When it’s home renovation time and you’re shopping for tile or new countertops, all the different natural stone options may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Don’t worry! You’re not alone. Natural stone is an excellent, beautiful, timeless choice for countertops, floors and more, but not all stones are alike. If you’re wondering about the difference between popular materials like marble and travertine, let’s break it down.
What is Travertine?
Travertine is a type of limestone that forms from the sediment around hot springs. It has a characteristically porous appearance and ranges in color from white to cream to tan with hints of rusty orange.
What is Marble?
Marble is also a form of limestone, but it is different from travertine in that it’s a crystalline metamorphic rock rather than a sedimentary one. Formed under extreme heat and pressure, marble has a famous, extensive history in Italy, where some of the most well-known varieties—such as Carrara marble—are mined. Generally light or white in color, marble often contains dramatic veining that can be gray, blue, yellow or green hued.
Which is the Best Choice for You?
Both travertine and marble are popular, beautiful tile options, and neither is better than the other overall. However, they each have specific pros and cons that may make one better suited to your application. Let’s take a look at a few important categories where these two materials differ:
- Cost: The price of natural stone depends heavily on factors like the specific variety, finish and more, but travertine is usually around half the price of marble.
- Durability: When it comes to durability, each material has its upsides and pitfalls. Both marble and travertine are generally hard and durable enough to withstand everyday use. However, since travertine is naturally softer and more porous, the many holes in the surface of the tile can make it more prone to scratching and etching over time. Some people like the timeless, aged appearance that travertine can acquire over time when it’s left in a “raw,” unsealed state, but if you choose not to seal it, there’s more potential for scratching, etching and staining.Marble is also porous, so it has some of the same weaknesses as travertine. However, a proper sealant should help marble maintain its appearance. Even when marble is sealed, though, you’ll want to take care to clean up spills immediately in order to avoid stains. Things like red wine, soy sauce and acidic substances can stain or etch the surface of both travertine and marble, so be especially careful with countertops.
- Slip-Resistance: There’s one more thing about travertine that’s worth pointing out. Unless it’s polished, travertine has a naturally rough, porous, high-friction surface that gives it an anti-slip quality you won’t find in marble. As a result, travertine tiles are often used by pools and other wet areas to prevent slips. Marble, on the other hand, is commonly polished and can be a slip hazard in applications such as bathroom floors or showers.
- Maintenance: Travertine and marble maintenance needs are fairly evenly matched—they, like most natural stones, will need to be sealed after installation and re-sealed about once a year.
The bottom line? Travertine and marble are two gorgeous natural stones that can bring warmth and old-world elegance to your floors, walls, countertops, outdoor areas and more. No matter what you ultimately choose, if you’re gentle on your tile and maintain it regularly, you’ll enjoy it for years to come.