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Thread: Travertine in cold climates....again

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    Nginerd's Avatar
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    Travertine in cold climates....again

    I know I know, this topic has been discussed on the forum. Maybe I just haven't found the right thread yet, but so far as I can tell this has never deffinitively been answered. Same is true for an internet search; some say you can, more say you can't, and few if not any of the naysayers have actually tried it. So, the question is can we or can we not install travertine (or similar natural stone) in freezing climates and expect good outcomes? I propose a test.

    The problem here is time. Obviously nobody wants to wait for a decade or two of natural weather exposure to get the results. So, we have to perform some kind of accelerated life cycle testing. I'm open for suggestions here but I'd like to throw out my suggestion and get some opinions.

    Obtain a few samples of pavers (premium select grade)
    Submerge pavers in water for some amount of time (2-24hrs?, TBD)
    Place pavers in freezer overnight
    Place pavers outside in direct sunlight all day
    Rince, repeat...for some amount of time (60-90 days?, TBD)
    Observe results

    This assumes summer time, if winter time then reverse. Keep pavers outside overnight and bring indoors to thaw.

    So the questions are, how many freeze/thaw cycles occur on average in a year. Of course we're talking about northern US snow belt. How do we know how many years of exposure we are simulating. And before you say, hey you know there's more to weathering effects than freezing and thawing, I know! There's wind and water erosion, UV effects, acid rain...etc. But we have to start somewhere, and the biggest point of contention are the freezing and thawing effects on porous stones.

    Ok, what do you think?

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    I love me some testing, but that sounds like a pain I thought most up north were worried about frost heave more that freeze thaw cycles? I think frost heave would be the most important part for lasting (keeping level over time)
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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    Well you know what they say, if the test is easy then you're doing it wrong...well maybe I just made that up. Anyway, from what I've gathered, the "experts" claim that because travertine is so porous, it will absorb moisture and when frozen, the expanding ice crystals break down the stone over time, eventually into "dust". Seems a little dramatic, but I've actually read someone use that language somewhere. And hey, that all sounds very reasonable. But I've read people have installed travertine in freezing climates (Ohio) without any problems SO FAR. Problem is those people have only had it a couple years, so not a very strong case.

    As far as heaving goes, my understanding is that the installation makes all the difference. In that respect, I don't think travertine is any different than any other paver, and there is certainly plenty of people that install pavers in freezing climates with very good results.

    BTW, for anyone else that might be interested, here are some links that I've found of people who either support travertine in cold climates, or have actually been brave enough to try (hope I'm not breaking any forum rules!)

    Travertine pool deck in michigan
    How to install travertine pavers | Travertine pavers in Cold Climate | Two Brothers Brick Paving
    Travertine Pavers - Ground Trades Xchange - a landscaping forum
    Urgent!Travertine coping cracking/coming apart
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    IG Vinyl, 18 x 36 25k gal, spill over spa...rest is TBD

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    Here is my understanding after discussing this very question with local landscape architects, masons and supply houses:

    It can be done, it has been done many times, nobody recommends doing it.

    Those who have successfully installed travertine in freeze thaw environments fill all the holes and seal all 6 surfaces before installing. Then the weather surface has to be resealed every 2-3 years. If water gets into the natural voids the stones will crack. There is no appreciable difference in success when installed using mortar over concrete or installed using paver method.

    Landscape architects have suggested using a honed granite that approximates the appearance of travertine. Granite does not have voids and does not absorb (much) water therefore freeze thaw problems are minimal. Granite is hotter than travertine.

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    Thanks for sharing vermaraj! Filling and sealing the entire stone sounds very time consuming! I think if that was truly required I would probably consider other options; no way am I'm sealing every single stone individually for 1800 sqft! I'm not giving up hope yet though. I'm corresponding with a guy in Michigan that installed travertine and has had it for 4 seasons with no problems so far and I think all he did was seal the exposed surface. I'm going to keep digging.
    Coming Spring 2017
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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    It sounds like a lot of work, but really it just requires the mason to dip each stone in a bucket of sealer a day before setting the stones. I am still on the fence about using travertine. Please let us know if you get additional information from your Michigan contact.

