Terrazzo Makes a Comeback for Floors and More

Whether you’ve got a new home or are doing a renovation, choosing the flooring can be the major decision on which all other fixture and fitting decisions are built. Once you get the floors right, you can pick your cabinetry, tiling and wall color with confidence. Although terrazzo went out of favor for a few decades, it’s back for flooring, countertops, sinks and even furniture.

Terrazzo’s origins.

The word “terrazzo” comes from the Italian word for “terrace.” It’s a mosaic material that was born out of frugality; 15th-century Venetian marble workers created it because they were unable to afford marble for their own terraces. Settling odd-size discarded marble pieces from paying jobs in clay, they created attractive patios or terraces for themselves.

At first the surface was rough and a little hard underfoot. But the artisans soon realized that if they rubbed the marble pieces with a stone they could get a smoother, more inviting surface to walk on. These days glass, granite and quartz are used as well as marble to create different effects.

Modern terrazzo. Until the 1970s, terrazzo installation involved onsite pouring of a cement base. Once that was dry, a layer of sandy cement was added, then a layer of the colored chip mixture was applied to the wet cement. A weighted roller was then run over the surface.

Today installers use thinset terrazzo, a mix of epoxy resin and colored chips. Poured onto the slab in a layer that’s 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch thick, it is quicker to install. Thinset terrazzo also offers a wider range of color choices, is lighter in weight, has a impervious finish and cracks less. The only downside to the epoxy resin base is that it can be used only for interiors, as it will peel and lose its color outside.

Once the surface is dry, a grinder is used. Any holes are filled and troweled for a smooth finish. Then the surface is cleaned, polished and sealed. This gives the terrazzo its lovely, shiny finish.

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