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Travertine Cure / Clean
Problems: scratches, swirl, marks, dirty, brittling, holes filled, not level

Q 2327: I have recently purchased a travertine table which had a highly polished top. We have noticed a ring mark made by a hot drink. How do we remove it? Thanks, Jacqui, July 28, Reply

R1: Dear Jacqui: You have an etch mark and you need a polishing compound for marble. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA

Q 2164: I have some commercial Travertine Stone floors in the building I manage. The stone is in the elevator hallways. It is dirty and does not shine well. What can I clean this with to restore the luster? Are there waxes that can be used to shine the stones. Can we high speed burnish or buff the floors? How to clean and daily/weekly maintain the floor. Jack, July 6, Reply

R1: Dear Jack: What you need to restore the original luster of your travertine floor is a 
specific floor machine, with the right grinding elements and, finally the right polishing pad and powder or compound. The whole thing comes attached to a proven professional stone refinisher! After the floor has been restored you can then implement sound procedures for its maintenance. 
See to my column, ROCKING THE bOAT. Click on it, and look for the article about selecting a good stone refinisher, and also the one about the maintenance of high traffic polished stone floors. That should help you with your decision., Maurizio, USA 

A 1993: I had antique chiseled edge travertine installed on my bathroom walls and the installers and filled all the holes in the travertine with tile grout. As you can probably guess it totally destroyed the natural look of the travertine, basically turning them into Mexican pavers. How to get the tile grout out of the travertine and restore the original look? Many thanks, Paul, May 31, Reply

R1: Dear Paul: Kinda tough! Nothing really practical is available. The only thing I can think of is a rotary tool like the "Dremmel" with a small bit, then operate ... like a dentist., Maurizio, USA.

A 1942: I have recently installed travertine in my home we have moved furniture to paint our walls and in doing so scratched the surface of the stone. Is there a product out there that will hide these scratches? If so please provide. I love the look and my husband and I installed and sealed it and have had no problems other than small scratches. Please advise, Schoner, May 21. Reply

R1: Dear Shoner: Other than putting an area rug over the scratches, I have no idea on how to hide them. If you want to get rid of them instead, you will need the services 
of a professional stone refinisher.
by the way, travertine is quite a dense stone -- contrary to popular misconception -- and didn't need to be sealed. The presence of the sealer won't hurt, but it won't do your stone any good. , Maurizio 

A 1908: We have a travertine marble floor in a bedroom and several tiles have become scratched by movement of the metal bed frame. Can these tiles be repaired or do the tiles need to be replaced? Thanks! Johnson, May 15. Reply

R1: Dear Johnson: No problem, they can be repaired, but you will need a professional stone refinisher to do that for you. After that, if I were you I'd make sure that you put some sort of protection (felt, rubber?) under your metal bed legs, to avoid future damages. Maurizio, USA

A 1845:I recently had a Saturnia marble floor installed in my house. Unfortunately, the installers did a poor job and caused several problems. I have called several marble repair businesses and seem to get different advice from everyone I speak to. These are the issues: (1) The installers rolled a baby grand piano across the floor and caused large scratch marks. I have been told that these are stress fractures and cannot be repaired, but must be replaced. I have also been told that it can be repaired through a diamond wet-sanding technique. (2) The floor was installed but wasn't level in several areas. The installers used a small hand grinder to "frame" the areas to make them level. This action caused "swirling marks" throughout the floor. (3) The installers made a grout "haze" over the floor. One marble repair business said that you "NEVER" sand Saturnia due to its porous nature. His repair technique included using a chemical and a polishing tool. However, others have said they would have to grind and/or sand the floor. I thank you for your advice and look forward to hearing from you. Jim, USA, May 14.Reply

R3: Your problem can be solved by using a floor buffer and a screed sand paper. Depending on the severity of the scratches will determined how rough you must go with the grit. I would suggest to start with 120 grit first then digress to 60 or 36 only if necessary. As to the fact that you have been told they are cracked this would only happen if there are hollow spots in the setting material. I refinished a floor for the Florida Times Union in this manner and the final product looked as if it was just set after 50 years of commercial traffic. Honed Finnish is the look you want with this stone and the 120 grit screen paper is the way to go. Marbleous, USA

