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Grouting Travertine

All tile grouts fall into two general categories: cement-based grout and epoxy grout. Grouts used for tiling should not be confused with caulks, which are elastomeric materials used for filling gaps between various building materials.

Cement-based grouts have a base of portland cement, but they differ in the types of additives they contain. Most come in powdered form to which water or liquid latex is added. Cement-based grouts include commercial portland cement, dry-set and latex-portland cement grouts. Latex-portland cement grout is the most versatile grout for residential applications.

Epoxy grout contains an epoxy resin and hardener, giving it a high degree of chemical resistance, excellent bond strength and superior impact resistance. It is the most expensive of the grouts, and therefore usually confined to industrial and commercial applications. It is somewhat thick and not easy to apply though. If your tiles are more than 1/2-inch thick and the grout joints are less than 1/4- inch wide*, the grout will not penetrate.

(*Rock Bottom Tile and Stone generally recommends grout joints of approximately 1/8’’ thick or smaller for most projects, but up to 1/4” thick can also be acceptable based on personal preference)

When it comes to cement-based grouts there are basically two form variations:

SANDED GROUT and UNSANDED GROUT

SANDED GROUT is used to fill wider grout joints. Sand (usually silica sand) is added to the basic portland cement along with colorants and other additives. When sand is added this increases strength and lends bulk for filler. Sanded grout is generally used in grout lines that exceed 1/16 inch in width.

UNSANDED GROUT is reserved for smaller grout lines around 1/16 inch or less. It might be noted that some natural stone tiles such as granite and marble are placed very close together having usually a 1/16 inch grout line and generally not more than 1/8 inch wide.

There are additives that can also be used (added) in grouts at mixing time to promote a stronger more stain resistant product when cured.

Grout sealers are also available for application to the grouts surface after it has thoroughly dried/cured. Grout sealers are strongly recommended.

*Grout information courtesy of johnbridge.com


Stone and Tile Finishes

Polished

The polished finish, which is perfectly smooth, flat, and very high-gloss/reflective. This is a common finish for many colors of travertine, marble, granite, and some limestones. The polish can act as another layer of protection for the stone as well, making this option popular for shower walls, countertops, and anywhere where a high gloss is desired. Polishes can be worn away over time in the presence of heavy traffic however, making more natural finishes more common in high-traffic areas.

High Honed

For those seeking something slightly less reflective than a polished tile, we do carry a few colors of travertine and limestone in a high-honed finish. This option is still perfectly smooth and flat, but is not as reflective and glossy as a polished tile nor is it as much of a matte finish as a honed tile. This finish is more common with grey colors of travertine such as Silver and Philadelphia as well as some limestones such as the Dorado.

Honed

The next step down from the high-honed option is your standard honed tile. This finish is extremely abundant in square format tiles such as 12x12, 16x16, and 18x18 travertine, and is highlighted by a very smooth, flat surface with a matte, non-reflective quality. Due to the absence of the polished layer, this finish as well as the following two finishes are very well suited for high traffic areas.

Tumbled

The first “natural” finish is tumbled, which is very common for landscape pavers, smaller tiles used for back splashes and shower pans including mosaics, and is also a readily available finish for square format tile and Versailles Patterns. The tumbled finish is characterized by worn, slightly rounded edges, and a natural, textured, porous surface. This finish often has a muting effect on the color of the tile, which can be brought back out by using an enhancer sealer, or maintained with an impregnating sealer if you are after the more subdued color scheme.

Brushed

The other natural looking finish that you will see a lot of on our website is brushed, which is generally accompanied by a chiseled edge in natural stone tile. There are a few exceptions, but in general honed and polished tiles will have a straight edge, or a classic 90 degree drop off at the edge of the tile, while brushed materials will have the more rustic and antique looking chiseled edge. A brushed surface is similar to the tumbled in that it is a very natural look and feel with a bit of texture, but it does not have the same worn/aged quality that the tumbled does. It is also available pre-filled for some products, and it is the most common surface finish available for the Versailles Pattern.

