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Is Travertine a Good Choice for Pool Deck?

Pool decks are often made from Concrete, Natural Stone, Wood or Wood Composites. Within the natural stone category, Travertine, Limestone, Sandstone, Slate, Bluestone, Granite and Marble are all strong contenders, each with its pros & cons. So, is travertine a good choice for a pool deck?

Travertine is a good choice for pool deck because compared to other natural stones, travertine

  • Is more affordable
  • Offers a wider range of earth tones & patterns
  • Is less slippery
  • Stays cooler in the sun

Travertine is extremely popular as a pool deck due to these 4 outstanding features.

Travertine Pool Deck

Travertine does have some cons but they can be fixed by regular maintenance activities and  sealing of the pool deck.

What Material Is Used For A Pool Deck?

Three categories of materials are commonly used for a pool deck.

  1. Concrete or Concrete Pavers: Concrete can be poured on site and given different types of finishes such as honed, brushed stamped etc. Alternatively, precast concrete pavers could also be used.
  2. Natural Stone Pavers: A wide variety of natural stone pavers can be used as pool decking. Some of the popular ones are limestone, travertine, slate, granite and marble.
  3. Wood or Wood Composites:  Real wood such as redwood, teak, cedar, etc. are often used. Wood composites that imitate the wood look are easier to maintain and more affordable.

The decision on the material that you will use for your pool deck is not an easy one. There are a ton of choices and properties to consider.  

Your pool builder can be a helpful guide, but their opinion may be biased. You need to have your own independent, unbiased source of information. 

This “Guide for Beginners” on travertine pool deck is based on facts, not opinions and is completely unbiased. I am not affiliated to any travertine paver manufacturer, dealer or contractor.

So let me start off with the very basics.

How Is Travertine Made?

Travertine, a natural stone, is mined from quarries. Geologists classify rocks into three types depending on how they were formed in the earth’s crust

  1. Sedimentary rocks such as limestone, sandstone and travertine
  2. Metamorphic rocks such as marble, slate and quartzite
  3. Igneous rocks such as granite and basalt

Sedimentary rocks are rich in calcite (calcium carbonate). The source of the calcite in travertine is volcanic activity. 

Minerals spewed out from volcanoes dissolved in rivers and springs. The minerals settled to the bottom and the water evaporated. The bottom layers compacted into rock under the weight of the new layers above it. It took millions of years for travertine to form.

Romans were the first to use travertine for building and paving. 

(The Colosseum in Rome was made from travertine! St. Peter’s Basilica and the Trevi Fountain are some other historic masterpieces. Closer home, Willis Tower, Chicago and Getty Center, Santa Monica are fine examples of use of travertine.)

Stone Tile Depot

What Colors Do Travertine Pavers Come In?

Limestone, another popular sedimentary rock, is available in natural earthy shades of white and gray. The shades are dictated by the colors of the shells which went on to form limestone. No doubt, beautiful in their own pristine way, limestone pavers can be limiting when it comes to pool decks.

Travertine sets you free. Travertine will get its color from the other earth minerals that are deposited on the river or spring bed. So travertine pavers be white, ivory, silver and gray on the sober end and golden yellow, rustic red and deep walnut on the flamboyant end of the color spectrum. 

You will be spoilt for color choice. Create a color scheme on your travertine pool deck to match your home exterior and the landscape around the pool.

How Thick Are Travertine Pavers?

Travertine, or for that matter any natural stone, is cut and finished as dimensional stone either as tiles or pavers. 

Tiles are used as wall cladding or indoor flooring. Bigger tiles tend to be thicker.

Travertine tiles are usually ⅜”, ½” or ⅝” thick. Travertine pavers for pool decking are 1 ¼” to 1 ½” thick. Travertine pavers for pool coping are 2” to 2 ¼” thick.

Travertine tiles and pavers come in various sizes and are usually rectangular or square. You can create your own pattern such as herringbone or basket weave, using just one or two sizes. 

It is also possible to buy them in assorted sizes to form a specific pattern. The French (aka Villa or Versailles) pattern is quite popular for pool decks.

How Do You Install Travertine Pavers?

Travertine pavers can be installed on grade to create the pool deck of your dreams. You can not go wrong, if you follow these steps.

STEP 1: Mark the Layout

Translate the deck layout that you have in your mind to the ground reality. Drive stakes at the corners and connect them with string to mark the layout. Use a measuring tape to measure each side.

It is best to put the layout on paper or in appropriate computer software, if you are tech savvy. This sets you up for the next step.

STEP 2: Material Requirement Estimation

Once the area of the deck is known, you know the number of pavers that you require. This of course assumes that you are using a simple rectangular or square pattern. 

For a more complicated but modular pattern, you should buy pre-arranged sets. A carton or pallet has a fixed area coverage, even though it contains pavers in different sizes.

Always buy 10% more than the exact calculation to accommodate losses due to cutting, breakage and wastage.

