Sealing Travertine 2013:
Two days ago I received a telephone call from a tile contractor, named "Smokie", asking me to come out and take a look at a travertine tile shower. Smokie and I have worked together before and he is a true craftsman when it comes to setting tile & grout. Over the phone Smokie told me that the travertine shower, which was quite large, located in the master bedroom shower, was in pretty bad shape, and asked if I would take a look at it and give him my expert opinion.
This was an older home, over 5,000 square feet, in Wilton, California that had gone into foreclosure. It was a beautiful home, but it needed a lot of work. When I arrived I met Smokie upstairs along with the homeowner. Just as Smokie had stated the shower was in rough shape. This was a large shower with multiple shower heads and a bench, it could easily fit three people. The previous homeowner had attempted to seal the travertine themselves and had done a terrible job. They sealed both the interior shower walls and the outer walls. The sealer that they had chosen did not soak in properly and you could see bubbles and run marks all over (Not all sealers are the same). The travertine, which has a matte finish, was sealed with a "wet look" sealer which made it worse. After a quick inspection I began running some tests on the tile to determine what if anything could be done to save the shower and save the homeowner money.
After about (30) minutes of stripping & polishing I was able to get (1) tile to an almost like new condition. I brought over the homeowner and Smokie and they were impressed with my results. One of the things I pointed out to them was that the grout inside the shower had a very large crack that needed to be repaired. The homeowner asked Smokie to peel back the tile and we found a generous amount of mold growing behind the tile. Because of the mold the shower would have to be replaced. What I failed to mention was during my (30) minutes of stripping and polishing I gave the shower a more thorough inspection.
When it comes to sealing natural stone it is best to seal it in the garage BEFORE you install it. You should seal it about (3) days before you begin the project. Had the previous homeowner done this they could have tested a tile to make sure that the sealer was going to work before doing it to the entire shower. It is much easier trying to fix one tile than one shower. In addition the sealer acts as a barrier preventing 'grout haze' build up. The tile installer can work at a more efficient pace knowing that the clean up will go faster and easier. Let this be a lesson to us all - If you aren't sure please ask an expert.
Until Next Time,