Travertine Applications

From small mosaics to large slabs, travertine stone tile patterns are used for:

  • Kitchen Floors
  • Kitchen Backsplashes
  • Counters
  • Entryway Floors
  • Interior Walls
  • Outdoor Walls
  • Fireplace Surrounds
  • Bathroom Floors
  • Bathroom Walls and Backsplashes
  • Tub Surrounds
  • Outdoor Patios and Walkways

What Is Travertine?

   Travertine is a banded, compact type of limestone* formed near streams and hot or cold springs where calcium carbonate is deposited and evaporation results in a calcite-rich supersaturated solution. It is one of the most frequently used and sought after natural stones in today’s modern architecture landscape. The process of its formation results in some incredible geological phenomena throughout the world, from Turkey to China to Spain to Guatemala to Yellowstone National Park right here in the United States. These breathtaking occurrences generally take the form of large terraces, pools or “walls," and are indicative of the natural beauty that travertine and limestone possess. Several examples of these pools and terraces are shown below:

(*Despite being scientifically classified as a form of limestone, the terms “Travertine” and “Limestone” are distinct when discussed in the scope of building materials)


Badab-e, Iran


Huanglong, China


Egerszalók, Hungary


Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park



Pamukkale, Turkey

Travertine has been used for thousands of years as a building material due to its abundance and ease of quarrying. In Ancient Rome, travertine deposits were quarried for use in the building of aqueducts, temples, monuments, bath houses, and amphitheatres. The most famous of these amphitheatres is the great Roman Colosseum, which was completed around 80 AD and remains standing today as the largest building in the world constructed primarily of travertine.


Travertine Quarry


The Roman Coliseum

Other notable buildings that have made extensive use of travertine include the Shell-Haus in Berlin, the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Paris, and the $1.3 billion Getty Center in Los Angeles which opened to the public in December of 1997 and has enjoyed around 1.3 million visitors annually ever since. Pictured below is the castle of Burghausen in Germany. This mammoth structure is Europe's longest castle, is over 1000 years old, and is built primarily of travertine.


Burghausen Castle, Germany

Travertine tiles come in several varieties of finish and many color schemes. This versatility of the stone to be finished in different ways plays a large role in allowing you to select an aesthetic to match your theme, whether that is more modern or more on the natural side.

The modern side of the conversation starts with the polished finish, which is perfectly smooth, flat, and very high-gloss/reflective. This is a common finish for many colors of travertine, marble, granite, and some limestones. The polish can act as another layer of protection for the stone as well, making this option popular for shower walls, countertops, and any area where a high gloss is desired. The polish can be worn away over time in the presence of heavy traffic however, making more natural finishes a more commonly used option in high-traffic areas. The glassy nature of the polished tile can also reduce the traction or “grip” of the surface making it a less prevalent finish for bathroom floor applications.

For those seeking something slightly less reflective than a fully polished tile, we do carry a few colors of travertine and limestone in a high-honed finish. This option is still perfectly smooth and flat, but is not as reflective and glossy as a polished tile nor is it as much of a matte finish as a honed tile. This finish is more common with grey colors of travertine such as Silver and Philadelphia but can be found in other colors with other materials, such as Dorado and Seagrass Limestone.


From Left to Right: Brushed/Chiseled Edge, Honed/Filled, Tumbled, and Polished (Materials shown are from Golden Sienna Line of travertine products)

The next step down from the high-honed option is your standard honed tile. This finish is extremely abundant in square format tiles such as 12x12, 16x16, and 18x18 travertine, and is highlighted by a very smooth, flat surface with a matte, non-reflective quality. Due to the absence of the polished layer, this finish (as well as the following two finishes) is very well suited for high traffic areas. The slightly increased traction of this finish versus the polished makes it a popular and easy to clean option for bathroom and kitchen floor applications.

