Travertine backsplash, pros/cons??

dallen11December 27, 2011

Please help....we need to make a decision quickly on our kitchen backsplash (in the next day or two). We are contracted with a pretty good allowance for a travertine backsplash. We have a friend with a travertine backsplash and it's tumbled so it has roughed up edges and "holes" in the surface. Their house was built about 5 years ago. Issue is that I'm not crazy about the tumbled/roughed up look though DH likes it. I do like the shades that travertine comes in but not this "rough" look. Also, I'm concerned about the care of travertine. DH loves to cook sauce and always splatters on the backsplash. Is travertine hard to clean? Does it stain? We like a more traditional style and are getting dark cherry cabinets with new venetian gold granite. I'm also afraid that the tumbled travertine will look dated. What are your opinions on travertine being a dated look? Any suggestions/ideas or pictures would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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IMHO, don't do it. It is a look that is not current. You will see many kitchens with it in the Finished Kitchen Blog, but they are not what is happening now. You can get ceramic tile with shading if that is the look you want.
Something else to think about: sometimes this type of tile can take on a pinkish caste or a grayish cast when installed.
I guess those with this tile will help you with how well it cleans. You can seal it, but then it takes on a darker hue.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 6:55PM
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It's already dated and your hygiene concerns are valid.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 7:16PM
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Thank you for the validation. Since we have a pretty good budget for the backsplash, what else would you suggest that is higher end but plain looking (I want the granite to be the focal point), and of course, easy to clean/care for? DH doesn't like subway tiles, anything else that's timeless?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 9:52PM
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There are many high end tiles. Start visiting show rooms. I know of Ann Sacks, Walker Zanger, Grazia Rixi, Horus Art etc. Hand made tiles are available too. Why are you in a rush? Unless you have personal circumsttances that you do not want to share, the backsplash really can wait until you find what you like. I would suggest you take your time and look around.
You can even post your kitchen and get suggestions from GW. Or, you can post your choices and we can give you feed back on them.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 10:21PM
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Have you thought of also doing the BS in granite since you want it to be the focal point? The BS is more noticeable than the counters. All the BS tile we liked was almost as much as granite so we decided to do the BS in granite as well....but we have a smallish galley and didn't think it would be too much of a good thing.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 10:49PM
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Joaniepoanie, that's what i originally wanted but the KD said it would be outragously expensive. Now we already picked out the slab and I think it's too late - slab's not big enough to cut backsplash as well.

Ellendi, you are correct, I'm rushing :) The kitchen place that we contracted with originally told me we should wait until the kitchen is complete before choosing. Now they are rushing me to pick something out - because they want to finish the job and collect $ and because the delivery time can be a while. DH is home on vacation so I have his attention and want to use this time to make a decision. Once he's back to work he'll lose focus LOL! We are going to the tile store either today and/or tomorrow. I'm so afraid of getting something too trendy or too outdated. Other decisions were quite easy but this one has me stumped. I was thinking about marble rectangles. Would it be odd to mix marble with granite? How is the upkeep on marble? Is porcelin still a good option or is it considered outdated? I think porcelin would be easy to clean?? Thanks again!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 9:04AM
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IMHO, don't be so concerned about being "outdated." If you like a certain look, then that is all that matters. I would try to pick something timeless and classic (something you will still like in several years).

Personally I think a lot of natural stone products (tumbled, honed, or polished; travertine, marble, etc) are timeless and classic. I also like the look of subway tiles. If you are concerned about stone being behind your stove, you can always choose a different material with a nice border there. I've seen marble (polished, honed, tumbled) backsplashes with granite and I love the way it looks. You will have to reseal stone (just like granite) every so often.

Also keep in mind how you will "end" your backsplash at the end of your cabinets or at windowsills, etc. I personally don't like trim pieces at the end of kitchen backsplashes (I'm ok with it in the bathrooms though). I do like subway tiles for that reason since many subways come in bullnose pieces on the long end or short end (so you don't need trim pieces that look very different from the field tile). Also tumbled stone does not need trim pieces since they have nice finished looking edges.

I had a certain backplash in mind, but I waited until my cabinets and granite were in (this is what was suggested to me by someone even though flooring/tile company wanted me to choose ahead of time so they could order the backsplash tile with the floor tile). So glad I waited because the backsplash I had in mind did not work in my space and I ended up choosing something different.

