Travertine countertops and floors look beautiful in the showroom, and it's easy to fall in love with them. But looks aren't everything, and travertine comes with some drawbacks that need to be considered before installation. Consider both the realities of travertine and the way you and your family live before installing this attractive but somewhat temperamental material in your home.

Material Makeup

It's Porous

Travertine is an extremely porous material, so it quickly absorbs spills and dirt and holds onto them tenaciously. Acidic spills, such as orange juice, ketchup, vinegar or pet urine, are especially damaging to travertine.

You can protect your floors from spills and etching by having your travertine professionally sealed, but you'll need to be vigilant about maintenance. Travertine should be resealed every 6 to 12 months, and a spill close to resealing time may become a permanent mark.

It's Soft

On the Moh's hardness scale, travertine only ranks at 3 or 4. Granite, by comparison, is rated at 8 or 9. Because it is so soft, travertine may dent or chip if you drop a dish on it or toss your car keys onto the counter. Sealing helps protect against this type of damage as well as stains, but it isn't foolproof.

A Weighty Proposition

Travertine is extremely heavy. Whether used for countertops, flooring or shower tile, travertine slabs and tiles need beefy support systems to hold their weight. This can mean installing a stronger subfloor or taking other structural measures to make sure the travertine is secure.

Slippery When Wet

While not a problem with travertine countertops or shower walls, it is important to note that travertine floors are very slippery when they are wet. Honed and brushed finishes help to alleviate this problem but may not solve it completely.

Maintenance Matters

Sealed travertine needs resealing every 6 to 12 months, and travertine surfaces should be cleaned regularly. In commercial flooring applications, travertine should be dust mopped or swept every day to eliminate dirt buildup and then mopped with a neutral cleanser. Failure to clean travertine regularly allows potentially abrasive dirt to build up on the surface where it may cause scratches.