Travertine – The Authoritative Guide

Travertine is a product that has become very confusing due to the varied terms used in the market place. Why do so many terms exist? For one reason, it helps one supplier charge more than another. Here at TFO we love nothing more than to demystify the industry and help customers compare. Why do we want to do this? Because we are so sure we have the cheapest travertine in Sydney when you compare one quality level with the same.  As the old expression goes,make sure you’re comparing “apple with apples.” With each supplier using their own terms, we will write about what is most common and also the terms we use to refer to them. Once you read this you will never again need to pay too much.

What is Travertine?

In short, Travertine is a wonderful natural product. It is formed when limestone is combined with hot springs and thousands of years. Travertine comes in light cream colours (fig. 1A) to the darker Noce Brown(fig. 1B)and even a grey silver colour(fig. 1C). The most popular colour used in Australia has a cream base with subtle darker infusions. Travertine is a naturally aerated product that can be ‘filled’(fig. 1D). This is normally done in the factory where it is force filled, normally with a colour cement type product.

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Travertine Light (1A)

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Travertine Noce (1B)

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Travertine Silver (1C)

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Travertine Filled (1D)

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Travertine Unfilled (1E)

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Travertine Block at Quarry (1F)

Many love the look of the holes and buy ‘unfilled’(fig.1E). Here’s an interesting fact: unfilled is more expensive. Why? Because in order to get a good unfilled product it can’t have too many holes and thus a better quality ‘block’ (a large slab of travertine directly from the quarry) is used. (fig. 1F) With that in mind, many are now buying the unfilled product, and having their tiler fill it when laying with grout and Grout Cure (a Davco product added to Davco grout to give the fill and grout extra strength). This is normally not much harder for the tiler. The final result is much more impressive as the grout and fill are the same colour. Most travertine sold are crosscut however if you cut the travertine the other way you can create vein cut (Fig 1G). While travertine can be bought in ‘polished’(Fig 1H),or ‘brushed’(Fig. 1I)(which tends to be a little slippery by far the most popular is ‘honed’. Honed is a matt finish that combines a great subtle look with a natural slip resistant finish.(Fig 1J)

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Travertine Vein Cut (1G)

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Travertine Polished (1H)

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Traveritne Brushed (1I)

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Travertine Honed (1J)

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Tumbling Machine (1K)

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Travertine Paver Laid (1L)

Edge FinishesTwo Edge finishes are available:

  1. ‘Tumbled’ Edge –(As you can see on the picture above)This is where they tumble the edges of the travertine almost like rounding the edge as in bull nosing. To explain how it happens, imagine a giant washing machine with different size river pebbles in it. The travertine is lowered in andagitated up and down until the sharp edges are all removed. (Fig 1K) This gives a smooth finish and allows the tiler a little more tolerance in levels. It also creates a much softer yet rustic look. Most factories can tumble tiles up to a 400x600mm size and for this the product must be stronger than most. Just recently, some factories that produce dense material have been able to tumble the 610x610mm size in both the 12mm tile and the 30mm paver (Fig. 1L). However the stronger material may have a little more colour variation (which in my opinion looks better than boring consistent almost man made product).
  2. ‘Chiselled’Edge –(Fig. 1M) This is a much rougher edge and in my opinion it looks its best in the French pattern.(no image) As the picture shows, French pattern consists of varied size pieces that all make an interesting European inspired pattern. French pattern travertine is suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications. It comes in both 12mm for laying over a concrete slab, to 30mm (tumbled not chiselled) to be used as a walkway paver.
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Travertine Chiselled (1M)

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Travertine 1st Choice (1N)

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Travertine Light (1O)

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Travertine Country Light (1P)

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Travertine Country Dark (1Q)

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Travertine Walnut (1R)

Terms That Refer To Quality It is a given that most tiles that come into Australia are first quality, but the selection process makes some more expensive than others. Note that for the rest of this article, when I write about holes I mean holes that go all the way through the tile. When I mean holes that don’t go all the way through I will refer to those as pores. 1)       1st Choice Travertine – without holes and withoutmany pores. In my opinion it’s like select grade timber – BORING! But some may like it.(Fig 1N) 2)       Standard Choice Travertine(AKA as classic) – a quality product with occasional holes and quite a good amount of pores. The above two choice selections have 5 main selections:

  • Light – consisting of some natural colour variation but fairly light. (Fig 1O)
  • Country Light- a mix between light and medium. (Fig 1P)
  • Medium- some natural colour variation but fairly mid-range colour.
  • Country dark –a mix between Medium and dark (sometimes called Medium mix). (Fig 1Q)
  • Noce- the darkest with strong dark brown colours the darkest is called walnut(Fig 1R).

3)       Commercial Choice Travertine – will include holes with pores . Unlike standard and 1st choice travertine,Commercial Choice Travertine comes in a light mix which is medium to light and everything in between, or a dark mix which is medium to Noce. The colours are striking and the holes are simple to fill when tiling. This quality is the cheapest one. Country Of Origin The demand for travertine according to country has changed significantly since the inception of YouTube. Now many more interesting and sometimes scary facts have emerged. Currently, the general consensus is that the most appealing travertine comes from Turkey, followed by Iran then Italy. Many sales people may claim that one country is better than the other, however this is more often biased by the product the salesman is trying to sell rather than the facts. We hope this little article has helped you save a small fortune as you buy your travertine tiles from TFO.

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