R2: Dear Jim: Welcome to the stone industry and its unpleasant, unwanted "mysteries"!!
GRAND PIANO ISSUE: Travertine (that's what "Saturnia Stone" is) is considered as a compact limestone, therefore its crystals won't "stun". Only true geological marbles (metamorphic limestone) do that. Therefore, there are no "stress marks" on your floor and the deep scratches can be easily eliminated by a heavy honing action (wet-sanding technique). "LIPPAGE" ISSUE: If the floor was not installed leveled, the "lips" (the difference in level where two or more tiles meet) cannot be eliminated with a little right / angle grinder. That would, at best, round down the higher edges, not certainly flatten them out as they should. The one "marble repair business" that told you that Saturnia should never be ground (sanded) would better switch to some other activity where they have better chances to keep their ignorant mouth shut. The fact that they reportedly would be using a chemical to "treat" your stone, further proves that they are just plain quacks (you're welcome to print this out and let them read it). In fact, like any other travertine, Saturnia is not porous (very little). Second, if it could not be ground, how the heck did they process it and finish in the 
factories?!! For the information you're reporting, your floor must be ground flat first to eliminate the "lips". Second, since some of the filler will come out during the first two cuts, it has to be refilled with proper travertine filler and let it cure for at least a couple of days, before proceeding with the honing phase (light grinding) and finish the whole thing with a honing powder to produce a final, uniform finish (no swirls, etc.). After that, unless the floor is in a kitchen, I would bother sealing it with an impregnator. Like I said, the stone is naturally quite dense and, as a general, unopposed and quite sensible rule, the more you leave the stone alone (in its natural state, that is) the better it is for it. If you're not too far from NJ, I'd be glad to assist you. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA

R1: Wow, you have a lot if information that confuses me even though I know what to do. I am sorry for that. Without seeing the floor I can't really talk specifically. You can have someone fill the cracks first. I am concerned that the piano caused the cracks though. This may indicate that there are areas under the stone that doesn't have any setting material under it. If this is the case you may want to stop the restoration process, call the installation company and have them check and repair this first. Now, restoration would actually be a grinding process to achieve the levelness you desire and a sanding process to achieve the finished look you want. Eliminate the individual who said chemical process and never sand due to Saturnia's porosity. The Saturnia I am familiar with is a cross cut travertine. Travertine is not absorptive, it has cavities that have fill material in it. The fill material may be absorptive. If you get the floor to the condition you want, you then need to learn how to clean and care for the floor. Contact Maurizio for instructions and products.
Regards, Steven, USA

A 1566: Need help desperately! We recently purchased one of the model apartments of a community. The builder installed travertine tiles throughout the apartment. After a few weeks of living in it some of the tiles that were filled when installed are now brittling. What can be done to repair this so that it will not happen again? The problem is that the builder can not get any more tiles to replace the badly damaged ones. We also found out (after purchase) that the unit was water damaged when the sprinkler system failed. Could water be the cause of the brittling now going on? Thanks Arnold. March 21. Reply

R11: If the water is leaking under, you have a major problem which cannot be repaired . Somehow, you have to change the tiles. Try to take white cement, put it in water (a lot of water), put inside white wood glue and beige powder color. Stir good and watery as is and put on the tiles until absorbs and fills all the holes. After it gets dry, clean good and take from the market a sealer and a polisher. You will not face other problems. Dimitri, Greece.

R10: Is necessary to receive some photos about this material to understand the problem. Can be the filling process or the material used to fix the tiles or something else. With the photos, I can try, to understand. Italy.


R8: I am a manufacturer of tiles. Travertines specialty. I adopt all kind of designs.
Please tell me your location. I work the high quality marbles and travertines in Mexico, I own my own business, and that's why I am able to offer better prices. Kephren, Mexico.

