How to Install Travertine Tile Backsplash

Installing a travertine tile backsplash can add natural beauty and elegance to your kitchen or bathroom. Travertine is a type of limestone formed by mineral hot springs, giving it a rustic, earthy look. While beautiful, travertine requires special care during installation to achieve the best results. Follow these steps to properly install a travertine tile backsplash.

Gather Supplies

Before starting, ensure you have all the necessary supplies:

  • Travertine tiles
  • Tile adhesive mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Bucket for mixing mortar
  • Tile sealer
  • Safety gear like gloves and goggles

Choose a tile adhesive made specifically for natural stone. A polymer-modified thinset provides a strong bond. Make sure the grout color complements the travertine. A sanded grout is best for wider grout lines.

Prepare the Surface

Proper surface prep is crucial for a long-lasting installation. Ensure the surface is clean and free of dirt, grease, and soap scum. Remove any old caulk or loose paint. Fill any holes or cracks with patching compound.

The backsplash area must be flat and level. Use a level tool to identify any high or low spots. Grind down high areas or use a patching compound for low spots. Allow the surface to fully dry before applying tile.

Priming helps the mortar adhere. Apply a tile primer to the surface using a paint roller or brush. Allow the primer to fully dry.

Plan Your Layout

Map out your tile layout ahead of time. Measure the backsplash area and mark the center point. Dry lay a few tiles to visualize placement.

Account for uneven edges on the perimeter. You may need to cut border tiles to fit. Allow space for grout lines and movement. Use spacers to maintain even grout line width.

For a pleasing layout, avoid aligning grout lines across the installation. Offset tiles so grout lines don’t match up. Cut tiles as needed to achieve this offset look.

Apply the Mortar

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix the mortar. Apply it to the wall using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle.

Only apply as much mortar as you can tile over in about 15 minutes. Applying it in sections prevents drying. Use the notched side to create a ridged bed for the tile to adhere to.

Set the Tiles

Place a few spacers on the wall aligned with your layout. Firmly press tiles into the mortar, using a slight twisting motion. Push them toward the spacers to maintain consistent grout line width.

Check tiles for level frequently using a spirit level. Adjust as needed while the mortar is still pliable. Use a rubber mallet to gently tap tiles into proper alignment.

Apply pressure to each tile for about 30 seconds to ensure good adhesion. Remove any mortar on the tile face with a damp cloth. Allow the mortar to cure for 24-48 hours before grouting.

Apply the Grout

Grout fills the joints between tiles, completing your installation. Follow the product instructions to mix the grout, ensuring a smooth, lump-free consistency. Apply it across the tiles using a rubber grout float.

Hold the float at a 45-degree angle and firmly pack the grout into the joints. Go slowly and maintain consistent pressure.

Let the grout firm up slightly, then smooth with light, circular motions. Avoid pulling grout from the joints. Wipe any haze off the tiles with a damp cloth.

Seal and Finish

Once the grout has fully cured, apply a penetrating sealer to protect the travertine tiles. Use a sealer made for natural stone. Apply it carefully according to the product directions.

Buff off any remaining haze once the sealer dries. Use caulk to seal around the edges if needed. Finally, admire your beautiful new travertine tile backsplash!

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of travertine is best for backsplash?

Fillled and honed travertine provides the most uniform look. Tumbled or chiseled finishes have more texture. Avoid heavily pitted tiles as they can collect grime.

Should I seal travertine before installation?

Yes, sealing before grouting prevents staining and makes cleaning easier. Use a water-based penetrating sealer suitable for natural stone tiles.

What maintenance does travertine tile require?

Seal travertine every 1-2 years. Use PH neutral cleaners to avoid etching. Re-seal if water doesn’t bead on the surface. Avoid abrasive scouring pads which can scratch.

Can you put travertine tile in a shower?

Yes, with proper sealing and waterproofing. Use a vapor barrier behind the tile and silicone caulk for the grout lines. Re-apply sealer yearly. Avoid acidic cleaners which degrade sealer.

How long does travertine tile installation take?

It typically takes 2-3 days between preparing the surface, setting tiles, grouting, and sealing. Larger projects or intricate designs take more time. Allow mortar and grout to cure fully between steps.

What color grout looks best with travertine?

Neutral colors like bone, almond, or ivory match well without clashing. White can appear too stark. Darker shades bring out the veining. Contrasting grout shows more. Pick the look you prefer.


Installing a travertine tile backsplash brings natural elegance to your space. While beautiful, travertine requires special care and preparation to install properly. With some planning and effort, you can achieve a stunning backsplash focal point. Follow these tips for working with travertine and enjoy your new backsplash for years to come.