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How To Properly Clean Travertine Floors And Avoid Long Term Damage

What Is Travertine Flooring

If you have a travertine floor, you share something in common with many ancient Romans. Travertine is used extensively throughout the Coliseum. When you see what MARBLELIFE can do to modify travertine, one can only imagine what the Coliseum might look like with a Satin or Glass finish. (Of course we would never want to lose its historic appearance – but we certainly don’t want your floors looking like a multi-thousand year old weathered floor).

Here in North America, it is a popular flooring for high end homes, and sees particular favor in beach side communities where a matte, semi-gloss finish on a sandy color appearance does a particularly good job in hiding wear associated with walked in sand, and their accompanied micro-scratches. Whether your particular surface has a honed, light sheen or matte finish, or has a flat or tumbled surface, caring for your travertine requires a bit more attention than your average tile; and if you have an “open” versus closed travertine, we really need to talk. Most “open” travertine will be “closed” within a few years of going into service for reasons that will quickly become clear.

“Open” travertine refers to the fact that travertine, when initially quarried has an appearance similar to Swiss cheese. It is filled with OPEN holes and occlusions caused by gas pockets created as sea-life that has passed on and descended to the bottom of the ocean breaks down. These trapped air pockets survive within the stone as it was compressed to form stone. The stone is then sliced into tiles and as it cuts through these pockets, leaves “open” holes. “Open” travertine has an appearance all its own. However, once installed, those openings serve to collect every bit of dust and debris that is walked by, making them a nuisance to maintain.

Ultimately, within a few years, “open” travertine floors are “closed.” This is done by having a marble restoration professional float the floor with a modified traverfil compound to fill these opening, blending them into the floor. Filling compounds have a tendency to shrink on curing. As such, if you are having this done it is important you verify how the installer intends to “close” your floor, and what you ultimately want. If you want a flat floor, then you want to make sure they OVERFIL the floor, allow the compound to cure, and then hone off the excess and refinish to your desired finish. The less expensive alternative is to fill the floor flat to the tile surface, rinsing away the excess, and allow the material to cure on settling. This closes the floor but leave a subtle cupped surface to each filled in area. It is easier to clean, but still maintains some “open” character. In most cases, if one is closing the floor to make it easier to maintain, one is best investing a little more time to get a flat uniform finish.

How Do I Care For My Travertine Floor

Having dealt with the question of “open” or “closed,” the question now becomes how to safely clean your floor. As this floor is largely made of calcium carbonate (one can often find fossilized shells within the stone surface), it is sensitive to acids. Most tile cleaners are NOT suitable for these floors as their acidic make up will dissolve the softest areas in the surface resulting in micro-pitting, etching and gradual loss of finish. These floors need to be cleaned with a non-acidic cleaner.

Given the Swiss cheese nature of this floor, it is virtually guaranteed that there will be some small bubble like openings in the floor. This is normal. In order to properly flush these openings, a cleaner that reduces water tension is ideal, so that water can enter these small pores and flush out dirt and debris. This means we need a surfactant based cleaner.

As floors have a tendency to collect oils – whether from bare feet, cooking, pets or other sources, – the cleaner must to be able to emulsify and lift away oils, which again takes us to a surfactant based cleaner.

Put each requirement together and you are looking for a surfactant base non-acidic cleaner. MARBLELIFE MARBLE & TRAVERTINE CLEANER has been formulated for just this purpose, and is used exclusively by the largest stone restoration company in North America. Even if cleaning with the “Right” cleaner, we still have to deal with the occasional new “hole.”

From time to time, as we walk across our floor, particularly if you wear high heels, you will see a new hole appear. Don’t be surprised, high heels concentrate weight into a small area. A small 100 lb woman can generate 800 pounds per square inch when her weight is applied to a small area of contact provided by high heeled shoes. This is sufficient enough to punch through the top of an air bubble lying just below the surface of your travertine. Now you have a new hole. If this is the top of a large bubble, it is likely to grow as the hole opens. Now what do you do? Travertine tile colors vary, as such replacement of the tile can result in a subtle mismatch in color that while invisible at the store. Replacement tile now stands out compared to the rest of your floor. Call a stone restoration specialist. They can spot address such problems using a quick setting epoxy color matched to your floor to blend naturally. Once cured, they can hone the surface flat and polish to blend with your finish.

Travertine Floor Polishing Before And After Picture

Satin or Gloss. MARBLELIFE can not just remove etches, scratches and blemishes, but can also dial in your finish to a matte, satin or gloss. In this case, pictured above, the client wanted to freshen up their look, trading a satin finish for a gloss finish.

Travertine is a wonderful surface, adding beauty and character to any room. Caring for this surface is simple…once you know what to watch for and know where to turn for assistance. As with all floors, you will eventually need assistance, we all get old, or too busy even. The good news is your floor can be restored to “new” more easily than you can. Call MARBLELIFE and they can assist you in assessing your floor needs.


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