R7: Without a site observation, I can not dispense foolproof solutions. However, the water immersion and subsequent drying can indeed cause the condition you are describing.
The solution is somewhat tedious but will work. Hire a professional restoration company to grind the floor. During the process, they will fill all spots not holding together properly. As with all things, check references and hire the best, not the cheapest contractor. Regards, Steven, USA,

R6: Dear brother, as you explained your problem we prefer to let the materials dry & then start to fill the surface of materials. The filling substance must be of very good quality or it will damage the travertine again. Haydar, Turkey.

R5: Water, quite often, is a cause of damage to some stones. This is why the water absorption rating is so very important. Another issue could be , (depending on whether the water was allowed to soak) is that water got under the tile and damaged the sub floor (If it is wood) or the adhesive. with the properties of travertine through. Debra, Canada. 

R4: The problem faced by you is typical associated with travertine material. This is happening as the tiles were not properly treated or water proofed on the reverse before fixing the tiles. As a result water gets absorbed into the travertine as it is porous and the filling compound gets affected. The easy way out according to me is to pull out the tiles and dry it out properly and apply a coating of waterproof compound on the reverse of the tiles and also on the walls and re-fix the same tiles. I guess this will take care of your situation.
Please note that this is from my personal experience and I do not want to be held responsible if it does not work out for you or for any damages suffered by you while trying this out. Good Luck, Ajay, India.

R3: What kind of travertine? Solina, Italy.

R2: The problem can be the material used, the stone. When the block of the stone in question was cut in slabs and after in tiles it can be damage, crush in instance. If can you send a photo maybe I can have the material, if the quantify you need is few maybe I can send it free to you. You will pay only the cost of transport. Regards, Mcgeos, brazil. 

R1: Dear Sir, Please be a little more specific in what the problem is, Is the filling or is the tile brittling and what Travertino is it? Travertino is readely available from anywhere in the world. Alec, South Africa. 

A 1561: Hi there, My friend has installed Travertine countertops in my kitchen. I gather now that maybe that wasn't the best decision. Anyway, what's done is done I guess. Now it is up to me to seal and grout. How should I proceed to prevent future stains, crumbs in the crevices, etc.? Liza, March 20. Reply

R2: Dear Liza: Forget about "maybe"; it was NOT the right choice, period. You're wrong when you say that what is done is done. You can always get rid of it. After all it's only money, and it's surely less valuable than your mind welfare! That said, you can seal it until you drop, with the "Sealall" sealer of the "bestest" company, but you won't be solving the first of the inherent problems you'll be facing. Sorry, Maurizio, USA,

R1: Eat out frequently. Regards, Steven, USA

A 1436: Hi, I just purchased a new home with a new travertine tile floor. After a few weeks of walking on this floor, we noticed that the surface is getting scratched. This is just from normal walking on the floor, we have not moved any heavy furniture. Is this normal and is there anything we can put on the surface to prevent this from happening.....help! Ellen. Feb 12. Reply 

R2: Dear Ellen: Yes, it is normal (travertine scratches easily) but ... it's not normal at the same time! What I mean is that the leather of your soles or the rubber of your sneaker are way softer than travertine, and can hardly scratch it. Scratches only occur when sand and grit are present on the floor and are ground in by the soles of your shoes. So, the first and most important rule to properly maintain a polished stone floor is to keep it as clean as possible all the time. Vacuum it at least once a day and mop it at least once a week. On top of that, there are a few topical finishes (really few and far between, as a matter of fact) that could be applied on a polished stone floor, but they would require weekly maintenance with the help of a residential floor buffer. Maurizio, USA

R1: Without seeing the surface it is difficult to ascertain what the problem is. Some general observations:
Sand attached to the bottom of a shoe could scratch it. If the stone is sealed or waxed the scratches may be the sealer and not the stone. Please have a qualified stone expert come out and look at your floor. This way you can get some preventive maintenance practices. Regards, Steven, USA Reply

A 1379: I had a travertine honed and filled tiles recently installed in my home. Unfortunately, on the second application of the sealer for the grout, our installer failed to adequately remove the sealer from the tiles. We now have a floor that appears dirty, leaves footprint markings and actually has some dried puddle markings. How can we correct this problem? Joan, Jan 28. Reply

R4: Most probably the sealant was applied w/out cleaning the tiles from grout. Unfortunately the best solution is to have the floor re-polished/re-honed on site. Let Me know how things developed. Raoul, Italy. 