Find inpsiration pics, I love When you have a vision it makes things a lot easier...and you won't get confused every time you hear someone else's opinion. Lastly, don't let anyone rush you into a decision. This is your are the one who is paying for it and the one who has to live in it. They probably won't be happy if you tell them that you want to wait...but you can't please everyone!

Hope I didn't confuse you more ;) Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 11:39AM
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We just put in a travertine backsplash a few months ago, and I love it. I'm a messy cook, and we've had no problem with stains, etc. I'll attach a photo. Who cares if it's "outdated" if you like it? That's a concept foisted on us by retailers and designers, IMHO. I think the concept of being "outdated" is outdated, it's time to think for ourselves. Or maybe I've had too much coffee this morning.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 12:09PM
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I think you need to go with your gut on this. We chose a tumbled travertine, we know it's not the latest thing, and we don't care. We love it, and that's the point - we love it. You need to choose something you love. When you take your trip to the tile store, something will catch your eye. You'll need to bring home some samples, because it never fails that something that looks great in the store doesn't do much in your actual space, and visa-versa. Maybe you'll find something you've never considered before. I wouldn't worry too much about dated or super-trendy unless you're planning on selling in the next 5 years or so or being featured in the local architectural magazine or something. If you think you might like subway tile, be sure to bring a sample home even though your DH doesn't think he likes it - minds have been known to change.

Here's our tumbled travertine. It's not a cleaning issue because it's covered with a sealer. On the other hand, we don't often splash sauce on it. (The backsplash hadn't been caulked when we took this photo.)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 12:11PM
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"Classic" is how I think of travertine. It was done an awful lot in recent years for a good reason, it looks great with so many countertops and in years past there really wasn't that much available that was perfect with granite. There is so much more available now than when the building boom was going on. Too bad all the fabulous new tiles and backsplashes out there now were late to the party. But I don't think that makes travertine outdated it is still a great look. Good luck with your choice!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 3:02PM
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Since you are time limited, then make the best choice that you can. Go safe. I would not do marble with your venetian gold granite. ( think it would compete with your granite)
If for some reason you do not like your choice, it is an easy fix that you can change down the road. Many here have changed their backsplashes, me for one and I remeber susanka's backsplash journey as well;)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 4:46PM
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I'm a big fan of doing it right the first time around. Quick rushed decisions can result in major regret, corrections can be timely and costly. If possible, narrow it down to a few choices (now that your DH has time to help you choose) then make a final decision once your granite and cabinets are in. I highly recommend bringing a sample home to look at it in your own light, surroundings. It can look completely different than in the show room.

BTW sealing stone does not change the color or darken it unless you use a sealer which is also an enhancer.

Like others mentioned, go with your gut, pick what YOU love, and design for yourself not for the masses.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 5:41PM
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If it were MY husband,I would let him go back to work,then have what I love put in, and then it would be several months before he noticed!! It is easier to get forgivness than permission!!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 5:49PM
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we put in 6x6 tiles and do love them, set square, no diagonal. On the wall with the cooktop, we did do a full granite backsplash which is awesome and highly recommend!! the tumbled travertine is on the sink wall. we did seal it twice and it did not change the color at all. it did not show up pink or gray, if it did i would have ripped it out!! i think travertine is classic. been around forever and i love natural stone, i don't think you can go wrong with any natural stone, its always in style if you ask me. i also think it goes with alot of grantie, especially if you have granite with alot of movement. it doesn't steal the show, just hangs in the background quietly, which is what we wanted. we also liked the roughnes of it, a little contrast to the smoothness of the granite.

