Travertine is a beautiful, natural stone that typically forms around mineral springs, particularly hot springs. It has a unique appearance with fibrous or concentric patterns and comes in a wide variety of colors, such as white, tan, cream, and rusty hues.
You can put them in the bathroom, kitchen, or patio, or even use them for pool area projects where durability and easy maintenance are necessary. But like all-natural stone, travertine is porous, meaning it can absorb liquids and spills if not properly sealed.
This also means travertine can be susceptible to staining and scratches if left unsealed. When done correctly, sealing travertine can help prevent the absorption of liquids and grime and make it easier to clean. Sealing will also help protect against scratches and other damages that can occur over time.
But what are the pros and cons of sealing travertine if you are considering these tiles for different areas of your home, including flooring, countertops, backsplashes, shower and tub surround, spa walls, outdoor pavers for patios and walkways, or around swimming pools? Let’s explore them here in this guide.
Advantages of Sealing Travertine Tiles
1- Helps to protect your investment
The number one advantage of sealing travertine stone tile in your home is that it will help to protect your investment by creating an invisible barrier on the surface that will make it more resistant to staining and scratching.
Not only that, but applying the right travertine sealant will also help the surface molds, mildews, and weeds that can, over time, grow and can cause severe damage to the expensive tiles and paver stones. This, in turn, can also help to extend the life of your tiles and overall property cost in case you ever plan to sell the house.
2- Makes the travertine easier to clean
Travertine being highly porous, can absorb spills and liquids right away in case you happen to miss cleaning them after use.
Particularly if the acidic substances such as beverages, fruit juices, and other liquids are not cleaned up right away, the unsealed travertine rich in calcium salts will absorb them, react with them, and leave a permanent mark. Sealing the tile will help to prevent this from happening and will make it easier to clean up any spills that do occur.
When the tile is properly sealed, dirt and grime will also not be able to penetrate the surface as easily. This means that you won’t have to spend as much time cleaning the tile, and you won’t have to worry about the tile becoming stained over time. Just a simple broom and mop will do the trick.
3- Enhances the color of the travertine
Travertine is generally a light-colored stone but can vary in shades depending on where it was quarried.
The sealant, when applied to the tiles, will help bring out the natural patterns in the stone. Plus, the colors will become more vibrant and rich, giving your travertine a more luxurious and expensive look.
The sealer layer on the surface of the travertine also offers it an excellent shiny glossy look with a cleaner appearance without you worrying about quick fading caused by environmental elements.
4- Sealers offer great weather protection
In regions with severe winter weather, unsealed travertine pavers are vulnerable to ice and snow damage during the freeze-thaw cycle.
Water may seep into the stone as the ice melts. When this water gets mixed with dust and sand in the stone, it forms mud puddles, which can lead to cracks in the stone very fast. Sealers, when applied to travertine correctly, will prevent such issues.
5- It’s not a difficult process
Lastly, I recommend sealing the travertine in your home because the process is simple and can be done by anyone.
You don’t need to hire a professional to do it for you. Just follow the instructions on the sealer bottle, and you should be able to do it yourself with no problems.
Disadvantages of Sealing the Travertine Tiles
1- It’s an extra step in the installation process
Sealing travertine requires an additional step in the installation process. Once the tiles are installed, a waiting period of at least 24 hours is needed for them to cure before the sealer can be applied. This can prolong the installation process by a day or two.
2- You will need to reseal the tiles every few years
Sealing travertine stones is only a temporary solution. If you don’t reseal them every few years, it can lead to water damage, cracking, chipping, or discoloration, especially in high-traffic areas.
Various factors, such as the type of sealer used and how well the tiles are maintained, will determine how often you need to reseal them.
3- Involvement of hazardous chemicals
Most travertine sealers contain harmful chemicals that can be dangerous if inhaled or ingested. Especially for kids, pets, and people with allergies, this can be a big concern. You should keep them away during the sealing process.
If you’re planning on DIY sealing travertine in your home, also make sure that you do it in a well-ventilated area while wearing protection such as gloves and a mask. This protects you from the strong fumes that may be emitted during the sealer application process.
