More About Travertine

More About Travertine

January 28, 2014

After publishing a blog [Isn't Travertine Just a Fancy Word for Marble?] about travertine in August 2013, we had some questions about the material, its uses, and origins. Here’s a bit more about this ancient building stone.

Travertine floor

Travertine kitchen floor by Oak Hill Architects; photo via Houzz

Travertine is a form of limestone that’s deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. It’s formed by a process of rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate and typically exists in white, tan, and cream colors (though golds and reds may also be found.) In limestone caves, this is the same material that forms stalactites and stalagmites. It’s quarried in many countries around the world, but in the U.S., the most popular travertine available come from Italy, Turkey, and Mexico.

Travertine backsplash by Divine KitchensTravertine backsplash by Divine Kitchens LLC; photo via Houzz

The stone’s name came from the town Tubur in ancient Rome. It was known as lapis tiburtinus, which literally translates to “tibur stone.” The name eventually morphed into “travertine.” The ancient Romans mined travertine for building temples, aqueducts, monuments, bath complexes, and amphitheaters including the Colosseum!

Italy has many well-known travertine quarries, including those used by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for The Colonnade of St. Peter’s Square in Rome and by Michaelangelo for the ribs of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

As we mentioned in the previous entry, travertine is actually classified properly as a type of limestone, not marble (marble is also limestone.) But it is one of the most frequently used stones in modern architecture commonly found as building facades, wall cladding, flooring, patios, garden paths, backsplashes, showers, and more.

Travertine is characterized by naturally occurring pitted holes and troughs found in its surface. Some installers use Travertine Filler to fill the holes and some leave them open. It can be purchased either way, known simply as “filled” or “unfilled.”

Travertine shower by Lauren Milligan DesignTravertine Shower by Lauren Milligan Design; photo via Houzz

Depending on its designated use, travertine may be polished to a smooth finish, honed into a matte finish or brushed/tumbled into a textured finish. It can even be chiseled for an uneven or rough finish.

Have more questions about travertine? Let us know. Or visit one of Marble and Granite, Inc.’s showrooms to see our selection of travertine.




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