Terrazzo is a composite material that is poured in place or precast, which is then used for floor and wall treatments. It consists of chips of marble, glass, quartz or granite that is poured in tinted cement or polymeric (or a combination of both) then ground smooth and polished to a silky sheen. This process is believed to have been an accidental discovery in the 15th century as mosaics and artisans in northern Italy swept away wasted marble chips out onto their terraces and then smoothed the surface by simply walking over them. When they learned to press the chips into a more permanent base and then grind and polish them with heavy stones, terrazzo was caught on. George Washington used it in Mount Vernon and Michelangelo used it in St. Peter’s Basilica. In the 1950’s and 60’s, it covered floors all across the Southwest and Southwest. When installation cost rose, terrazzo became a fairly pricey option.
Praised for its versatility and durability it is now used in flooring everywhere from museums to corporate buildings, bedrooms to bathrooms. There are many advantages of using terrazzo floors:
- Has an average lifespan of 75 years
- Easy to clean – sweep and mop
- Available in an assortment of colors and designs
- Adds aesthetic appeal and interest to your homes interior
- Can be used in a variety of areas in your home, no matter how much traffic it has
- Very durable
- Retains heat well
- Resistant to mold, water, stains and microbes
- Can be used in outdoor environments
There are however, quite a few disadvantages that can’t be overlooked when it comes to choosing this flooring for your space.
- While the floors are easy to clean, the overall maintenance requirements can seem daunting to many (you should avoid using all-purpose sealers or general surface waxes to ensure that your floors don’t stay slipper for longer than normal after a polish)
- Since there is no underfloor heat radiant, the floor can feel cold and hard during the winter months
- They are more expensive than other flooring options – between $15-30 per square foot on average
- When not properly installed, terrazzo floor tiles can be prone to cracking. These cracks can be difficult to fix, so a professional is absolutely recommended
- Terrazzo floors that have been recently installed or polished tend to be very slippery. If you have young children or elderly adults in the home, you may want to consider other options for high traffic areas or putting down rugs or runners until the slippery surface subsides.