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Travertine Tile Installation Tips

Installing Travertine Tile

Travertine is a natural stone tile, imported from many countries all over the world. Installing travertine is much like installing any other tile, though it is important to practice care. The installation steps include: preparation, laying the tile, and grouting it to keep it all together. Travertine can be installed for countertops, flooring, and walls. Installation is considered a medium to high difficulty job, and will require a wet saw is required to cut the tiles to the appropriate size. Other tools and materials to complete the installation will include: Chalk line, tape measure, carpenter’s pencil, power drill with mixing paddle, notched trowel, beater block, rubber mallet, grout float, 4-foot metal straightedge, and a dry-cutting saw.

Floor Preparation

To prepare the floor for the travertine installation:

  • Remove any existing flooring.
  • Repair or replace the sub-flooring.

Do a dry test run to layout the tiles and inspect them for defects. This will ensure you have everything planned accordingly and will be able to complete the floor.

Installing Ditra Anti-fracture Membrane

The Ditra Anti-fracture membrane is a type of underlayment designed specifically for stone and marble floors. It is highly recommended to use this type of underlayment because it offers many benefits: uncoupling, water proofing, vapor management, and support/weight distribution.

Tile Installation

  • If the Ditra anti-fracture membrane is not installed for the underlayment, then it is necessary to install is cement backing to the subfloor.
  • Use a chalk line to mark the tile layout, leaving room for the grout. Make sure the tiles are dry and ready to be installed.
  • Mix the thinset adhesive according to the directions. When it reaches a thick consistency, apply it to the tiles and lay them according to the chalk lines for the layout. Cut tiles to fit the measurements around the edges, using the wet saw.
  • After allowing drying time of up to 24 hours, apply the grout in between the tiles.

Installation Tips

  • Wet stones should not be installed. Be sure the stones are completely dry before beginning the installation.
  • When possible, use a white thinset. Gray thinset may bleed, and should be avoided when using a lighter travertine.
  • Be sure the thinset is thick and sticky, with a peanut butter like consistency.
  • Ultraflex II may be used as a thinset.
  • It is better to use a non-sanded grout.
  • It is a good idea to pre-seal the tile to avoid potential staining with mortar.
  • When the installation is complete, seal the tile with the appropriate type of sealer. It is recommended to test the sealer on a small, inconspicuous area of one tile before applying it to the entire installation.

(87) Comments

  1. I’d like to install travertine stacked stone tile over an old slate tile fireplace surround that covers the original brick. The Slate is too brittle to remove with a hammer and chisel. Can I install cement fiber board on top of the Slate as a substrate for the travertine?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Kosidate,

      Unfortunately that may not be the best idea as you never know if the slate will crack. I would suggest getting a contractor or tile installer to take a look to see if the slate looks stable enough to install over top. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  2. Hello. I recently had travertine tile installed. A month later, I have hair line cracks throughout the tile. Please tell me what was done wrong? Is it the tile or the installation?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Teia,

      Sorry to hear about your tile! It is most likely going to be the installation of the tile causing the cracks but I can’t 100% guarantee without seeing it in person. I would suggest getting the installer to come back and take a look. Good luck and please let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. Hi.. I am thinking about putting a travertine tiled floor in my kitchen. I was wondering if you have to actually grout in between the tiles, as I like to look of them butted tightly together. Is it recommended to do it this way or do I have to put grout in between
    Kind regards

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Michelle,

      You will need to put grout between the tiles. If you butt them together there will always be small spaces between and as time passes the travertine tiles will bump against each other causing cracks. If you hire an experienced installer they should be able to install with the smallest grout line as possible. You can also choose a grout close in colour to the tile to help hide the lines. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  4. We went off the advice of our lowes guy and just installed our travertine with Mapei Type 1 adhesive, now a day after everything was installed we find out this is a mastic and not what should have been used. I’m seeing it can cause staining….please tell me how quickly this could happen and how likely it is to happen. I’m just beside myself as we’ve waited 20 years to redo our fireplace and now this uninformed tile guy very well may have cost us a lot of time and money.

    Thank you so much

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Dawn,

      Thank you for your inquiry! We do not have specific experience with Mapei products so I’m not able to say whether it will stain or not. I would suggest calling Mapei Technical Services at 1-800-992-6273 to ask for the best solution. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help out with!