again, pick what you love, you have to look at every day!!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 6:58PM
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just installed 4x4 travertine tiles and love it. Came with Q-seal so no stain worries. Look in my recent "Kitchen finally done(photos)"thread to see.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 10:10PM
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I'm with the wait until you know it is right camp. I also like how springoz rolls. You don't need your dh to walk through every tile store. Do your research and bring him to see the 2 you like best. Or, better yet, the one. If he is like most men, it won't be hugely important to him and he will be grateful not to spend his leisure time shopping for tile.
FWIW - every single new build done with a builder's choice in our area for at least 7 years has used travertine. I am a real estate agent and see more houses than most and can say travertine has really become ho-hum around here.... Different parts of the country may have different trends and timelines, but it really is very overdone in my area. Personally, I'd rather a painted wall than travertine in my own kitchen. YMMV.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 12:06AM
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I also chose travertine for my backsplash. I am not so concerned about being current, so take it for what it's worth.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 12:13AM
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Thank you for the replies. I went yesterday to the store and did a little research. Lady at the store explained that you can get travertine Honed which has the holes filled in and is more smooth. This is more what I like as I didn't want the "rough" look. Also, honed w/ a quartz grout that seals it, and sealer , it is virtually stain-resistant. This was good info. I'm now leaning more toward travertine that's been honed. Brought some samples home and DH said he likes the subway! didn't see that coming. I do like the way the subway can be bullnosed on the edges so we don't have to get a border. Also brought home a limestone tile which we both really liked - it was honed as well. I need to research limestone durability and price as compared to travertine. We're going to a larger tile store today and should get some great samples to take home. Also researched color online and saw a lot of busier granites with a more solid backsplash (little to no design/movement). I think we'll go this route as well. I really don't want to compete w/ the granite.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 9:07AM
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dallen11 - yay for subway and natural stone! It will look beautiful. Check out honed crema marfil marble too. I love crema marfil and it looks gorgeous in a lot of pics, but it didn't look right in my kitchen. I don't know what your cooktop area is like, but consider doing the subway on a diagonal or herringbone pattern with a nice border (like a chair rail border). Or you can choose something completely different inside the border like a basketweave in the same material as the subway. I would love to do this but our cooktop is in the island. Here is the concept:

kitchen design by chicago general contractor Oakley Home Builders

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 11:53AM
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wow janealexa, it's like you read my mind! We don't have a large area behind the stove but we are doing a separate "hutch" where I wanted to do an interesting backsplash design just like this. I was telling DH how we'll frame out a rectangle then change the pattern of the subway tile. He looked at me like I was nuts! So, I was hoping to scan the internet to find a picture. You just saved me a lot of time!! thank you!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 12:07PM
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We remodeled our kitchen a little over 2 years ago, and we used a honed (smooth finish) travertine in a subway pattern for our backsplash. We love it, and have never felt that it was 'dated.' As you can see, our style is more traditional, so classic materials made sense.

I personally don't like all of the references to kitchen designs or materials being outdated; we don't change our kitchen decor every year or two to cater to current trends. Most people choose finishes that they love, knowing that it will be many years before we have the opportunity/need/desire to go through ANOTHER remodel. We don't change our kitchens like we do our clothing (at least the majority do not, I would guess). Good luck with your choices, and I hope you love them for many years to come!

Here are a couple of pictures of our honed travertine:

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 12:26PM
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dallen11, you're very welcome, glad I could help!! My DH is the same and has a hard time visualizing my design concepts. I find pictures for all my concepts so I can show to everyone involved in our build, they are all over the new house! As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words! No room for misinterpretation :)

BTW, remember to take grout samples home with you too so you can look at those colors in your space.

I had something picked out that I thought I loved. After the cabs and granite went in, I held up my tile and grout...and the tile looked peach and the grout a cold white!! Held up my second choice and the tile/grout looked very cold! Had to pick a totally different color tile/grout. I considered porcelain/ceramic tile, but personally I did not like the shiny tile with the shiny granite. We ended up choosing tumbled travertine (AZ tile camargo). Surprisingly it did not catch my eye in the showroom. But the very helpful saleslady gave me a bunch of samples to take home. She said the fluorescent lighting in the showroom is so different than home lighting...and that I needed to look at these samples in my own space. Look at samples at different times of day (natural light during the day at different times, artificial light at night). I picked a grout color that blends in nicely with most of the tile (so hard to be exact since natural stone varies) and any holes will be filled with grout. It will go in next week, I'm anxiously awaiting! ANYWAY, my point is, take home lots of samples, you never know what you'll end up liking in your space!

Keep us posted :)

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 12:49PM
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Wow is this a timely post! I have done more tossing and turning over backsplash than anything else with my kitchen remodel. I had planned on an oversized matte subway tile but was concerned that it didn't connect very well with the honed amarula granite (a dark, chocolately slate-like granite). I am thinking of a honed ivory travertine like Natenvalsmom used. To me it looks more contemporary.

