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CLEANING, SEALING, POLISHING & PROTECTING YOUR TRAVERTINE PATIO
Did the tile shop, installer, or guy in an orange apron tell you not to seal your travertine patio? Or worse use a topcoat sealer? That it doesn’t need any real maintenance, honing orpolishing? That it will last forever?
If they did, they are wrong...and you are now in the best place to get the right information. Think of your travertine patio pavers like teeth. Going to the dentist for regular cleanings will help prevent tooth decay, cavities, and worse…right? Skip the dentist for too long, and painful problems will come, it’s just a matter of time.
The same goes for your travertine (& all stone patios). Our safe and effective abrasive/sanding processes and proper use of penetrating sealers will go a long long way in protecting your travertine from erosion and early breakdown. Especially in our harsh and hot climate.
When your travertine is new and healthy (just like teeth…) is the optimal time to protect your investment for years of use, although it’s never too late! Arizonians love their outdoor living. Let us take the guesswork out of properly caring for your travertine patio—so you can sit back and live it up in your outdoor oasis.
READ ON TO LEARN ABOUT OUR PROCESS & THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT….
Travertine patios are becoming more and more popular. It is essential they be maintained properly to prevent the travertine, which is calcium carbonate, from breaking down into simple lime.
HERE COMES THE SCIENCE….READY?
Calcium carbonate chemical formula is CaCO3. Comprised of one calcium atom, one carbon atom and 3 oxygen atoms. When something, even water, breaks the bond between atoms, it releases the carbon and 2 oxygen atoms as carbon dioxide. Leaving calcium oxide, or simple lime behind.
This simple lime can be very corrosive when it gets wet (rain, pool water, sprinklers, fountains, dripper pots, etc) and is very destructive to the travertine, forming holes and breaking down into powder.
Simple lime can come from several sources. It is common to see it as efflorescence. Efflorescence is a chalky white powder that builds up after water has evaporate. The efflorescence in a travertine patio can come from sources such as grass contacting the patio, planter boxes, etc.
Every stone is unique in its chemical composition and the amount of lime already present before is installed. Some stones have almost zero lime and are less likely to breakdown especially if they are polished and sealed effectively.
But some stones have a high content of lime from the beginning and they will break down rapidly. These stones are what would be referred to as the “bad apple.”
They should be replaced whenever they are identified.
If these stones are able to stay in the patio they will break down and transfer lime to solid
stones around them and start the negative chemical reaction.
OUR PROCESS~FINE TUNED THROUGH EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE
With our system we can do one of two finishes which is an all abrasive process.
Option 1: Satin Finish
Option 2: Light Polish
Sometimes the term "honing" is used in this industry. This term is improperly used and we do not “hone", what we do is much better and safer. The grit level of abrasives we will use vary depending on the stone and its density. Abrasives are very important part of the process of protecting the patio and must be used properly.
SCIENCE NOTE~…If you imagine the surface of the stone under a microscope it looks like a lot of the little trees. The larger amount of this crystalline tree, the more water has the ability into get to them, break them down and cause the lime reaction to start. Also porosity can be increased by the surface area of the stone. When we safely remove the surface texture we are removing surface area. Less surface area means less porous, a very good thing.
Our second finish is polishing. We definitely recommend considering polishing. One important consideration is the stone will more slippery when shiny. All Travertine patios can be slippery when wet (regardless of shine level) depending on several factors. Generally there're not much more slip when polished. This is something each customer needs to address on their
specific patio and proximity to water.
Polishing is the best way to protect the stone. Main factors are : Quality of the travertine and who is using the patio around water. Small children and people who cannot risk a fall need to be considered. Polish may not be the best choice for their situation. We recommend doing a slip test with bare feet so the customer can see for themselves how their stones perform and make a choice.
We cannot and do not accept any liability once we have worked on the patio for slip level or any falls that may occur.
Our custom polishing system is the best way to protect the patio because we are able to reduce the porosity as much as possible. The smoother the travertine surface, the shinier it gets. The shinier it gets the less pores it has on the service for water to soak in and cause the breakdown and lime to occur.
