What Is the Difference Between Filled and Unfilled Travertine?

Formed deep inside hot springs, travertine exudes rustic charm in its natural state. This unique looking limestone comes in a variety of different finishes that use terms you won’t find in other stones. Using the incorrect term for what it is you are looking for could change the entire look of your design, so it helps to learn more about them.

Travertine is a calcium based stone that formed inside a cooling hot spring. The escaping water vapor left behind countless tunnels inside the stone. When cut into tiles and counters, these tunnels show up as holes.

Travertine can be cut so the holes form long lines in the stone. This is known as cross-cut stone, and in this case the holes are always filled.

When travertine is cut like all stones, it has a very pock-marked surface. This is charming when the stone is tumbled, but can be a little incongruous looking when the travertine is honed or polished. Therefore some manufacturers will fill the holes with an epoxy designed to closely match the color of the stone and disguise the holes. Sometimes this fill can be radically different in color than the rest of the stone, and if there was a particularly big hole, it can really stand out.

Therefore some manufacturers choose to leave their travertine unfilled. Again, most often you will see this in tumbled, chiseled, or rustic travertine, but you will also occasionally see it in honed stones. When this occurs, the holes are meant to be filled with grout during installation. Leaving a few holes is fine for rustic texture, but too many holes mean that:

  1. The stone is weaker and more prone to cracking and other issues over time
  2. The stone is now a catch-all for dirt, dust, and debris, as well as very difficult to keep clean

When installing the stone, it’s important to choose a grout that matches the color of the stone as closely as possible, and then skim over its surface rather than just hitting the edges. This fills the holes, strengthens the stone, and creates the most pleasing look for the installation. We are more than willing to answer any questions you may have about travertine.  Please ask!