Porcelain Tile Vs. Travertine

You know you want to tile your floor, but you're not sure what type to use. With so many options, it's tough to choose. Porcelain and travertine tiles both offer distinct advantages and share many similarities in durability and use. Comparing the fine details helps you understand the differences in porcelain vs travertine that will help make the decision.

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Porcelain and travertine tiles both offer distinct advantages and share many similarities in durability and use.

Basics of Porcelain Tile

Porcelain is a type of ceramic tile. It's made with dense clay, usually denser than ceramic, which helps makes it impervious and durable. The manufacturer shapes the porcelain tile based on the design. The tiles then go into the kiln at very high temperatures to bake out the water, making them hard and dense.

Porcelain tile is often glazed to give it a unique color, pattern or design, but there are other ways to add color and design to the tiles. Through body tiles have a consistent coloring throughout the tile, instead of using a glaze or finish on top. Color body porcelain tiles feature a painted finish protected with glaze and a body that matches the paint color. These options keep the tiles looking better over time, because scratches and wear aren't as noticeable.

Basics of Travertine Tile

Travertine is a natural stone flooring option. It's a type of limestone and usually comes from quarries in Mexico, Turkey and Italy. After it's harvested from the quarry, the travertine gets cut into slabs before it's cut into the final tiles and processed, depending on the specific finishes of the tile.

The tile is porous, which means moisture and liquids can soak into your tiles. Sealing the stone helps protect it from staining and damage.

Travertine tile has natural holes and troughs, giving it a distinct look and texture that makes it appealing. When it's sanded and sealed, travertine tile takes on a smoother look without the visible texturing. Travertine comes prepared in different ways, including honed, brushed, polished, tumbled and saw cut, which affects the finished look.

Porcelain vs Travertine Cost

Porcelain tile is slightly cheaper than travertine, making it a better option for homeowners on a budget. Porcelain tile typically costs between $5 and $10 per square foot for the materials, plus $4 to $14 per square foot for professional installation. Handling the installation yourself cuts your costs, as does choosing a porcelain tile at the lower end.

The travertine tile cost ranges from $5 to $30 per square foot for the materials, and another $10 to $30 for professional installation. Comparing the price ranges, you can see that you can find travertine tile on the low end for a similar price as porcelain, but the professional installation is more. It's recommended to use a professional installer, especially for travertine, or using a contractor with stone tile installation experience.

Although travertine is generally more expensive than porcelain, it's on the lower end of other stone tile options. Travertine is typically cheaper than marble and granite, so you can get the upscale look of natural stone at a lower price point.

Differences in Appearance

Travertine offers a unique natural look. It's available in many different colors, often neutrals, with common travertine tile colors that include white, gold, tan, cream and brown. Travertine can also come in a rusty red hue and sometimes has black veining across the tiles. You can find these tiles in a range of finishes, from natural tumbled look to a glossy polished look.

Porcelain gives you a little more variety in the appearance options. You can find porcelain tiles designed to look like other materials, including natural stone, such as travertine or various species of hardwood floors. Porcelain tile comes in almost any color, which lets you get more creative with your design. You'll also find porcelain tiles with texture, raised designs and patterns, with many different sizes and tile shapes.

Both tile types offer a range of options and offer a beautiful look. Porcelain gives you more variety if you want something other than a natural stone look. Porcelain is also a good option if you want the look of a different flooring material at a more affordable price point or a more durable material.

Common Areas Used

Both travertine and porcelain tiles can go into most spaces in the home. They both can handle outdoor conditions, as well.

Porcelain is water-resistant, so you don't have to worry about using it in bathrooms or kitchens. Travertine holds up well against water when it's sealed. If it's not sealed, the water in bathrooms and kitchens can soak into the tiles and cause staining or damage to the tiles.

Tile Durability Comparison

Porcelain tile is often sealed, making it resistant to water, as well as very durable and dense. Porcelain tile can crack or break if you drop something heavy on it, but it usually holds up well even in busy areas. It also resists scratches under normal use, but avoid activities that could lead to scratching, such as pushing furniture across the tile.

Travertine tile is also very durable, but it's a porous tile material, which means water can soak into the tiles. Water left on the tiles can cause stains, which is why sealing the tiles helps prevent that damage. It's also a little more susceptible to cracking, either due to wear and tear or dropping something heavy on it.

Travertine handles extreme temperature changes better than some other types of stone. It can be used outside because of this.

Potential for Repairs

Even though both types of tile are durable, they may eventually sustain some damage. Being able to repair that damage can save you money and maintain the look of your floor.

If you crack a travertine tile, you have the option to use caulk or epoxy to seal up and repair the crack. Typically, porcelain tile can't be repaired, which means you'll need to remove and replace the damaged tile.

Tile Maintenance Requirements

Everyday cleaning is similar for both porcelain and travertine tile. Regular sweeping or dust mopping keeps the floors clean. For deep cleaning, porcelain has more options without worry of damage, including a vinegar and water solution.

If your travertine tile needs a deep cleaning, avoid saturating it with water or cleaner, as the moisture can cause stains. Mild soap mixed with water is a safe cleaning option, but avoid getting the tiles too wet, and dry the floor after cleaning. Avoid using acidic or alkaline cleaners on the stone, as both types can cause damage to the tiles.

Since travertine tile is porous, it needs regular sealing to lock out moisture and prevent stains. That's especially true if you choose honed, brushed or tumbled travertine. How often you need to apply sealer depends largely on the foot traffic in the area. You can go three to five years between sealing, unless the area is extremely busy.


Shelley Frost

Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.