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Basic Principles of Sealing Travertine & Limestone Tiles

Are you sure you know your surface?

Are you sure that your surface is Limestone or Travertine? Although this may sound obvious ensuring that you fully understand the type of surface you are dealing with before sealing is vital. Limestone and Travertine are delicate natural stone materials that have always been a popular method of decoration in kitchens and bathrooms. When used to cover wall and floors they need careful preparation, sealing and ongoing maintenance. Natural stone such as Limestone and Travertine is by nature unsealed. As such all forms of natural stone wall and floor tiles are absorbent to some degree. Just pour a teaspoon of water on to an unsealed tile and see how quickly the water absorbs. The time it takes can vary from between minutes to hours. This is because natural stone, including Limestone and Travertine tiles have small pin-holes and open fissures as part of its natural texture. This texture will tend to accumulate grit as part of the natural wearing process and unless protected the floor will stain.

The Benefits of Sealing

Sealing Protects Natural Stone Surfaces From Spillage & Staining

Natural stone wall and floor surfaces such as Limestone and Travertine tiles and paving will benefit from being sealed in a number of ways:

  1. Stain prevention.
  2. Surface enhancement.
  3. Surface protection.

Essentially there are two types of sealing product available on the market suitable for natural stone such as Limestone and Travertine.

Impregnating Sealers

Impregnating sealers are suspended in a liquid carrier which is either spirit or water based. This ensures that the sealer is absorbed into the tile just below the surface, sealing the small pin holes and open fissures. Once absorbed the carrier evaporates, leaving the sealer behind. General characteristics of impregnating sealers are that they give a natural matt or colour enhanced finish and are micro porous. Meaning they are breathable, moisture repellent and resistant to staining. Generally impregnating sealers are effective for interior and exterior use, including use in wet areas such as swimming pools and wet rooms.

Surface Sealers

Surface sealers in general tend to be water based and will give an alternative type of protection to the surface of natural stone such as Limestone and Travertine. Depending upon the circumstances they can be used on their own or with an impregnating sealer. It is practical to seal both Travertine and Limestone with either an impregnating or surface sealer, or sometimes both. There are a number of factors that will guide your choice. These are:

  1. The type of finished look you want.
  2. The situation the tiles are used in.
  3. The level and type of traffic the surface will carry.
  4. Internal or external use.

Choosing your finish

There are three basic types of finish:

  1. Invisible
  2. Colour Enhanced
  3. Gloss/Satin

Colour Enhancing is achieved using impregnating sealers and will preserve or enhance the natural appearance of the surface. If a polished or shiny surface finish is desired then a gloss or satin surface sealer should be used.

Consider where your Limestone or Travertine is being used?
Where your stone tiles are used is a factor that can affect your choice of sealer. Impregnating sealers can be used for internal and external use and are ideal for use in wet rooms and swimming pool surrounds. Surface sealers can offer extra protection and are helpful in high traffic areas.

Getting the application right

Before applying the impregnating sealer it is vital to make sure that the stone is completely dry. The number of coats required will depend upon the porosity of the stone, a second or third coat of sealer can be needed. Once sealed the tile will resist all staining and provided the stain is wiped away within a reasonable length of time, there will be no evidence of any mark on the surface of the stone.

A Common Misunderstanding

It is important to remember however that by its nature an impregnating sealer will not protect the surface of a Limestone tile from acid, which can etch the surface. A red wine spillage would be a good example. While an impregnating sealer will give immediate contact protection, if the spill is left for a period of time the acid in the wine will etch into the surface of the Limestone or Travertine. With this in mind, sometimes a secondary surface seal is required to protect the surface of the tile; however this will alter the appearance of the stone by providing a gloss or satin finish.

Maintenance Is Also Important

Once sealed a neutral cleaner should always be used with stone surfaces such as Limestone and Travertine. The wrong cleaner will damage the seal and return the stone to its porous state. Visit or website for more information on everyday maintenance of surfaces. Finally, no sealer lasts forever, however, provided the floor has been correctly sealed and is correctly maintained, it should stay protected for many years.