Homeowners love having tile installed in and around new builds and older homes. And travertine is probably one of the most popular choices for interior flooring, statement and bathroom walls and kitchen backsplashes. As porous as travertine is, it’s a beautiful, versatile stone. The downside is that travertine is a high-maintenance stone. It’s brittle, fragile and easily cracked and stained.
Working with tumbled travertine is even more involved because this treated stone has even more irregular surface textures. Whichever type you work with, there are two decisions that must be made: to seal or not to seal and which grouting option is best for the job at hand.
Seal Things First
The pitted, textured surface of travertine not only makes if difficult to grout and maintain, it transforms the stone into somewhat of a sponge when constantly exposed to water. Applying a deep, penetrating sealant will protect the tiles from water, other fluids and materials. Even more importantly, the sealer will protect the stone from the grout itself, allowing it to better retain each perfect edge. Any contractor who’s worked with travertine knows how time consuming this process can be. You not only have to coat each tile, you must force the sealer into each tiny nook and cranny for the best protection before buffing or sanding the the tiles.
Choosing the Grout
Deciding which type of grout to use naturally depends on the type of travertine tile you’re installing. The surface of tumbled travertine Is easier to damage, even after two sealer coats are applied.
This cement-based grout works best on small tile joints, especially on wall and flooring applications with spacing no larger than 1/16- to 1/8-inch wide. Sealing travertine tiles is vital when using this type of grout, as it stays slightly wet or damp until the cement is fully cured. This type of grout is best used on honed travertine tiles. Some contractors believe that even 1/8 inch is too wide of a joint to use this grout on, but that’s a professional decision.
In addition to being used primarily on larger joints, sanded grout contains fine grains of sand to add strength to the application. This extra strength is necessary when working with joints that are wider than 1/8 inch. The extra sand in the grout can easily scratch the surface of tumbled travertine tiles, even after they’ve been sealed.
This type of grout is probably most commonly used when working with travertine. It creates an excellent water-tight barrier against all types of liquids, prevents bacterial growth and doesn’t need subsequent sealer applications. The strength of the cured material also reduces the chance of tile cracking. The water-resistant properties make it an excellent choice in kitchens and bathrooms, especially because it’s available in sanded and unsanded forms. Several professional reviews rated Laticrete SpectraLOCK Pro Premium Mini at the top of their list. The down-side to using epoxy grout is the limited amount of time to get the whole project grouted before the material begins to harden. This type of stone grout is more expensive than others, but the benefits often outweigh the cost difference.
High-Performance Cement Grouts
These are not your ordinary cement grouts. They offer the best consistency, color-wise, and they’re dense enough to provide an impressive level of stain resistance. This type of sanded grout also sets quickly and can be used in joints from 1/16- to 1/2-inch wide. If you’d rather use unsanded grout, Laticrete has developed and marketed Permacolor Select NS. As advanced as these grouts are, they should all be used with a grout sealer to further prevent water infiltration and staining.
Working with any type of natural stone tile is both a pleasure and a challenge. The beauty and impressive texture of travertine tile makes for a creative, interesting project. Choosing the right grout for each specific application makes every project better.