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The Friction and Slip Resistance of Travertine Tile

Kesir Travertine Tiles - Honed and Filled Oasis Walnut PremiumA common question asked by those interested in installing travertine is “how slippery is travertine tile?” This question is open to interpretation and opinion, and can be affected by a number of factors.

There are some general rules that can be applied to how slippery different travertine finishes are in relation to one another. Considering the “static co-efficient of friction” (SCOF), which in layman’s terms is a description of the force required to move a stationary object in relation to the condition of the surface on which that object stands, will help inform you on the slipperiness of a travertine tile.

Since the factors that impact SCOF ratings include force, footwear, and surface condition, it’s important to consider each of these when deciding which kind of travertine tile is best for the area you’re renovating.

Judging a surface for slip potential

For architects, contractors, builders, and anyone else that may need to specify a certain level of friction of building materials for legal reasons, there are a number of scientific tests to determine a SCOF value. A minimum value of .50 is generally considered to be the minimum safety requirement for slip resistance and is the recognized minimum standard for slip resistant tiles in courts of law in the United States.

Different travertine tile finishes will have different co-efficients of friction, making them more or less slippery:

  • Polished travertine tiles have the most slippery finish, providing the lowest SCOF value, generally in the .40 to .50 range.
  • Honed travertine tiles are less slippery, offering the next highest SCOF rating in a range of .40 to .60, although a fine honed finish will approach the SCOF of polished travertine tiles.
  • Textured finishes like tumbled and brushed are the least slippery finishes with a SCOF rating in the .50 to .70 range.

While these are general rules, they should only be treated as guidelines. Currently, SCOF measurement is not an exact science – the same test methods on the same tiles often do not produce the exact same numbers. Also, different testing methods on the same tiles can often produce different co-efficient of friction numbers. Despite all of this, progress is being made in refining and inventing better ways for measuring the co-efficient of friction for different floor tiles.

Slippery when wet

The SCOF tests have been traditionally done on dry surfaces because it was assumed that all flooring surfaces, when wet, would be significantly below the minimum suggested SCOF of .50. But, one of the environmental factors that can influence SCOF is wetness, the most common source of this being water. Travertine tiles are slippery when wet, just as most glazed ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles, marble tiles, and granite tiles are.

Just as a source of wetness can decrease a SCOF rating, some sealers can increase the SCOF rating of tile flooring. There are many “non-slip” coatings which can be applied to natural stone tiles that will increase their SCOF rating. Applying a “Non-slip” coating or sealer can raise the SCOF by .10 to .30, depending on the product. Consult a BuildDirect product expert to help you judge which types of sealers are most appropriate for your choice of travertine tile.

Trusty travertine tiles

When considering travertine tiles for your project, keep in mind that many hotels, casinos, and shopping malls successfully use travertine tiles with many different types of finishes. Given that the safety of their customers is of great concern to the owners and planners of these locations, their choice of travertine tiles these high traffic areas is a testament to how trustworthy travertine tiles are.

Any questions about the slipperiness of travertine tile? Ask us in the comments section below.

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