The first “natural” finish of travertine is tumbled, which is very common for landscape pavers, smaller tiles used for backsplashes and shower pans including mosaics, and is also a readily available finish for square format tile and Versailles Patterns. The tumbled finish is characterized by worn, slightly rounded edges, and a natural, textured, porous surface. This finish often has a muting effect on the color of the tile, which can be brought back out by using an enhancer sealer or maintained with an impregnating sealer if you are after the “dry” look and more subdued color scheme.

The other natural looking finish that you will see a lot of on our website is brushed, which is generally accompanied by a chiseled edge in natural stone tile. There are a few exceptions, but in general honed and polished tiles will have a straight 90 degree square edge, while brushed materials will often have the more rustic and antique looking chiseled edge. A brushed surface is similar to the tumbled in that it is a very natural look and feel with a bit of texture, but it does not have the same worn/aged quality that the tumbled does. It is also available pre-filled for some products and it is the most common surface finish available for the Versailles Pattern. The brushed finish in general does not have the same muting effect to the color and movement of the stone as the tumbled finish does, so it’s a great option for a natural look without muting the color array.

With so many color and finish combinations to choose from, there is a wonderful travertine option for just about any project. For more information or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us 800-809-1465.

How To Seal Travertine Stone Tile

  1. Select a sealer specifically made to be used on travertine, or on all types of stone. Any other type of sealer may create stains and will affect the durability of your travertine tile.
  2. Clean the travertine tile with the cleanser recommended by the manufacturer of the sealer you chose. The chemicals in the two products should be formulated to work together and provide you with the best results.
  3. Use a spray bottle and wet the entire surface of the travertine tile you plan to seal. Wait for the water to begin drying, typically after just a few minutes.
  4. Rewet your travertine tile with the sealer. Make sure the entire surface of the travertine tile is covered with the sealer.
  5. Wait 30 minutes and wipe away any excess sealer with a clean white cloth.
  6. Remove an excessive buildup of sealer by rewetting the area with more sealer and wiping it away again with a clean white cloth.
  7. Allow the newly sealed travertine tile to cure for 48 hours to get the strongest seal.

What Does It Mean To Be Green?

The most widely used rating system for green building is LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design). The LEED® Green Building Rating System™ was established by the nation's leading coalition on sustainable building, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in 1998. The system defines standards for environmentally responsible, healthier, and more profitable structures. Points are awarded to new construction & Atmosphere & Resources ® points under the Regional Material credits. But, more can be done to promote natural stone as a sustainable building material, and major renovation in five categories:

  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy
  • Materials
  • Indoor Environmental Quality

Right now, only natural stone that is local to the project can contribute LEED

Natural stone currently offers many attractive, environmentally-friendly attributes, including: Life cycle assessment examines the environmental costs and benefits of a product from its original extraction to its final ® programs. —Life-cycle costing assesses initial costs (design/construction), operating costs (energy, water, sewage, waste, recycling and other An important principle in sustainable building is to limit or reduce the use of potable water. Sustainable building helps divert construction, demolition and land-clearing debris from disposal in landfills and incinerators. Material reuse diverts salvaged material from the landfills and reduces demand and costs for virgin materials.

The Natural Stone Council aims to further position natural stone as the preferred material in sustainable building by:

  • Using the five key categories of the LEED
  • Establishing an Advisory Council made up of architects, designers, specification writers and others with an intimate knowledge of natural stone and its uses in building and landscaping
  • Promoting the use of natural stone through media outreach

® rating system as a guide to research, test, and substantiate that stone is a natural choice in building green

  • An enduring life-cycle
  • Durability
  • Ease of care and maintenance
  • Recyclability
  • Quarry and manufacturing best practices

The Natural Stone Council is committed to partnering with researchers and various industry experts to test the environmental impacts and benefits of building with natural stone.
Several areas of exploration exist:

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)—disposal. The USGBC intends to integrate aspects of LCA into future LEED
  • Life Cycle Cost (LCC), maintenance, repair and replacement costs, and any other environmental or social costs.
  • Water Use Reduction—
  • Construction Waste Management—
  • Material Reuse—

Common Stains and Suggested Removers

Stains of every kind can affect tiles and grout joints. Refer to the following list for some of the most common staining problems and potential solutions. Most of the recommended cleaning agents are common household products and can be purchased from the local supermarket.

