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Similar to limestone and marble, travertine has a storied history as a plentiful, beautiful and durable natural building material. Constructed from travertine in 80 A.D., the Roman Coliseum speaks to the stone’s longevity. More recently, architects of the 20-year old Getty Center in Los Angeles chose travertine for visual appeal that rivals the priceless artwork it houses.
The lure of travertine, then, is understandable. Add to it the stone’s inherent ability to resist heat and the drop in price due to U.S. import from multiple countries, and travertine often moves to the top of the homeowner’s or architect’s materials list for pool coping and pavers.
However, it’s important to understand that travertine may not be an ideal solution for people wanting low maintenance pool surroundings, and/or those considering the use of travertine in colder climates. To avoid buyer’s remorse and any unpleasant surprises, carefully evaluate these key downsides to travertine before making a final decision:
1. Travertine may contain pitting that traps debris
A textured surface of small holes and voids is a hallmark of travertine, but these beauty marks could turn ugly. Outdoor dander can get trapped in these tight areas, resulting in mold growth and a generally dirty appearance over time. Regular maintenance is required to combat these ill effects, which could interfere with homeowners’ leisure time or put a dent in their pocketbooks should they choose to hire out for this service. Filled travertine could be a solution since the cavities are pre-filled with grout or epoxy, but the cost-aesthetics balance may not be desirable.
2. Travertine is water absorbent and susceptible to temperature-related damage
In most pool areas, travertine is exposed to water through the pool itself and natural weather events like rain, sleet or snow. Given that travertine is extremely water absorbent, this presents a particular problem in colder climates where freezing occurs and the water trapped in the stone expands. Depending on the quality of the travertine used, buckling, shifting and other damage can happen, necessitating costly repair or replacement.
3. Travertine is priced according to quality tiers
The price point of travertine has gotten more attractive as the U.S. continues to tap import markets in other countries. However, travertine quality — classified as premium, standard and commercial — will ultimately drive price and it can be a lesson in “you get what you pay for.” Opting for lower end stone may keep costs in check but its porousness and lack of durability could drive the price tag past what you’d pay for premium travertine from the outset.
Taken in total, you may decide that travertine is the right choice for your pool project regardless of the potential drawbacks. Or, you may seek an alternative that provides all of the benefits of travertine with none of the risk. Natural limestone, particularly Type III dolomitic limestone, is a good fit for pool coping and pavers due to its high density, low porosity and superior solar reflectivity — all essential for a safe pool area. Further, limestone’s beauty and durability lend themselves to sophisticated paver and coping cuts to match sleek or rustic surroundings and a lifetime of low-maintenance enjoyment.
To learn more about the benefits of limestone for your pool project and to weigh other options like concrete, brick and tile, read our Pool Coping & Pavers Comparison Guide. Click the button below to access your copy now!