  5. When using travertine for a kitchen backsplash, should we seal before or after grout? The grout is a similar color as the tiles and we are putting admix in the grout.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Donna,

      Most people will install the travertine with thinset, grout everything and then seal the tile and grout together. This is very common and an efficient way to install. If you go this route be sure to leave about a day after you have grouted to ensure there is no grout haze on the travertine before sealing. It is very important to clean the travertive very thoroughly after grouting to ensure you don’t seal any grout haze in. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  6. Im looking to redo my boat dock in FL and wanted to know if you recommend removing the old boards, making the joist level, laying the 1 1/8″ plywood, the ditra then the travertine tiles. I heard the composite wood retains heat and travertine does not plus I like the way the stone looks.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Allen – thanks for reaching out to us! We would probably recommend using a product like composite deck boards over travertine, as they have more flex to them. With that being said, it is possible to use travertine for this type of application, but you have to make sure that you have a solid substrate that is flat and can handle any erosions, so we would recommend removing the old boards. Any movement in the substrate can cause the tile to crack or break. You would also want to install 16″ on center, have an exterior grade plywood and an anti-fracture membrane. Even though travertine is commonly used around pool decks, it is important to note that this material can be slippery when wet. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  7. I really hate dirty and discolored grout which is why I am thinking of installing travertine. For some reason I believe I can install it indoors without grout, similar to pavers. Or am I misinformed about installing travertine like pavers?? If I must use grout, I understand that a rectified edge gives you a small grout line – does chiseled give you a zero grout line?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Dana,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You will need grout for all travertine tile, no matter if it is rectified or has chiseled edges. Chiseled edges just give you more of a jagged edge to make the grout lines look more natural. With rectified edges you can use the smallest grout line possible, but you still need grout. To avoid having the grout change color you can seal it, we also have pre-sealed grout available to skip that step after installation. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  8. We are having travertine installed by our pool. Can it be installed directly into concrete with no underpayment or is it better with a sand base?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Karyn,

      Thank you for getting in touch! You will need a sand base beneath the Travertine. There will be too much friction between the concrete and Travertine if you lay it down without the sand. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  9. I have considering purchasing Travertine tile for our kitchen and entrance way. I have what is the best way for cutting the tile? Does this tile break clean with a good scoring? I have a dry tile blade for my circler saw would I be better off renting a wet saw?

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Bill,

      Thank you for your inquiry! You will need to use a diamond blade on a wet saw to cut the travertine. You will not be able to just score and break the tile. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  10. What is the best adhesive to use on floor install of travertine. Also, what is the best grout, I have read “it is better use non sanded grout. Insofar as adhesive I have read recommendations to use a white adhesive.

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hello James,

      For Travertine tile you would use a stone thinset and the best advice is to make sure it is a light colored mortar or a color that matches the stone. Travertine is a very porous stone and if a colored Mortar or Grout is used then it can actually be absorbed into the stone discoloring it. As for sanded vs non-sanded grout. This is a personal preference. Usually if you are using very small or tight grout lines then non-sanded is the way to go. If your grout lines are larger then sanded is fine.

  11. Dumb question from an amateur.. What kind of prep do I need if I want to put travertine on my first floor outside walls? I know I can’t put it directly on plywood right? What would you recommend I use first on the plywood before putting the travertine on? Been researching and can’t find any info.


    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for getting in touch! There are no dumb questions, we are happy to help out! I would suggest using a concrete backer board for more support rather than just installing on the plywood. Then use a scratch coat (galvanized chicken wire, coated metal mesh, etc.) for a better hold on the tile. If you install right on the outdoor treated plywood the travertine will not adhere properly without some sort of scratch coat and you will need a moisture barrier (something like RedGuard), this is why I suggest going with the concrete backer board. After you would apply a thinset or mortar and adhere the tiles directly to the backer board and scratch coat. Once adhered and grouted, apply a sealant to make sure no moisture can get into the tile. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

    • BuildDirect Product Expert Team

      Hi Sairusi,

      Thank you for your inquiry! There isn’t necessarily a “best” sealer for travertine. We have a couple options on our website and I usually recommend the eco-friendly option. If you are going to you local store I suggest researching the different brands they have there to find what features of each would work best for your application. You may want to look into a protector for travertine versus a sealer as well. I find more people prefer protector over sealers on travertine to avoid the shine and help with stains. No matter which option you go with it is very important to test the sealant or protector on a small piece of the travertine first because it may change the color. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  12. OUTDOOR FLOOR TILES require 95% (80% indoors, 95% for showers) contact with the thinset in order to avoid water accumulation, freeze/thaw damage, efflorescence, cracked or loosening tiles. This standard is specified by ANSI A108.5 and is endorsed by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).
    The pictures in this article are INCORRECT, as the installer is not leveling the gauge (comb) marks of the trowel. That incorrect practice results in only a 50-60% contact/coverage.

  13. Hi,
    I recently bought some travertine tile from you with the antique pattern. my installer is telling me that it won’t be possible to have an 1/8″ grout line between the tiles. He said the only way to lay it is without a space ( butt-joint) and he’s concerned that the tile are not cut accurately to do it that way. can you offer any advice? I’m confused!

    • Im not build direct but i know that a little space helps like a sixteenth . the only way you will even see joint is if tile is rectified edge if chisled you wont see joint

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