SCIENCE NOTE~…The chemical benefit is also very important factor to consider we are actually able to rearrange the molecules in the surface of the stone to be more in line and to protect themselves. Calcium carbonate is a compound that has shape.
If you imagine a pile of spoons each one is the calcium carbonate molecule. In a pile their handles are exposed and you could reach in and break one.
During the polishing process we're able to change the structure to where it's not like a scattered pile of spoons but neat stack of spoons. Aligned in a stack they protect themselves. The density is increased because they're occupying less space when they are stacked together.
This is why a pearl has natural Chemical resistance. Pearls shine because the calcium carbonate molecules are packed together so tightly in the shape of the molecule protect each other. Our unique polishing compound we have developed has a natural resin in it that combines with the molecules to help them protect themselves.
SEALING: TRAVERTINE PATIO PAVERS & POOL DECKS
Sealers are very often a big scam ~there are two families of sealers:
Topcoat sealers: sit on top of the stone, form a film or coating on the surface, do not penetrate, create a temporary shine.
2. Penetrating/Impregnating sealers: Soak into the stone, helping to slow absorption by filling up microscopic pores. Invisible with no shine.
Topcoat or film forming sealers.
I am calling the industry out on this one for ever using it outside!
Topcoat sealer is a horrible choice. There are local Phoenix Valley companies out there guaranteeing the performance of their topcoat sealers. One to 5 years, some sealer jugs guarantee 20 years— this is impossible.
Any coating on the surface of the travertine cannot perform because water will get in it one way or another. When it does the water is trapped underneath the coating causing damage as a liquid. Then it evaporates inside of the stone causing hydrostatic pressure and spalling.
Secondly, these so called “shiny” topcoat sealers stay shiny for a few months in our Arizona sun before fading and turning a milky white or gray. Then the flaking and peeling begins. More often, the travertine patio now looks much worse than before it was coated. Coatings are difficult and expensive to remove. I hope you find our page here before committing to a topcoat sealer.
If a stone finisher suggests a topcoat sealer for your patio they should not be allowed to call themselves a stone finisher. Just the suggestion indicates they have very little knowledge of what works in this climate and even less knowledge of how to treat travertine patios properly with the use of safe abrasive techniques and penetrating sealers. Or they are simply dishonest. Shame on them— and don’t be fooled by a cheap price. This is a perfect instance of “you get what you pay for” or “save a penny, spend a dime”
PENETRATING SEALERS—THE RIGHT ONE TO USE
The other family of sealers are penetrating sealers they're completely different then topcoat film former sealers. They have penetrants in them designed to penetrate as deep as possible carrying water repellent. They help fill up micro pores to slow absorption. They are not water proof or etch proof.
Penetrating sealers are useful and can’t cause any harm to the travertine such as topcoat sealers. They do not provide any shine or alter the appearance of the stone in any way. Many people think our service is all about the sealing. While penetrating sealers should only be used for patios of any kind, they have limited capabilities.
Our safe abrasive/sanding steps do much more for the appearance and health of the travertine than a penetrating sealer alone could ever do. Used along with our important abrasive steps, penetrating sealers are useful for more porous types of travertine and do offer some added protection.
Travertine patios will often need cracks and holes filled. Some of these repairs are due to uneven foundation, improper installation or low quality stone. Very often, it is water exposure from pools, fountains, sprinklers that hurry along erosion causing holes and that chewed up appearance. We can do a lot to fill cracks and holes to help the travertine patio be stronger and limit excess water from getting in furthering the erosion.
For travertine pavers, these are fairly easy to remove and replace if needed, since they are not mortared down. Getting rid of those "bad apples' we refer to above. Proper repairs along with our process described above can restore a travertine patio to good shape for years of use.
Our travertine and fine stone service is family owned & run since 1987. We are the biggest stone finishing small family business in the Valley. Millions of square feet of stone restored and beautified.