4- Sealing the travertine can darken the tile
While many choose travertine for its natural appearance and warm tones, it is important to note that the process of sealing the stone will darken it slightly. This is because sealing agents contain resins that sink into the material, altering its color tone. How much of a difference this makes depends on how porous the original travertine is and the type of sealant chosen.
If you are concerned about preserving the light coloring of travertine, it may be wise to work with a professional who can provide tips on choosing an appropriate sealer and inform you of potential color changes before committing to a project.
5- High costs of travertine sealers
Let’s face it – if you’re on a budget, sealing travertine might not be the option for you. The cost of a small travertine sealing project covering less than 200 square feet typically ranges from $100 – $200. For larger projects covering over 500 square feet, costs can range from $1000 – $1500.
Also, it’s important to note that for larger projects, you may need to buy a lot of sealers, which can add up quickly and can be a pretty costly affair. Hiring a professional for such projects will also increase the overall cost.
Should Natural Travertine Stone be Sealed in the First Place?
Many homeowners, DIYers, and contractors believe that sealing travertine is a necessary step to protect the stone and make it last longer. At the same time, there are some who believe that sealing is not necessary and can even be detrimental to the stone.
So who is right? In my opinion, it depends on a few factors.
- First is the amount of footsteps you get in your area. If you’re going to use travertine in a high-traffic area like the kitchen or bathroom, it’s best to seal it. However, in a low-traffic area like the living room or bedroom, sealing may not be required.
- Another factor to consider is the climate. If you reside in an area with high humidity, such as the tropics or coastal areas, sealing travertine can help to prevent mold and mildew growth. But if you live in a dry area, sealing may not be necessary – but rather a luxury.
Once you have made up your mind, sealing travertine is not a difficult task, but it’s important to do it correctly to get the best results. Here are the steps to follow…
Step 1- Clean
To clean your floor, begin by sweeping it with a broom to get rid of any dirt or debris. Then, mop the floor with a high-quality pH-neutral cleaner to remove any remaining dirt. After cleaning, let the floor dry completely.
Step 2- Sealer application
To seal the floor, use a sponge or a brush to apply an even, thin layer of tile sealer. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended drying time for the sealing agent.
Step 3- Apply a second coat of sealant
If needed, apply a second coat of tile sealer using the same method as before after the first coat is dry. Wait for the second coat to dry entirely before stepping on the floor. When the floor is entirely dry, you can enjoy your newly sealed travertine tile floor.
What are the Best Sealers for Travertine Tiling (Tips for Choosing)?
Most commonly, there are two types of sealant you can use on travertine: impregnating and topical. Choosing between them is essential for achieving the best results when working with travertine tiling.
Impregnating sealers are designed to penetrate deeply into the stone to protect it from within. They are more durable and long-lasting, but they can be difficult to apply.
Topical sealers, on the other hand, will tend to form a protective layer on the surface of the stone and are easier to apply, but they don’t last as long.
There are also penetrating sealers and enhancing sealers which have their own advantages and disadvantages. But they are not widely used.
When picking the sealant, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
1- The type of travertine
There are different types of travertine.
- Honed travertine – with a smooth surface
- Tumbled travertine – with a more textured surface
- Polished travertine – with a shiny and mirror-like surface
There are also different grades of travertine which include premium (or first grade), standard, and commercial. The type of travertine you have will generally affect the type of sealer you need to use.
2- The porosity of the travertine
The more porous the travertine, the more likely it is to absorb liquids and stains. So, if you have high-porosity travertine, you may need to use a sealer that can protect the stone from within. Also, if you live in a humid place, such as the tropics or along the coast, apply a sealer that keeps mold and mildew at bay.
3- The intended use and budget
Many sealers are available at different prices, so you may choose one based on your budget.
That said, to ensure the durability of travertine in high-traffic spaces like the kitchen or bathroom, a strong sealer is necessary which will obviously come at a higher price range. In low-traffic areas like the living room or bedroom, a less durable sealer with low cost can be used.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.