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Travertine Honing

My name is Tom Baker and I’m the founder of Bakers Travertine Power Clean. I created this informational page to help homeowners and builders with terminology commonly used for travertine flooring. I am drawing from millions of square feet of travertine stone floor finishing experience and years of research and testing.

The first thing I would like to address is the use of the word honed in reference to new travertine tile. The term is used to describe the shine level but it doesn't mean the same thing to everyone who uses it. That has created some confusion.

Travertine floor tile is usually sold as:

  • honed and filled
  • honed and unfilled
  • tumbled
  • tumbled, brushed and polished

Honed and filled travertine tile has the natural holes on the surface of the tile filled with a material that is very dense and has the ability to shine. Honed refers to an abrasive process used during the milling of the tile. It is not clear why the term honed is used when referring to new travertine or limestone. Dictionaries typically assign two definitions to the term:

  • Main Entry: 2hone
  • Function: transitive verb
  • Inflected Form(s): honed; hon - ing
  • Date: 1798

1 : to sharpen or smooth with a whetstone
2 : to make more acute, intense, or effective : whet hone her comic timing —

New stone is very non-uniform, dull, chalky and dusty looking. A honed stone does not look very sharp or smooth in appearance as the term would suggest. It tends more to a dirty look, which most homeowners consider unattractive rather than practical.

Here's a typical comment/question from a homeowner ; I’ve just recently purchased a honed travertine floor. The travertine tiles are installed very nicely but the surface of the stones is very rough, very patchy and not at all shiny. It's kind of chalky almost. When I asked the contractor about this, I was told the floor needed to be honed and sealed.

What I don’t understand: if I just bought a new honed floor why would I need to have someone hone it to make it look right? When I asked about a sealer changing the appearance of the travertine they said a penetrating sealer was the correct way to seal the stone, because any change in the look of the stone is a sign of an improper coating sealer. What’s the truth?

Answer. So, if honing is a finishing process, why is unfinished stone sold as honed?At Bakers Travertine Power Clean , we prefer to stay away from the term honed to avoid confusion. We prefer to call new travertine unfinished. We’ve developed and defined finishing travertine tile by using custom finishes, polished to different levels of shine to suit customer preferrences. The three levels of shine are:

  • satin
  • medium shine
  • glossy

A satin finish results when we utilize abrasive processes to smooth the surface of the stone. The goal is to reduce the surface area as much as possible without opening up any subsurface holes. This gives the stone a clean uniform look and enables a penetrating sealer to perform better. Satin is a low shine finish — not a polish.

Our medium polish uses abrasives as well as proprietary chemical blends to continue the smoothing of the surface. The process actually reduces porosity by reducing surface area and chemically closing some of the microscopic holes. A medium finish involves some polishing, but not as much as a glossy finish.

Glossy finish results when we continue to polish the floor beyond the medium finish.

What is honed and unfilled travertine tile?

Honed and unfilled travertine is sold with the natural holes exposed. The holes are filled with grout during installation.

What is tumbled travertine tile?

Tumbled travertine tile is placed in a machine that agitates it. The process weathers the stone and creates a very textured and extremely porous surface. This gives the stone an aged, old-world look.

Tumbled travertine is almost always sold unfilled. It is common to have a large quantity of natural holes exposed by the tumbling process.

Brushed and tumbled travertine is tumbled travertine that is finished with a chemical and abrasive process that produces a low polish surface. Brushed and tumble travertine is also almost always sold unfilled. It is a finished stone meaning that a finishing process was applied to it but the stone still needs to be filled with grout and sealed.