Travertine Countertops

Consider Travertine if You Want a Beautiful and Trend-Bucking Natural Stone

Popular in Ancient Greek and Rome and still widely used in Italy, travertine has an Old World look that imbues spaces with simple elegance. Similar in appearance and composition to marble, travertine also presents some of the same challenges that marble does. That is, it is susceptible to staining and acid etching and requires regular care. Some homeowners argue that these qualities make travertine a poor choice for countertops, but the decision ultimately comes down to whether you think beauty of the natural stone is worth the extra maintenance.

Characteristics of Travertine

Travertine countertops can be installed as one solid slab or as tiles. Stone slab counters are a bit pricier but do not require grout lines, which can harbor grime and bacteria. Travertine tile countertops are more common in bathrooms. Tiles, in addition to costing less, are more feasible as a do-it-yourself project. Familiarize yourself with other aspects of travertine below.


Travertine is a sedimentary rock formed from limestone. The stone is relatively soft and porous and has trademark pits throughout its surface. These pits are typically filled at the time of countertop installation with resin or grout to keep out food particles and moisture. Color and patterning varies among travertine, although it is known for fibrous veining and tends to be tan, white, or cream-colored. Shades of gold, gray, and red are also available, and some travertine is multi-toned.

Care and Maintenance

It is common for travertine to have a honed (matte), brushed (textured), or polished finish. Polished travertine is much better at resisting stains, but only harder travertine is capable of accepting a polish. Unpolished travertine will need to be regularly sealed to protect against staining (from moisture and spills). One benefit of a honed finish, however, is that spots that become dulled from acid etching (caused by foods like coffee, wine, and lemon juice) are not as prominent as on a polished surface.

But regardless of how meticulously you seal travertine, sealant does not protect against etching, so you should always use coasters under drinks and never store health and beauty products directly on the countertop. Cutting boards are also highly advisable for travertine kitchen countertops, as the stone can scratch and chip.

For day-to-day cleaning of travertine use a special stone cleaner with a soft cloth or sponge. Do not clean travertine with vinegar, ammonia, or a citrus-based product. Over time, it is natural for travertine to develop a patina (you are probably not going to prevent all stains and etching). If this is not to your liking, hire a professional to refinish and reseal the surface. More stubborn stains can be removed by homeowners with a poultice (stone cleaner mixed with baking powder) or alkaline cleaner.

With a bit of common sense and attention to detail, travertine makes a fine kitchen or bathroom countertop. And the reward for your diligence is a natural stone counter that stands out in a sea of granite and engineered products.

Travertine Countertop Costs

  • Travertine slab counters cost $25 to $50 per square foot (materials only). With professional fabrication and installation, expect to pay closer to $50 to $100 per square foot. Costs could be higher for rarer types of travertine and/or a difficult installation. Delivery might cost an additional $50 to $150.
  • Travertine tile costs $5 to $25 per square foot (materials only). Professional tile installation might cost an additional $4.00 to $10.00 per square foot. There may be extra labor and material charges for filling in pits and applying sealant.
  • Actual prices may vary depending on local labor and material costs, the quality of the materials, the complexity of the installation, and whether you perform some of the work yourself. Travertine tile is a simpler DIY project than travertine slab, which is heavy and unwieldy.
  • When shopping for travertine, be sure to get multiple quotes and speak to knowledgeable stone professionals. As a natural product, travertine is variable and some slabs/tiles will be more suitable for countertop use. Be sure to know what you are getting and how to take care of it.

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