Tile flooring is popular for its ability to keep your home cool, easy upkeep, durability and timeless style. But with so many types of tile available, you might wonder which is the best option for your space. Travertine and porcelain are popular high-end choices. Learning more about their characteristics and benefits can help you make the best selection.

What is Travertine Flooring?

Travertine is a natural limestone that develops around mineral-rich springs. As the minerals from the springs interact with the limestone, they create unique swirls and patterns in the stone.

This is one of the most ancient building materials. Its durability and attractiveness made it an exceptional material for building many famous structures, such as the Trevi Fountain and Getty Center. Although travertine tiles are processed to deliver a relatively consistent look and feel, they retain the original peculiarities of the stone.

The following classifications of travertine offer distinct looks:

  • Brushed – The surface of the stone is textured with a wire brush to remove traces of shine and deliver a matte finish.
  • Honed – Grinding the top surface of the stone gives it a subtle sheen.
  • Polished – The surface of the travertine is smooth and glossy, giving it a marble-like, reflective appearance.
  • Tumbled – The stone is processed with abrasive particles to deliver rustic style.

Travertine tile can be filled or unfilled. Filling the indentations with grout or epoxy makes it smooth. Polished travertine is filled before it is buffed and polished. Honed travertine may be filled or unfilled. Tumbled travertine is typically unfilled, especially when it is used outdoors. Filling it adds some protection and consistency, however. Brushed travertine is usually unfilled.

The method that’s used to cut the tiles also affects their appearance and functionality. Straight-cut tiles have smooth edges that enhance a polished style. Chiseled-edge tiles have irregular borders, which provide traction and a more irregular look. Polished tiles usually have a straight edge, while brushed and tumbled tiles generally have a chiseled border.

What is Porcelain Flooring?

Porcelain tile is a type of ceramic that is made from fine, dense clay. Manufacturers produce porcelain tile by combining materials such as clay, feldspar and sand. Other materials, including quartz and silica, are often added. The wet mixture is poured into molds and flattened under high pressure. Then, it is fired at extremely high temperatures. This process removes moisture, makes the porcelain waterproof and increases the durability of the product.

You can find porcelain tiles in glazed or unglazed varieties. Glazed tiles are coated before they enter the kiln. The glaze is fused to the material under high heat and can add color, glossiness and design elements to the tile. Unglazed porcelain may have more texture than glazed tile. However, unglazed tiles can be polished to achieve a glossy finish.

How Do Travertine and Porcelain Tiles Compare?

Travertine and porcelain tiles have many similarities. But knowing how they differ might help you choose the best type of flooring for your home or business.


Travertine and porcelain come in many different colors. Whereas travertine obtains its hue from the natural elements to which it is exposed during its development, porcelain can be colored artificially. Therefore, it has a broader range of tones and patterns.

Porcelain glaze can be applied in an intricate design, resulting in unique patterns and images that create lovely mosaics. Porcelain tile may also be colored before it is pressed and fired, resulting in a consistent tone throughout the material. Digital printing creates porcelain tiles that mimic other materials, like vintage wood or travertine.

Although sealing travertine can bring out the depth of its natural hues, it doesn’t change the color dramatically. Travertine usually comes in warm, neutral tones, such as cream, rust, tan, gold and gray.


Travertine is a rugged stone that stands up to heavy traffic without cracking or chipping. However, its porous surface should be sealed to prevent damage and corrosion from acids, the elements and moisture.

Outdoor travertine flooring doesn’t necessarily need to be sealed. But coating it with a sealant will protect it from sun and rain damage, reduce staining and prohibit mold, algae and mildew growth.

Porcelain is the hardest type of ceramic. To be classified as such, porcelain must have a moisture absorption rate of less than 0.5%. Therefore, it is inherently water and stain resistant.

Both types of tile are ideal for busy areas and pet traffic. Even though travertine and porcelain are incredibly durable, they can get scratched. Don’t drag furniture across them or scrub them with abrasive materials. After installation, you might want to add a rug as a layer of protection in heavily trafficked areas


Travertine and porcelain tiles have a wide range of uses. Because they’re so durable, they are often used for indoor and outdoor flooring as well as backsplashes and fireplace surrounds. However, porcelain is less commonly found outdoors than travertine.

Porcelain is more compatible with moisture than some types of travertine. Therefore, you’re more likely to find it in a bathroom or kitchen. Porcelain is commonly used in showers and on countertops. Using porcelain slabs instead of tiles eliminates the grout, which can absorb moisture and stains.

Travertine can be used in bathrooms if it has a proper finish and sealant. It may not be as slippery as porcelain when it’s exposed to water. But you should not use unsealed travertine for indoor flooring in moisture-rich areas. It can be difficult to clean and may increase the risk of mildew growth inside your home.


Tile flooring is much more rigid than wood, carpet or vinyl. If you drop a glass on porcelain or travertine tiles, it will probably shatter. But travertine is Travertine tiles aren’t as susceptible to temperature changes as porcelain. The fact that travertine doesn’t get uncomfortably hot in the sun makes it an excellent choice for outdoor areas and porches.

Although porcelain remains stable in extreme temperatures, it reflects the heat and coolness of the environment. Therefore, it may feel colder than travertine in the winter and warmer underfoot in the summer.

porcelain tile flooring outside


Both types of tile are relatively easy to clean. You can wipe spills from porcelain and sealed or polished travertine easily. Remove acidic materials, such as juice, coffee and wine, as soon as possible. However, you should be cautious with the products that you use to deep clean both types of tiles.

Use mild soap or a product that’s designed for natural stone to clean travertine. Avoid using cleaners with bleach, ammonia, citrus or vinegar, as these can etch the surface of the tile. Don’t use generic cleaners on travertine either.

You can use a diluted vinegar-and-water solution to give porcelain a deep cleaning and sanitize the surface. For everyday cleaning, hot water, mild soap or multipurpose cleaners that are safe for porcelain will work well. However, avoid leaving puddles, and use fresh water to rinse the surface and remove residue from the cleaning agent. You should avoid using waxes, oil-based cleaners, ammonia and bleach on porcelain tile.

No matter what type of cleaner you use for your tile, sweep up loose debris before mopping or wiping your floors. If you don’t, you risk scratching the surface with particles of sand and dirt. Regular sweeping and mopping extends the longevity of the tile, preventing residue from building up.


Porcelain tiles require little maintenance compared to travertine. Depending on the amount of traffic that it’s exposed to, travertine must be sealed every three years or so. You can tell when it’s necessary to seal travertine because it starts to look patchy and absorbs stains easily.

You don’t have to do much more than clean porcelain to maintain it. Most porcelain tiles don’t require a sealer. Some homeowners choose to seal the porcelain to protect the appearance of the grout, however.

You may have to perform more complicated repairs on porcelain than travertine, though. You can often fix cracked travertine epoxy. But repairing damaged porcelain tiles usually requires you to remove them and install new ones.