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Porcelain vs Travertine

Homes, buildings, and even outdoor structures. All of these are projects that make use of hard surfaces. Among the materials used for these are the two that we will be looking at in this article. A porcelain vs travertine comparison may sound like a topic that does not make sense. However, you may be surprised at how much they have in common. Let begin comparing porcelain and travertine.

Travertine and Porcelain Composition

The first aspect of these materials we will look at is their composition. Examining how these materials are composed will help us consider other features of them later on.

Composition of Travertine

Travertine is a natural stone that is composed of calcite. It forms around the mouths of hot springs and in many colors. Even though it forms in many colors, most travertine is beige, buff (cream) or gray. The color of travertine is usually light since calcite is white in appearance. The color is caused by other substances that add to the calcium carbonate.

Calcium carbonate is a relatively soft material that comes in at 3 to 4 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Additionally, travertine is a calcareous stone that has the unique characteristic of pits, or voids in the surface. These holes are often filled with a product that is a color compliment of the travertine. Or it may be filled with a transparent filler that allows the holes to be seen, but also strengthens them.

Porcelain's Makeup

Unlike natural travertine, porcelain is a man made material that can be made in a variety of colors and patterns. Porcelain is produced by putting a mixture of ingredients through a process called sintering. The sintering process can be performed in different ways but here is how wikipedia.org describes it:

Sintering is a manufacturing process used with metals, ceramics, plastics, and other materials. The atoms in the materials diffuse across the boundaries of the particles, fusing the particles together and creating one solid piece.

As you can see, the sintering process transforms various materials from ingredients to a solid mass of material with specific characteristics. One of the traits of porcelain is that it is a very hard material that does not scratch easily.

Porcelain & Travertine Applications

Both travertine and porcelain have a range of applications. and the uses are not all the same, but they do overlap. One application in which both of these materials is used is as flooring tiles. There are other uses too. But flooring tiles are a good use case on which to make some brief comments. So let's do that now.

Travertine flooring is, as mentioned above, recognizable by the holes in the material's surface. If the tiles are "raw", that is, they have not yet been filled, the voids can grow and expand. Some consumers do not want this. That's why much of the travertine is filled. Travertine floor tiles are used in residential and commercial applications for projects where a rustic look is desirable. The unique and unmistakable appearance makes travertine a go to choice for many projects.

Porcelain, like travertine, is a material that is suitable for use as flooring. Porcelain though is, as we mentioned previously, available in a number of colors and patterns. In fact, porcelain is made in such a vriety of looks and styles, that no matter what style you are using in the project, you can probably find a porcelain tile that compliments that particular style.

Properties of Porcelain vs Travertine

We have already touched on some of the properties of these materials. But, let's talk a bit more about the features, traits, and characteristics of travertine and porcelain.


As we have already stated, travertine is a somewhat soft material and porcelain is an extremely hard one. As we said earlier, this trait is related to the clacium carbonate in the travertine, and the sintering process that produces the porcelain. Does the fact that porcelain is harder than travertine mean that it is a better material? Not necessarily. Some consumers prefer the appearance of travertine. And even though porcelain can be made to look like travertine, there are those with a critical and discerning eye that can tell the difference and might still prefer a true travertine surface.


Since porcelain is produced using the sintering process, it is non-porous. Travertine on the other hand is a natural material that has pores. In fact, we already talked about the notable voids in the surface that forms when the stone is coming into existence. The pores in travertine mean that this material needs to be sealed periodically if the consumer wants to reduce the absorption rate. Again, the porosity of a material does not by itself make on surface superior to the other. For example, in places where the flooring has a tendency to accumulate moisture, porosity is a good thing. Why? For two reasons. First, the stone soaks up the liquid so it does not stand on the surface. Second, pores tend to give the surface traction. So, natural travertine, is sometimes seen being used as flooring in bathrooms and other areas where water stands on surfaces. For example, pool decks.

Working With These Materials

When it comes to working with travertine vs porcelain. A big part of the job will hinge on cutting. Even though the project might not require a gigantic diamond bridge saw blade, there will still be cutting involved. So the blade choice will be a factor. Different materials call for different blades.

Cutting Travertine & Porcelain

Porcelain tiles are very hard and can be relatively brittle when being cut using a tile saw. Therefore, specific blades designed for cutting porcelain are used. These blades have more surface area around the rim. In fact some of them are continuous rims blades. Notched blades have a tendency to hit the edge of the tile in the kerf while cutting and this can chip the tile. Continuous rim blades do not have this affect and thus the cut is clean.

Travertine is not as hard or brittle as porcelain, but it too takes a specific type of blade to cut it cleanly. The softer the material being cut, the easier it is for the blade to get gummed up and clogged with debris from the tile. Because of this tile and installation pros use a blade designed for travertine and other calcareous stone.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for hard surface materials involves a two or three columned approach depending on the material you are caring for or maintaining. They are as follows:

  1. Daily Cleaning
  2. Stain Removal
  3. Periodic Sealing

Cleaning Process Differences

The first of those aspects of care and maintenance is daily cleaning. Choosing the proper cleaning products is important since each kind of material is compatible with specific cleaning products. For example, if you want to clean porcelain wall tile, there are many cleaners that will get the job done. But if you want to clean a travertine backsplash you will want to go with a natural stone cleaner.

Different Stain Removal Techniques

The second aspect of maintaining and caring for travertine and porcelain is stain removal. Removing stains from porcelain is a little different from getting them out of travertine. The reason is that porcelain is non-porous and travertine is a natural stone. Therefore, travertine will absorb liquids and porcelain will not. This means that in the case of porcelain, the stain removal process happens on the surface whereas the process for removing stains from travertine takes place in the pores of the material. So removing stains from travertine may involve using a stain remover for natural stone.

Periodic Sealing

Natural stone surfaces that are porous will absorb liquids that get on them. If oil based or water based liquids get into the stone and deliver something that discolors it. Applying natural stone sealer is a way to keep water and oil based liquids on the surface of the material for a longer period of time so that they can be cleaned up. This means that to clean natural stone like travertine, you will need to use a cleaner formulated for natural stone.

As we have seen in this article, natural travertine and man made porcelain have some things in common. For one, they are both used for hard surfaces like walls and floors. They also each have color appeal and work well with specific design styles. But they also have differences. The hardness, the tools needed to work with them and even how they are care for and maintained differs a little. Knowing what properties each material has and when one material might be better than the other can help consumers make good informed decisions.

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