Past and Present: The History of Terrazzo

Past and Present: The 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 Industry Uses for more in-depth details.