it has a matte finish. Polished travertine is smooth, but buffed and polished until shiny. Tumbled travertine has a rougher, textured finish and often has rounded corners for an antique look.
Because travertine is natural stone, no two pieces are the same. It is important to look over the material carefully and select only those pieces that you find the most beautiful. While you can save money by buying bulk parcels, you may not be able to examine individual pieces for pattern and color tone preference.