Isn't Travertine Just a Fancy Word for Marble?

Isn't Travertine Just a Fancy Word for Marble?

August 15, 2013

 The short answer…not exactly.

Even if you’re just at the very beginning stages of a home project involving surfacing material, you’ve undoubtedly come across the word “travertine.” But what, exactly, is this material? Is it limestone? Is it marble? Is it both? Or is it something completely different? 

 Travertine Floor

Travertine floor by Woodmeister Master Builders; photo via Houzz

Truth is, travertine is often sold as marble or limestone, even though it’s neither. Travertine is a natural stone, just like marble, granite, and limestone—in fact, travertine is a type of limestone, as is marble. (We know today that marble actually began as a limestone before it underwent metamorphosis from immense pressures and high temperatures over time.) However they are not the same.

 Travertine Shower

Travertine shower by DSA Architects; photo via Houzz 

The key difference between travertine and other natural stones is how the material was formed. Travertine is formed in hot springs or limestone caves. Basically, its limestone that has been affected by additional heat and pressure applied by the earth’s crust. (It’s formed on land rather than in the ocean). Travertine is typically polished to a smooth finish, honed into a matte finish, brushed/tumbled into a textured surface, filled to a smoother finish, or chiseled to an uneven finish.

Travertine has some telltale characteristics that separate it from regular limestone. One key trait is the holes found within the stone. These are caused by carbon dioxide evasion. Travertine can range in color from ivory and beige to walnut and gold. The color is determined by the amount of iron or other organic impurities found in the particular slab of travertine.

Travertine Stove Surround

 Travertine stove surround by Venegas and Company; photo via Houzz

Because it’s easily available—and easy to work with—travertine is a popular building stone for both interior and exterior applications. Travertine can be purchased in a wide array of sizes and patterns, which makes it versatile and appropriate for nearly any application from flooring and wall cladding (including showers) to backsplashes and fireplace surrounds.  Travertine also feels soft underfoot. It is a good bit softer than its limestone kin, and it’s nearly impossible to keep a shine. But once it settles into its native, matte finish, few materials offer the warmth that travertine does. 

Still curious about travertine. Visit one of our two showroom locations to see our selection. Our friendly sales staff will answer all of your questions and show you how travertine can be the perfect addition to your next project. 




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