Travertine vs. Marble: Is There A Difference?

Travertine - Porcelain

So, you are looking to enhance your home with the stunning look of natural stone tile. Both marble and travertine are two popular and excellent types of natural stones to consider– but are oftentimes wrongly misconstrued. While travertine is sometimes mistakenly considered a type of marble itself, it’s important to note that the two are actually very different from each other. Although they both originate from the limestone family, they derive from different environments and under different conditions which account for their unique characteristics.  

Depending on which type of stone you use, each will impact the final aesthetic of your space in its own way. Let’s explore the differences between marble and travertine, and how their individual characteristics and one-of-a kind beauty can enhance a room.  

What is the Difference Between Marble and Travertine? 

Marble and travertine are both types of limestone and form from sediment rock which is why they are often considered interchangeable. However, there are clear differences between the two.  

Marble is a stone that forms when limestone is exposed to a state of high pressure and high temperature for a long time. Under these intense conditions, it grows denser and harder, and recrystallizes, making for a smooth and sleek finish when polished. Travertine is formed in a similar way, but under even higher pressure and temperature, and within hot springs and limestone caves. The discharge of hot water and gasses involved in its formation create the distinctive look of holes and channels within travertine. When they are fashioned into tiles, these holes and channels are filled in to avoid a porous look. 

What Does Marble Look Like? 

Marble exudes elegance and sophistication, creating a look of organic beauty to your interior design. As a naturally derived stone, it provides a wonderful contrasting material for other colors in the room. 

Marble contains patterns of vein-like lines due to bands of colors throughout the stone, and comes in a stunning array of shades including neutral tones of white, gray, and black, as well as vibrantly colored options like yellow, red, pink or green. As a natural stone, no two are the same, so the patterns that run throughout can vary as well. While some tiles could have little to no veiny façade, others could be covered in lines.  

As mentioned earlier, the recrystallization in its creation makes for a sleek and shiny look when the tile is manufactured. Using marble for your tiling project will infuse a luxurious feel to your space. 

What Does Travertine Look Like?

The travertine look is earthy, with warm Mediterranean colors and a textured appearance. While the stone is sanded down and polished for home tiles, the porous holes and channels present a marble-like feature.  

Travertine comes in earth-toned hues of white, cream, soft beige, tan, and brown boasts subtle, channel-like patterns. Due to its intricate formation process, the patterns that are seen on these tiles vary in size, direction and clarity— making your choice unique to the specific design you’re attending to. Its unique patterns mean each travertine stone offers its own individual beauty and even the same travertine tiles used in one area will not look entirely uniform, adding to its organic and natural feel. 

This stone comes in a variety of finishes from polished to dull— making it a versatile consideration for any tile needs. 

Ways to finish travertine:

  • Polished-  sealed with a clear coat
  • Honed - smoothed out and flat
  • Brushed- textured with a steel comb
  • Sawed-  a straight cut from the stone
  • Tumbled- buffed for a weathered look 

Best used when implementing a warmer palette, travertine will infuse a welcoming feel and its own natural beauty into any space.  

What are the best uses of marble?

Marble tiles are best used for bathroom floors, countertops, and walls— creating a modern and sleek look that is also functional and practical. In the kitchen, marble is best used for countertops and island counters. It’s hard surface provides durability meaning it will last for years to come, and its stunning subtle shades bring a touch of classic elegance to any decor.

When considering the use of marble, steer clear from the outdoors and any floors that are high traffic areas.  There are exceptions to this rule.  Some marbles are more durable than others and can be used in high traffic areas and even outside.  

 Learn about using marble outside.  

What are the best uses of Travertine? 

Since travertine is such a porous material that could be both sealed or unsealed, its uses are broad. Inside the house, it is best used for kitchen and bathroom floors and countertops and is also great for walls. 

When it’s not sealed, travertine has a rougher surface that can provide excellent friction to prevent slipping. This makes the tiles very useful for outdoor use, often lining pool areas. If you have little ones at home that are on the go, this could also make unsealed travertine a functional choice for your kitchen.  

What is the difference in cost between Marble and Travertine? 

Travertine is typically priced far lower than marble. So when choosing between the two, be cognizant of the price tag— and how it could impact your design objectives. 

At a more economical price, travertine is practical for larger projects in the interior and exterior of the home. If budgeting is a large component of your tile upgrade, travertine is perfect for covering expansive flooring and walls— while marble could be used for smaller areas and accents. If price pays no mind, using marble over extended areas will surely make a remarkable impression.  

In Conclusion 

When comparing travertine and marble for your design project, remember they are not synonymous. While they both derive from the limestone family, they offer their own unique beauty and benefits. Each material can suit your aesthetic vision, functionality needs, and budget in its own ways. Consider these differences between travertine and marble when approaching your next design upgrade! And for a dose of inspiration, check out Karen Pearse’s stunning tile selection.