STEP 3: Dig the Soil

Dig out the soil in the marked area on the ground. You need to keep the following in mind when digging:

  • The depth of the hole should be equal to the sum total thickness of the gravel base (4” to 6”), sand layer (1”) and the paver (1 ¼” to 1 ½”).
  • The hole should have an incline away from the house and the pool. The incline should be 2% (1” for every 4’ length).
  • The hole should be around 8” larger on each side to have space for the deck containment or edge restraint
  • The ground should be well compacted after the hole has been dug.

STEP 4: Prepare the Base

Prepare the base by putting layers of coarse gravel, crushed stone or recycled concrete for providing the strength to the base. Use a mix of sizes and stones with dense angular edges. The bigger stones should form the bottom layer.  

The layers must be compacted at each stage for a strong and solid base. Build up around 4″ of this base. Then add another couple of inches of smaller gravel and compact it. This will help in drainage.

Cover the base with geothermal fabric.

STEP 5: Deck Containment

Make sure that you have deck containment or edge restraint all around the pool deck. Without this the pavers can move and get dislodged.

The deck containment can be made of precast concrete, metal or wood. Obviously, they must be properly secured to the ground so that they do not move.

STEP 6: Sand Layer

Before the pavers go on, a final layer of fine sand should be placed to cover the gravel. The sand layer should be around 1” thick. This will be the bed on which the pavers will rest.

Travertine Pool Deck Installation

STEP 7: Laying the Pavers

Lay the pavers in the design that you have in mind. Start from one edge or corner and move gradually. Use a spacer between the pavers to ensure the joints are uniform. 

In case of a rectangular or square grid, ensure that the joints of one row of pavers are half a paver away from the joints in the adjoining row.

Keep checking and adjusting the level of the pavers frequently to ensure you are laying the pavers correctly.

STEP 8: Filling the Joints

Once the entire deck has been laid out, it is time to fill up the joints between the pavers with sand. Use polymeric sand and not just any ordinary sand. 

The sealer that you later apply will bond better with polymeric sand. Polymeric sand eliminates risk of weed growth and ant infestation.

STEP 9: Sealing the Pool Deck

The final step and possibly the most important is applying an impregnating sealer. The sealer will increase the durability of the travertine pool deck and maintain its looks for a long time.

This guide will cover the sealing of a travertine pool deck more detail in another section that follows.

Is Outdoor Travertine Slippery?

The slipperiness of an outdoor surface, especially pool decks, depends primarily on the surface texture and the surface porosity.

If you were to cut a travertine paver vertically and examine the top edge under a magnifying glass, you will see that the edge is not a smooth straight line. Instead it will appear as the silhouette of a mountain range. 

This is known as the surface profile. The surface profile of a highly polished surface, such as a granite countertop will have a low profile. Travertine pavers can be polished too. However, travertine pavers for outdoor use are usually given a textured finish such as honed, brushed or tumbled.

A surface with a rough or textured profile, provides grip or traction. A polished smooth surface, on the other hand, will provide lower grip or traction and will be slippery.

A surface will also become slippery if there is a film of water, oil or slime on it. This phenomenon is known as “hydroplaning”. Ice skaters take advantage of this for gliding on a skating rink.

Travertine pavers used on a pool deck provide traction from their texture and substantially reduced “hydroplaning” effect due to porosity. Travertine pavers readily absorb the water from the soles of your feet.

Outdoor travertine paver is possibly the least slippery paver you can use on a pool deck.

Do Travertine Pool Decks Get Hot?

The “Specific Heat Capacity” of a material is defined as:

The specific heat capacity is defined as the quantity of heat (J) absorbed per unit mass (kg) of the material when its temperature increases 1 K (or 1 °C), and its units are J/(kg K) or J/(kg °C).


The specific heat capacity is intrinsic to the material. It depends on both the chemical composition and physical structure of the material.

A pool deck that uses a paver with higher specific heat capacity will get less hot as compared to the one that uses a paver with lower specific heat capacity.

Among natural stone pavers, the Specific Heat Capacity of Travertine is the highest. The infographic below gives a comparison for natural stone pavers.

Specific Heat Capacity of Pavers

Travertine is an excellent choice for a pool deck as it will get the least hot under the sun.

DID YOU KNOW? The reason the pool does not become too hot for swimming, even in summer, is because water has a very high specific heat capacity (4.18).

Does Outdoor Travertine Stain?

Travertine is slip resistant because it has inherent porosity and can be given a texture. Unfortunately, porosity and texture are double edged swords. Outdoor travertine can get stained and dirty quite easily.

Dirt, microbes, algae, moss, etc. can attach easily to the hills and valleys of the textured surface of a travertine paver. And it is not that easy to dislodge them either.

The pool deck is the place to chill and party. Sooner or later a glass of red wine will tip over or someone will drop a bowl of ketchup. Travertine, being porous, will soak all of it in. The stains can become permanent as they penetrate deep into the pores.

The solution to both problems is to seal & regularly reseal a travertine pool deck. Sealing will also enhance the beauty and  add to the durability of travertine.

Does Travertine Pool Deck Need to Be Sealed?