R3: Please have the original contractor who created this mess come back and fix it. Regards, Steven, USA

R2: Joan: Different sealers may be stripped in different ways (inquire with the sealer's manufacturer about that). Call the contractor back and have him solve the problem he created. He's got paid, I don't. USA,  

R1: Dear Joan: Was a sealer actually applied to your stone? If it wasn't, I don't have an answer to your question. If it was, it could be that the residue was not removed properly. It's hard to say what to do to remove the excess when it's dry and cured. It depends form the make of the sealer (they can be quite different from one another), but with many of them the following tricks works fairly well: Sprinkle a few drops of the same sealer on the area from which you have to remove the residue, then rub, rub, and rub with a clean white rag until everything is nice and clean. If that won't work, then I'd suggest you to get hold of the manufacturer of the product and ask them. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA

A 1302: Hi, We too have a huge amount of our floor (entry, hall, kitchen and family room) covered in travertine. We picked out the travertine and had a local independent tile setter install it. (We built our own home) We like the dull finish, however there are swirl marks in each individual tile. From a distance, the travertine looks clumpy or dirty. We have sealed it with a non-gloss sealer but it still has that dirty look. Do you have any suggestions on what to do with it and if we do replace it all, what kind of stone or marble do you recommend that could be used in all of these areas? Daryle, USA, Jan 5. Reply

R3: Rather than replacing it, invest in having the floor rehoned and sealed. There are many stone restoration professionals that can do this. Please check references before you begin. This should be less expensive than ripping it out and starting over. best regards, Steven, USA

R2: Dear Daryle: What you're describing is not only a common problem with factory-honed travertine, but it is, in fact, a given! The hone finish produced in the factories is obtained by taking off the last couple of grits from the automated polishing line. The polishing lines for stone are designed to produce a high polish finish, and they fall (way) short when they are programmed to produce an "intermediate" finish. Consequently, the hone-finish produced by the factory, is, in my opinion, not fit for sale. What you report -- swirl marks all over the tiles, which were produced by the grinding elements, and not rectified by the (missing) polishing ones -- speak volumes about my theory! but you made a mistake yourself. For what I can understand, you applied some sort of topical sealer over the surface of your floor. It's not something that you wanted to do, and you must get rid of it, if you want to rectify the original problem. The solution to which is to hire a professional stone refinisher to hone your floor using either honing screens (using diamond pads would create more or less the same patterns that you have now), or, better yet, a good-quality honing powder. I can understand that you may be a little upset at the idea of having to hire (at your own expenses) an independent contractor to do something that you didn't expect (and that nobody indicated to you at the time of the purchase of the material), but I'm here to offer technical solutions, not legal advice. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA

R1: The swirl marks in travertine may be due to uneven filling or uneven spread of the mastic sealer. One of the options is to provide a pigmented epoxy sealer and then to hone and finish it again. I will be able to suggest you a better option if you can do a simple test and revert. We plan to check the porosity of the stone and then suggest a coating or an impregnating sealer. The test is as follows: Spill a little water on a portion of the floor. Leave it for five (5) minutes and then dry it using a paper towel. If there is a distinct color difference in the wet and surrounding dry stone, then may be we can use a pigmented impregnating sealer to seal the stone as it has porosity and will absorb the sealer. If there is no major difference in color, then the stone has very low porosity and will have to be coated with an epoxy /filler layer which is pigmented to provide a even colored surface. Arun, India

A 1214: Can you provide me with an reference of an individual in the Los Angeles or Ventura County area to provide sealer work for a travertine floor? I have a problem with a recent install. Please advise. Nov 24. Reply