Problem
- Remover
Blood
- Baking soda, bleach, hydrogen peroxide
Chewing gum
- Ice cubes, paint remover
Coffee
- Baking soda, bleach, household cleaners, hydrogen peroxide
Dyes
- Bleach
Efflorescence
- Diluted phosphoric acid according to the instructions on the packaging
Fats
- Detergent, sal soda
Fruit juices
- Baking soda, bleach, household cleaners, hydrogen peroxide, oxalic acid
Grease
- Detergent, plaster of Paris, sal soda
Ink
- Baking soda, bleach
Iodine
- Ammonia
Lipstick
- Bleach, household cleaners, hydrogen peroxide
Mildew
- Ammonia, baking soda, bleach
Motor oil
- Plaster of Paris
Mustard
- Bleach
Nail polish
- Bleach, nail polish remover
Paint
- Paint remover
Rust
- Baking soda, scouring powders
Tar
- Ice cubes, paint remover
Tea
- Bleach, household cleaners, hydrogen peroxide
Tough stains
- Oxalic acid
Vegetable oil
- Baking soda, detergent
Water/mineral stains
- White vinegar
Wax
- Ice cubes, paint remover
Wet paper
- Bleach
Wine
- Baking soda

Precautions for Stain Removers

Always refer to the directions on the packet before using any cleaning products and check for efficacy and safety.

Product
- Description
Acids (eg phosphoric)
- Test on a small part of the material to be cleaned. Use with caution, diluted as per product label. Always neutralise acid after cleaning or it will continue to burn the surface. Use a suitable alkaline agent (eg dishwashing liquid diluted in water) and flush with water.
Ammonia
- Comes in a liquid form for cleaning purposes. Never mix ammonia of any kind with chlorine bleach. These products react chemically and release a poison gas. Always read product labels to be sure cleaners which you are mixing do not contain any ammonia or chlorine bleach.
Baking soda
- Also called bi-carbonate of soda. Comes in a powder form for cleaning purposes. Mix with water to form a paste.
Bleach
- Note caution under ammonia. Also, never mix bleach with acids of any kind as this combination can react chemically and be dangerous. Bleach, also know as chlorinated bleach and household bleach, comes in a liquid form.
Caustic soda
- A 5% sodium hydroxide solution
Detergent
- Common household cleaners available in all supermarkets under various brand names.
Household cleaners
- Includes both detergents and non-detergents available in all supermarkets under various brand names. Comes in powder and liquid form.
Hydrogen peroxide
- Comes in a liquid form. Usually sold in the pharmacy section of the supermarket.
Ice cubes
- Can be made in the household refrigerator.
Oxalic acid
- A strong chemical bleach which should not be used or confused with chlorine bleach. Oxalic acid comes in liquid form.
Paint remover
- Commercial product available in liquid form in any paint or hardware store. Be especially careful when using this product. Some people are allergic to the chemicals in paint removers. It can also be highly flammable.
Plaster of Paris
- A commercial product that may be purchased in any paint or hardware store. Available in powder form and mixed with water for cleaning purposes.
Nail polish remover
- A commercial product available in the pharmacy section of the supermarket. Can be highly flammable. Comes in a liquid form.
Sal soda
- This product is mixed with water for cleaning purposes.
Scouring powders
- Available in most supermarkets. Always test on a small sample section of the tile or grout before using to be sure that the product will not scratch the surface.
White vinegar
- Always test on a small sample section