What is terrazzo?
Poured on the job site, terrazzo can consist of marble, quartz, granite aggregate, mother-of-pearl and/or pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled glass, porcelain and mirror chips, which are mixed with cement or epoxy and polished to produce a smooth, uniformly textured surface for floors, walls, stairs, curbs, counter-tops, and ceilings.
Terrazzo is elegant and timeless, with endless design possibilities. Its long history over hundreds of years has proven its longevity, sustainability, and performance.
Today’s terrazzo is a low-maintenance, environmentally friendly material with optimum durability.
Terrazzo’s finish doesn’t support microbial growth, nor does it allow moisture to accumulate, helping to maintain a mold-free environment with improved indoor air quality.
Is terrazzo “green”?
Terrazzo was originally created in Italy over five hundred years ago by Venetian workers searching for a way to use discarded marble remnants – making it one of the world’s first “green” flooring systems!
Terrazzo has long been valued for its life cycle characteristics and can also contribute to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) credits for new construction.
Is terrazzo sustainable?
In keeping with its original premise of recycle/reuse, today’s terrazzo installations combine exceptional beauty, extreme design flexibility, durability to last the life of the building, and incredible ease of maintenance with the best practices of sustainable building.
Isn't terrazzo an antiquated flooring system that no one uses anymore?
While terrazzo’s history dates back thousands of years, its durability, low maintenance and unparalleled design capacity for custom installations make terrazzo the perfect flooring for modern architecture and creative expression.
Over the past several decades, the use of epoxy terrazzo has streamlined the installation process while making terrazzo flooring a more accessible, more affordable, and flexible product for custom designs.
Doesn't terrazzo take too much time to install?
Epoxy terrazzo is typically installed today, a growing trend over the past twenty years or more. Epoxy floors are only 3/8 inch thick and are much faster to install than the thicker, traditional sand cushion terrazzo. An epoxy floor will typically cure overnight, accelerating the installation schedule.
Isn’t terrazzo expensive?
A simple pattern and mix are surprisingly competitive against other finishes.
Even with elaborate designs, when maintenance and replacement costs are considered, terrazzo has the lowest total cost per year.
While other finishes in historic buildings have been replaced several times over, the original terrazzo floors remain.
Doesn’t terrazzo require special products to clean and is hard to maintain?
Actually, the opposite is true. Terrazzo only requires regular damp mopping with clean water and occasional re-sealing. Wax or polishes are not only unnecessary, but harmful, tending to create buildup and dull the finish on terrazzo. The maintenance products are readily available at local box hardware stores. There are special sealers available for terrazzo to enhance or provide additional protection if required.
For a complete maintenance guide, click here.
Besides the aesthetic appeal of terrazzo, what are some of the other benefits of terrazzo?
Terrazzo is poured in place, then ground hard and smooth. Its seamless finish benefits a wide variety of buildings.
For airports, wheeled suitcases glide effortlessly and silently over terrazzo.
For hospitals, no grout joints mean eliminating a potential location for bacteria and microbial growth zones.
Terrazzo is also an environmentally friendly finish that’s easy to maintain and extremely durable and resistant to damage.
I heard that the new epoxy terrazzo can have VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) issues.
This is not true. Epoxy used for terrazzo are very low VOC as they are a high solid blend. This allows for a wet and dry film thickness being the same. Epoxy terrazzo is considered friendly to the environment and building occupants.
I heard terrazzo is difficult and only experts can install terrazzo.
This is more true than false. We recommend working with only terrazzo contractors who are NTMA members. The level of skill required to properly install terrazzo also explains why the NTMA has extensive education and training programs. Your NTMA contractors know that training and skill enhancement is the key to quality terrazzo installations.
If I decide to specify terrazzo, I am a bit lost and have no idea which system to select, products to specify or how to even get started.
This is where the NTMA can help. We provide guidance with a staff of experts in terrazzo. The NTMA is here for you, as we have been since 1923. Call us at 800-323-9736 or email email@example.com for expert guidance on your project. Our Technical Advisor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Drying time of the slab makes terrazzo impractical.
Concrete slabs cure to become hard. While they can take time to dry in many regions, a moisture mitigation system can keep the project on schedule and alleviate the issue of a wet slab.
I can only do squares and rectangles with terrazzo.
Even 100-year-old terrazzo floors demonstrate design capacity far beyond squares and rectangles, and today’s technology allows designers the freedom to create virtually any shape. Check the NTMA honor awards for examples of custom floor designs.
Terrazzo is only for new construction.
To the contrary, terrazzo is perfect for retro-fits. Terrazzo can be poured over concrete slabs and other surfaces, old or new, including old terrazzo. Check with the NTMA for guidance.
After many years terrazzo will look bad and nothing can be done.
Terrazzo is ground smooth and then polished. Even decades later, minor damage can be repaired and floors can be re-polished to return them to their original luster. Evidence of terrazzo’s lasting beauty is seen in many buildings around the country. https://ntma.com/the-reflooring-of-new-orleans-how-terrazzo-weathered-hurricane-katrina/
My building will not accommodate the three inches needed for sand cushion terrazzo.
Epoxy terrazzo systems can be poured as thin as ⅜ of an inch.
Epoxy terrazzo systems allow thinner terrazzo installations, with the same durability and strength of cement systems.
What can I do to aid in the suppression of reflective cracking?
NTMA contractors are trained in installing crack suppression membranes under the terrazzo. These membranes can aid dramatically in the suppression of reflective cracking.
Can I use glass and other exotic aggregates?
Yes, Mother of Pearl has been used for centuries. Today we use pre and post recycled glass, porcelain, mirrored and windshield chips. Vibrant colored synthetic chips are also available.
Can terrazzo be used on a surface that is not flat?
The substrate must be flat to keep an even thickness of terrazzo. However, with floors that are out of tolerance, the terrazzo contractor can install materials that will to bring the slab into tolerance. Substrates that are sloped, such as ramps, are not a problem.
Can I use terrazzo for treads, risers, base and vertical surfaces?
Yes, they can be poured in place or pre-cast at a shop and installed on-site in sections.
Can I use epoxy terrazzo outside?
No, epoxy is somewhat UV sensitive and has a thermal coefficient of expansion that makes it generally not suitable for exteriors. However, cement-based rustic terrazzo systems are perfect for outdoor use.
How do I increase the slip resistance of terrazzo?
The surface of the natural terrazzo is not slippery. The sealers and coatings selected will dictate the slip resistance. Refer to each manufacturer. Only products designed for terrazzo should be used on terrazzo.