Sealing Travertine Shower
QUESTION: Should I put a sealer on my new travertine showers and floor tile?
ANSWER: Yes... and No...
let me explain about sealing travertine showers...
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" easily... but do not stain easily. This always confuses people.
Not every spot is a "stain." Stains occur when a substance absorbs into the stone, causing a dark spot.
Etching is like a chemical burn (from acids and harsh cleaners) that damages the surface finish creating a dull or chalky spot.
More on this below and see our Travertine Cleaning Do's & Don'ts Guide
Polished travertine tile will almost never need or even be able to absorb a sealer.
Honed travertine and tumbled travertine, on the other hand, will usually take an impregnating sealer without any problems.
Yes, travertine has natural holes
so it seems logical that it would be very absorbent.
However, these holes are filled in before or during the installation of a travertine tile shower.
Use un-sanded grout for small holes, but for large holes and grout lines use sanded grout, which looks better with the more rustic tumbled surface.
It's typical to use wider grout lines with tumbled surfaces and sanded grout holds up better with wider lines.
If you leave the holes unfilled. They'd collect dirt and soap scum and get moldy right away... can't do it that way.Filling the natural holes in travertine
is the way to go.
Two Factors To Consider For Sealing Travertine:
1. Porosity / absorbency of the stone
2. Location and use of the installationFirst
, you should test the porosity
to determine when and if travertine (or any natural stone) needs sealing and/or re-sealing.
Travertine Floor Tile Sealing
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.
Usually, the floors have a honed finish, so sealing is effective.
Travertine Tile Shower Sealing Pros & Cons
It's not nearly as beneficial to seal natural stone showers as it is for a countertop or floor.
Sealing a travertine shower generally is not necessary, even if testing shows it could
be sealed. The common wisdom is not to seal stone in a wet environment.
The risk of staining is very low in a shower and sealing stone in a wet environment can lead to bad problems in some situations.On the flip side...
sealing travertine shower tile and grout won't create any issues in most cases.
It can aid a little bit in keeping the grout and tile cleaner, but it's a minor factor.
Regular and proper cleaning and good ventilation are the key factors to maintaining a stone shower in good condition. For cleaning we recommend
the Soap Film/Hard Water Remover
. It's safe for travertine, very effective, and won't etch and dull the stone as most standard shower cleaners will.
So, it really comes down to whether or not it's worth it to you as it doesn't provide a major advantage.IMPORTANT: If you do decide to seal a travertine shower
, you must wait at least 2-3 weeks after installation to allow all the installation materials and moisture in the grout and tile to dry out, so it isn't trapped.
Same thing for new stone floor tile as well.
And you want to consider problems it can create if the shower is not installed well, or develops damaged grout, etc.
Most problems that develop with showers or wet environments are the result of poor installation.
Poor ventilation can be a factor in some cases as well.
Most tile showers are installed correctly, but enough will have problems.
You may get away with sealing a travertine shower without any issue (or appreciable benefit, for that matter), but, you really want to let the stone breathe, 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 have to tear out the shower and start over.
This can also happen when cracks develop in the grout or gaps in caulking and water seeps beneath.The primary reason you seal
any stone installation is to help prevent staining.
Note that sealing does not
Etching occurs far more often than staining in a travertine shower. Most often, the cause of etching is using the wrong cleaning products.Stains and etching are different phenomena (click to learn why)
.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, and 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 the 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! (Technically, it will evaporate much more slowly).
So you want to periodically check your grout lines and caulk joints to ensure there are no cracks or gaps where water can pass underneath the tiles.
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 90% of the time, sealing a shower is a useless exercise. But... if it's a heavily used shower with many stored shower products
. In this case, sealing a travertine shower is worth the trouble.
And many people will choose to seal a shower for this peace of mind, which is fine if the above scenario is considered in the decision.
If ever you have a structural problem in a shower (common enough), a sealer will only make it worse.So, our base recommendation is to NOT seal showers
. But it isn't a "hard" no. We just don't see much advantage to it except for peace of mind (which is important too).
Again, trying to stop water absorption 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.
Test and seal the floors if necessary using these recommended marble & granite sealers
Test again in a few years to see if they may need it again (probably not).
Don't worry too much about sealing a travertine shower (unless you do have bad ventilation and the tiles never dry out, or it is heavily used... then sealing would be beneficial.)
Or if applying a sealer gives you peace of mind... go for it.
Definitely use a quality stone sealer
if you do decide to seal your shower tiles.
And be sure to always follow proper guidelines for cleaning travertine