Dispelling Terrazzo Myths

Terrazzo mythsDispelling Terrazzo Mythsmyths

As architects and designers move towards more sustainable, green design, terrazzo myths are increasingly being dispelled. We are here to highlight a few of the rumors and misconceptions, and show you the truth behind terrazzo.

Terrazzo is old-fashioned.
Though terrazzo dates back to the 15th century, it is far from old-fashioned. Pants are older than that and we don’t think they are outdated do we? Think of terrazzo as the jeans of flooring. It never goes out of style. Just take a look at what these two designers exhibited in Milan this year showcasing terrazzo versatility in some strikingly modern styles.

Using green and sustainable products costs more.
Sustainable products like terrazzo actually dramatically reduce long-term costs. Terrazzo won’t fray, snag or wear like other types of floors. It lasts for decades with minimal upkeep, and looks just like it did the day it was installed.

Natural polished terrazzo floors will stain without a protective coating.
The natural polishing process closes the pores of the terrazzo, reducing the chance of spilled liquids being absorbed. So don’t fret! If you spill coffee or red wine on terrazzo, it can easily be wiped away, leaving absolutely no stains or marks behind.

Terrazzo is plain.
This myth is one of the most commonly believed, and while many institutions have chosen to keep a monochrome floor, designers and architects have recently been embracing terrazzo for it’s remarkable flexibility. Because of color possibilities and unlimited design capabilities, terrazzo floors can be as bright, complex, bold, and beautiful as you would like. They can include anything from marble pieces to sea shells to glass. The possibilities are only limited by your own design imagination.

Terrazzo is only for schools and hospitals.
While terrazzo is a popular floor for education and healthcare, it isn’t limited to just those two types of facilities. Thinking about putting terrazzo in your airport? Go ahead! Have a unique design for your museum flooring? Terrazzo will let you accomplish that. Want terrazzo in your restaurant to keep stains and maintenance to a minimum? Install it. Hop on over to our case studies  to have a look at some of the ways terrazzo is being used today.

Past and Present: The History of Terrazzo

History of Terrazzo

Terrazzo has quite the interesting history, with roots all over the globe. We’re going to take a quick dip into the history books and look at how terrazzo made its way to America.

To look at the beginnings of terrazzo we have to go more back more than 500 years, to Italy. While marble was the material of choice at the time, Venetian construction workers began mixing scraps from upscale jobs with clay to create inexpensive flooring for their own homes and patios. Though it may sound crazy, they discovered that to bring out the shine of the marble scraps they could seal the flooring with goat’s milk. Now, installation techniques and materials have changed dramatically–don’t worry, we won’t be pouring goat’s milk for your next floor – and we have advanced to a variety of sealants from the popular epoxy to the more rustic monolithic terrazzo.

While credit is given to the Italians, as it is widely recognized that terrazzo was invented by the Venetians, some archaeologists have found evidence of terrazzo-like floors in ruins in Turkey that date back 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. We like to think that makes terrazzo the original sustainable flooring.

So, how did we go from goat’s milk in Italy, to terrazzo in the north central states? Terrazzo first came to America in the late 18th century. Many monuments and historic American buildings feature terrazzo flooring–including George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon. It soon became a widely used product due to the amount of marble in America and the continuous advancements in terrazzo installation techniques that made it faster and more durable than many other flooring choices.

Production became much easier in the late 1920s with the invention of electric grinders and other power tools. The 1960s and 1970s brought thin-set, or epoxy, terrazzo to the scene. This modern terrazzo provided more variety in color, a different thickness, and a faster install. Since then, most indoor installs have been epoxy terrazzo.

Today, terrazzo can consist of durable materials such as marble, quartz, granite, recycled glass, porcelain, concrete, and metal aggregates. These materials are mixed with cement or epoxy and polished to produce a sustainable, smooth, and uniformly textured surface that will last for years to come. If you would like to know more about the ever-changing new ways we’re using terrazzo, you can head over to our Case Studies  for more in-depth details.