Amongst the natural stone pavers used for pool decking, travertine is possibly the most porous. Porosity is great as it makes your pool deck less slippery. Unfortunately, porosity also leads to following problems:

An unsealed travertine pool deck will

  1. Get dirty & stained easily
  2. Fade & lose color very fast
  3. Be worse for wear & tear
  4. Corrode & degrade early

Travertine pavers that are not sealed will not be able to retain their initial beauty for long. Much of the damage caused will be permanent and can not be reversed. 

Dirt & Stains

Travertine pavers used around pools are both textured & porous. But texture & porosity of travertine pavers is a double edged sword.

Texture traps more dirt & grime than a polished surface. Spills of red wine or BBQ sauce penetrate easily and deep into the porous travertine resulting in permanent stains.

Fading & Discoloration

If the travertine pavers are not sealed, the bright earth colors will fade rapidly under the harsh UV radiation of the sun. The travertine pool deck will look washed out and bleached. 

Scratching & Chipping

Travertine pavers are hard & tough but not as hard & tough as granite pavers. Movement of deck furniture and pool equipment could result in scratching & chipping.

Corrosion & Degradation

Travertine is mostly made of calcite. The chemical name of calcite is calcium carbonate. Even mild acids will react with calcium carbonate and break it down. 

Mild acids are present around the pool in abundance. Chlorine, used to sanitize pools, forms hypochlorous acid, which kills pathogens in the pool. Acid rain is also a source of dilute sulfuric or nitric acid.

Water, along with the mild acids, will penetrate deep into travertine. The deck will degrade and lose its strength.

It is very clear. Travertine pool decks must be sealed.

What Kind of Sealer Should I Use on Travertine?

There are three types of sealers that can be used on outdoor travertine pavers.

Enhancing Stone Sealers:

Enhancing Stone Sealers penetrate and bring out the natural vibrant colors locked within travertine. Enhancing sealers also protect travertine pavers from staining and acid discoloration.  

Recommended Product: Black Diamond Color Enhancer Sealer

Impregnating Stone Sealers:

Impregnating Stone Sealers penetrate into the pores of the travertine paver, solidify and block them. The natural texture & appearance remains unchanged. Water, stains or harmful chemicals can not enter the pores.

Recommended Product: Miracle Sealants 511QT6 511 Impregnator Sealer

Topical Stone Sealers:

Topical Stone Sealers penetrate a bit, but mostly form a glossy or egg-shell, protective film on the travertine surface.

Recommended Product: Foundation Armor AR350 Solvent Based Acrylic Wet Look Concrete Sealer

Always add a non-slip additive to the topical sealer.

Recommended Product: H&C SharkGrip.

Is Travertine Durable Outside?

Travertine is quite durable and compares well with other stones from the sedimentary rock group, such as limestone and sandstone. However, do keep in mind that the properties of natural stones can differ significantly depending on the source.

The porosity of travertine is both its strength and its weakness, when it comes to pool decks. Travertine is more likely to get permanent stains. Travertine pool decks can also get corroded by chemicals, especially acids in the pool or rainwater.

Sealing, and regularly resealing, a travertine pool deck is essential. This will extend the longevity and beauty of your pool deck.

Use an impregnating sealer after laying the pool deck. Reseal every one to three years. 

Sprinkle a few drops of water on the travertine surface. If the water beads up the sealer is still effective. If the water gets absorbed, it is time to reseal!

What Is the Best Way to Clean Outdoor Travertine?

To clean and maintain your travertine pool deck:

  • Sweep the deck with a broom or a soft bristled brush to remove dirt, dry leaves or other debris
  • Wet clean the floor with a mop or microfiber cloth dipped in soap water. Do not use a citric based cleaner as it is acidic and will damage travertine. You may use specially designed stone cleaners such as Black Diamond Stoneworks Limestone and Travertine Floor Cleaner.
  • Clean spills as soon as possible, before they get a chance to penetrate into travertine. To remove old stains use Miracle Sealants POULTPLUS3 Poultice Plus Cleaners.
  • Do not pressure wash travertine pavers. Use the garden hose or buckets of water. Keep it gentle.
  • Dry the surface with towels or a leaf blower.

Above all, ensure that the travertine surface is well sealed with a quality impregnating sealer.

How Expensive Is Travertine?

Compared to limestone, granite & marble, travertine pavers are not that expensive. Costs can vary depending on the quality & source of travertine, but expect to pay between $7 and $10 per square feet, just for the pavers.

For example, Tuscany Riviera French Pattern 160 Sft Tumbled Travertine Paver from TILESBAY will cost you around $7,650 for a 1,000 square feet deck.

Tuscany Riviera French Pattern 160 Sft Tumbled Paver

In comparison, the material cost of limestone pavers is likely to be between $10 to $15 per square feet. 

As an example, consider Pearl 160 Sft Tumbled French Pattern Limestone Pavers from TILESBAY. Just the material cost will be around $10,000 for a 1,000 square feet pool deck

Pearl 160 Sft Tumbled French Pattern Limestone Pavers

Thank you very much for reading the post. I do hope you found it informative and helpful.

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