R1: If you have not found your answer, may I suggest my company? Kim, USA

A 1181: We recently moved into our home where the builder installed travertine tiles throughout. We noticed a lot of holes in same and whichever ones were filled (patched) and grinded again seem to brittle. What can be done to repair this so that this does not happen again? Also what care should be given to clean. Thank you, Weinberg, Nov 12, Reply 

R2: As is travertine has holes. These holes are filled with a cementious material at the factory. Travertine does wear so the holes will continue to emerge over time. I don't know how much grinding was done. I don't know why it was ground either. More information is helpful. Care is by using a neutral pH stone cleaner. It may be necessary to but a protective coating on the floor. Call a marble & stone restoration professional and ask
them to come out and give you a consultation. The fee charged is probably well worth the knowledge received.
best regards, Steven, USA,

R1: Travertine is a type of stone that comes from different countries (including the US -- New Mexico. Very good stuff, too). Not all have the same physical characteristics. For instance, a certain type of Durango travertine (from Mexico) is extremely brittle. but it's not the only one, though. Certain poor grading of Italian travertine (the favorite among many builders, because it's very cheap -- no wonder! -- and yet carries the label of "Italian travertine") are just as bad. Without seeing your floor it's impossible to make any sure assessment. I would suggest you to get hold of a professional. As far as routine maintenance is concerned, travertine -- like all calcite-based stones -- is very sensitive to pH active cleaning agents, therefore you do need specialty products. Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA,

Thanks for your reply to my A1181. It seems that the patching that was done by a professional restorer is coming loose and creating holes. It seems prior to our purchase of the unit in which a large portion of the floor is covered with travertine tiles was water damaged (not revealed at time of sale). Could that be the cause of the brittling condition? The builder insist that it is not the cause. Please let me know your thoughts. -Thank you. Weinberg, Nov 23,

R3: Oh yes, water damage (flooding) can do a lot of damage to travertine, especially those spongy "dead spots", which are but a combination of naturally brittle stone and filler. Despite the fact that I like challanges and I am the one who, most of the times, takes on jobs that had been declines by other contractors, this --
without seeing and by what you're reporting -- seems to me like one of those rare instances in which I wouldn't want to be involved. Let's just hope that your contractor will stop trying to chisel his way out of this one.
Ciao and good luck, Maurizio, USA,

R2: A one time flood that had standing water for a short period of time will not cause the patching material to come loose. If the patching compound is not mixed properly in the beginning, it can come loose. It is very difficult to choose a direction to pursue without seeing the floor. This is why I suggested you bring in a professional with a proven track record to analyze the floor for you. Respectfully, Steven, USA,

R1: Hard to say. If the travertine installation and filling of the "holes" in the stone was fully cured, water / moisture should not damage the installation unless the substrate is not moisture / water resistant. Another potential problem could be moisture migration through the back side of the installation. This occurrence could potentially stain and cause efflorescence. Extreme cases of this condition can potentially damage the stone surface over time. Hope the info helps. Regards, Art , USA

A 1060: Care: We had travertine countertops put in 1998. We had them sealed. However they now appear blotchy from certain angles. Do they need to be resealed and if so what would you recommend? Linda, USA, Aug 5. Reply

R1: Dear Linda: You need to reseal your travertine just as much as you needed to have it sealed the first time, that is, just as much as you need a hole in your head! Travertine (like any other calcite-based stone) is the wrong choice as a material for a kitchen countertop, period. Its porosity is not really an issue, its chemical make-up is. You can control a certain degree of porosity (with a stone sealer, also dubbed "impregnator"); you cannot control the chemical make-up of natural stone. Those blotches that you see are etch marks (surface damages, that is, not stains). They can be fixed professionally, but they can't be prevented. Mankind should master Nature by understanding, not by force. Tell that to whoever specified travertine for your kitchen countertop, and whoever else went along with that "brilliant" idea. I'm still upset. Maurizio, USA,

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