Travertine tiles are actually composed of a particular type of limestone. Unlike other forms of limestone used to make limestone tiles, travertine is not composed of a build-up of grains, but rather is entirely formed by the precipitation of minerals around geothermal pools or hot springs. This gives travertine tiles a beautiful and unique aesthetic quality. Since travertine tiles are also completely naturally formed, it also means that no two tiles are the same and offer the user 100% authentically natural patterns and textures.
The use of travertine as a building material in products such as travertine tiles is not a new phenomenon by any means. In fact, some of the largest buildings in the ancient world are constructed using travertine, such as the famous Colosseum in Rome. In addition to travertine tiles, travertine is also used extensively in the modern construction world and can be seen in numerous significant buildings such as the Willis Tower in Chicago.
Historically, Italy has been one of the principal suppliers of travertine used in the production of travertine tiles, which is thanks to the wealth of its naturally occurring geothermal pools. In the past decade or so however, other countries such as Turkey, Iran, Mexico and Peru have also begun to quarry travertine for use in travertine tiles amongst other things.
Travertine tiles are typically found in colour ranges of white, cream, and beige. They can also be purchased in either a tumbled/honed finish, or a polished finish. Care must be taken when travertine tiles are honed down due to the natural occurrence of hidden air pockets that could reduce the aesthetic quality and inherent strength of the tile. For this reason, only the best quality travertine is used in the production of travertine tiles, and manufacturing processes are very carefully controlled. When laying travertine tiles however, it is strongly advisable to back-butter each tile before laying on top of the tile adhesive. This helps to promote a good adhesion between the tile and the floor. See our How-To section for further help with how to prepare natural stone tiles.