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    If your going to run a test, the problem (as explained by travertine suppliers) with Travertine arises from melting snow or freezing rain. In each case the stones are slightly above freezing, get saturated and then the temperature rapidly falls. Overnight the water in the stone (especially in the voids) expands, cracking the stone and often lifting layers off the top.

    On a related note travertine is used extensively in Northern Italy. When visiting Lake Como I noticed travertine used for pool decks and even sidewalks. Lake Como is almost tropical, but they get freak storms with plenty of rain, snow and below freezing temperatures.

    Great place to visit for research.

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    I like the way you think!

    Regarding the test, your comment seems to be in line with what I've proposed. I'm still unsure of how many cycles would simulate a year. I've also been wondering if the moisture that people are concerned with is wicked up through the stone from the paver base, or if the concern lies mostly with water deposited from the top side. If it's the later, then why not just tarp the deck for the winter to keep the majority of water off?
    Coming Spring 2017
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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    even if you tarp for the winter the stones will get wet through condensation or leaking. Because the stones are porous water soak deep into the stone. Unlike granite where the water doesn't penetrate far beyond the surface.

    Ground moisture is likely a problem as well which is why they are sealing all edges.

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    Condensation is a good point, tarping may actually exacerbate the issue.
    Coming Spring 2017
    IG Vinyl, 18 x 36 25k gal, spill over spa...rest is TBD

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    Ok, so my contact in Michigan gave me the following details regarding his travertine installation:

    the stone I used is 3/8 and smaller almost looks like chipped stone. Washed stone, absolutely no fines. The pavers sit right on the stone. No sand anywhere, nothing between the pavers. I simply cut the subgrade to virgin ground, sloped the subgrade to one corner of the patio. Then simply installed the stone and set the pavers directly on the stone. You don't want anything that's going to hold water in your installation.
    He referred to the stone he used as "Ohio 9's" or 26A Limestone. I know next to nothing about stone sizing standards and jargon so I would love someone to translate that for me. I asked if he was referring to the 21AA limestone in this link:

    Sands and Gravel Catalog

    He didn't directly confirm or deny, but I get the impression that it's different. He also provided this picture of his installation in progress (not sure why this is upside down, it's not like that on my end but it's driving me NUTS!). You can view pictures of his finished installation here:

    Travertine pool deck in michigan



    image.jpg
    Coming Spring 2017
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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    Any comments regarding the validity of his method? Personally I'm a little uncomfortable with no sand to help level everything. I've also read some installers only use 1/2" of sand which, when compacted with the pavers, results in pavers on stone because most of the sand migrates into the joints.

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    I did hear of this method before before I moved to Florida from Massachusetts. I was going to do a small patio and the contractor I talked to explained a process where sand is not used to avoid heaving. He said no matter what travertine is going to break over time because of the pores getting frost. He said to expect a handful of breaks every winter. I was given the option to have poured concrete slab then stone then pavers or just double stone and pavers. With the concrete slab he would have installed a crossed French drain open top to the rock for quick drainage. I bailed on the project to move to Florida. I had travertine put in here but that was the standard sand process.

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    Re: Travertine in cold climates....again

    There is no real magic here...just some common sense about the freeze thaw cycle....

    If things get moisture trapped inside them, and that moisture freezes, they will expand or burst. That covers about every material on the planet.

    So does Travertine marble absorb moisture? Yeah, most all of it does. Will it expand? No! Will it burst? Absolutely!....it has no choice.

    An installation of pavers with gravel underneath allows most all moisture to drain off before freezing but there will always be some moisture that will find it's way down into the "nooks and crannies" of the tile.....freezing, expanding and breaking or chipping the tile.

    Some travertine will do better than others and sealing will certainly retard moisture from entering but the bottom line is if you lay a porous floor in a hard freeze climate, the above will happen to you. Maybe more, maybe less, but it will happen.
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