Sealing Travertine Shower
by Sharon Wiest
QUESTION: Should I put a sealer on my new travertine showers and floor tile?
ANSWER: Yes... and No...
let me explain...
Many travertines are dense enough that they don't need sealing to avoid staining. They do it naturally!
I know this little bit of insight may go against what you've previously read about how easy marble and travertine stain
, but it's the truth. Marble/travertine "etch" easy... do not stain easy. This always confuses. More below.
Polished travertine tile will almost never need or even be able to absorb a sealer.
Honed travertine, on the other hand, will usually take an impregnator/sealer without any problems.Two factors to consider when sealing:
1. Porosity / absorbency of the stone
2. Location and use of the installationFirst
, you should test the porosity
to determine when and if any stone needs sealing and/or re-sealing. Travertine Floor Tile:
It's a good idea to seal travertine flooring at least once especially in the kitchen, bar and bath. But only if testing shows it is absorbent enough to need a sealer. Travertine Showers:
should NOT be sealed.... even if testing shows it could
Most problems that develop with showers or wet environments are the result of a poor installation.
You may get away with sealing a travertine shower without any issue (or appreciable benefit for that matter) but, you really want to let stone breath and sealing may end up trapping moisture
in the stone.
How? Well... If the shower installation isn't perfect
(and many aren't), then water will eventually find its way underneath the tiles where the sealer will prevent the trapped water from evaporating through the stone, which will lead to degradation of the stone.
At that point you'll just have to tear out the shower and start over. The primary reason you seal
any stone installation is to help prevent staining.
Note that sealing does not prevent "etching". Stains and etching are different phenomena (click to find out how)
.Water does not stain
and the risk of staining from bath products is minimal given that any time these are used all the water is washing them down the drain, so not much is ever left on the surface unless a leaky bottle goes unnoticed.
Only in certain outdoor installations is it necessary to consider sealing against water penetration. One exception... A white marble shower is the one exception
to not sealing a shower.
The travertine in your shower gets wet, absorbs some water that quickly evaporates. Not a problem.
It takes a long, long time for water to cause significant change or damage in stone. Certainly won't happen in your lifetime.Now,
if water is getting behind the tiles due to voids in the grout or a poor installation and getting trapped, well that's a different story.
A stone can rather quickly degrade when constantly saturated with water. And in such a situation sealing only makes it worse because it seals the water in!
Showers are a unique type of stone installation, but you can use the porosity/absorbency test on any stone to see IF it may need sealing. Then, also consider the risk of staining and determine if you want to apply a sealer. You see... stains are almost never permanent
in stone. Stains can be removed, so it doesn't make much sense to seal a stone installation that has little risk of staining.
You can do it. It won't hurt in most cases, but sometimes it's just overkill. It makes sense
to apply a granite sealer to a kitchen countertop because you have a near daily potential for staining.
Far less risk in a bathroom although sealing a vanity usually makes sense. Sealing a bathroom floor is not a bad idea, but 99% of the time sealing a shower is a useless exercise.
Now, many people still choose to seal a shower for peace of mind I suppose, which would be fine it not for the above scenario. If ever you have a structural problem in a shower (common enough) a sealer will only make it worse.So, our recommendation is to NOT seal showers
. Again, trying to stop water absorbing is not the reason to apply a stone sealer. Of course a sealer manufacturer
is going to tell you that all
stone no matter what should be sealed every 3-5 years yadda yadda. Great for their sales, but completely untrue.
Some stones are too dense and simply cannot be sealed and as I've tried to explain above applying a sealer in some instances provides little if any benefit except a bit of exercise and a "check" on your "To-Do" list.
I'd test the floors first and seal them if necessary once using recommended marble & granite sealers
Test again in a few years to see if they may need it again (probably not) and forget about sealing the travertine showers.