The advice to wait until the granite is installed is smart.

Unfortunately, I was going to do a niche behind my range but I could never quite visualize it so decided to bag it. Now I'm kicking myself!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 7:15PM
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Avanti Tile & Stone (Stonetech)

I'll have to disagree here. Tumbled marble is very much in style. If you can find it, look at "Scabas." Lots of colour and the finished product has much of a "Tuscany" look. The "Inclusions" (holes) are not an issue as they are filled with grout and sealed. This material is a wonderful "counterpoint" to most countertops and is not a cleaning issue...unless you are prone to flinging spaghetti sauce all over the place. When sealed (I use a sealer/enhancer) it's no problem to wipe down.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Here is our backsplash before grout.

It is tumbled travertine (camargo), but doesn't have many holes on the surface of the tiles. I've noticed that some tumbled travertine "colors" are more "holey" than others. We looked at tumbled torreon and ankara, both looked more rustic than camargo.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 9:30PM
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Jane.. Are you using sanded or UNSANDED grout? I tried a sample of sanded & liked that look.. Tile store said to use unsanded.. What to do??

Susanak.. what colour of grout did you use?

* decisions decisions.. *

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 10:55PM
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So, dallen, what did you decide on? Surely, it must be in by now. Photos, please!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 6:38AM
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This was a wonderful post! I'm not up to the backsplash, even though I have gotten an idea of what I like, and have taken some notes from here today. A question, in one store I was shown a tile "natural sandstone", it had a honed finish, was light colored (only came in one color) with a few natural shadings, had no holes like travetene, was beautiful. I haven't seen it anywhere else, but loved the look.When I'm ready for my BS I'll be going back to her, but she won't give a sample, I want to see what it will look like in my home. But in the end my guess is I'll be ordering it from her.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Funny, I haven't been on this site in a while but just looking today. Suzanne, yes the backsplash is up. Grouting is being done as I write. Kitchen will be totally finished after today - except for the light switches I still need to buy. Can't wait to get home after work and see how it looks. We went w/ the honed 4x4 travertine w/ small grout lines and matching grout color. We did squares on bottom w/ triangles on top. "Hutch" area came out great. We did squares on the sides w/ the picture frame in the middle w/ the 4x4's on the triangle. Also added 2x2 oil rubbed bronze accent pieces. I'll post pictures as soon as I can. We went to a "nice" tile store w/ the nicely dressed pushy salespeople and the expensive overhead building, and found a tile we liked. It was about the price of our budget but left us w/ no more money for the border or accent pieces. We happened to stop into an old tile and floor store in town that was not upkept or "flashy". The guy saw the brand name on the sample board and called his people and got us the exact same tile for 1/2 the price as the expensive place!! We then had enough money to purchase the extras (even more of them than we originally planned). My lesson learned, the "nice" places have to pay for the overhead to keep their store top notch. Sometimes it's worth checking out the rundown place!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 12:26PM
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Don't say "rundown" places - say "old school" or "Mom and Pop," but I know exactly what you mean!

Your backsplash sounds great, can't wait to see the photos.

Ilene - if the lady won't provide a sample, I'd buy a few bricks or a sheet, or however it comes, before committing to a whole order. A lot of places don't take back special orders. It turns out that a lot of backsplashs (and countertops) look different in your space than in the showroom. A prime example is a granite I liked a lot in the stone yard because of its subtle greens that looked unpleasantly olive-y and dingy in my kitchen. Yikes. If you like your bought samples, you can just buy more to complete the space. If you are surprised and discover you don't like them after all, you're only out a few dollars. If she won't sell you just a few, I'd keep on moving down the road. Somebody else must sell that product - which sounds really interesting by the way. Be sure to start a thread on this when you get that far. We always like to hear about materials we might not have run across before.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 12:45PM
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Oh my!! I wish I could have taken any of you to help me pick out my countertop and travertine backsplash which will be installed next week. I pretty much let the young lady who owned the tile and counter store select the backsplash to compliment the quartz. I never knew it would be so hard to pick it out myself!! I hope and pray my kitchen is as lovely as the photos on this thread. All are beautiful.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 10:30PM
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