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Terrazzo is perhaps the most versatile material available in architecture (interior). This is a self-leveling floor consisting of various grains of natural stone, which will fit into almost any interior, thanks to its modern and, at the same time, archaic-conservative design.
What is Terrazzo?
Terrazzo flooring, also known as “Granito,” is a two-millimeter-thick durable self-leveling floor containing grains of various types of natural stone. Terrazzo suits almost any interior style thanks to its unparalleled possibilities of colors, materials, and shapes. This flooring has many properties that have made it very popular in the interior. For example, flooring is famous for its durability, practicality, and style.
On the other hand, it is prone to shrinkage, notches, and cracks. In addition, sometimes, the high cost is why many refuse this flooring. However, terrazzo is still worth it, especially in an age where sustainability is once again a top priority. Terrazzo floors are environmentally friendly due to both their long service life and sustainable properties. But the main thing is that terrazzo consists only of natural waste, which is recyclable.
Granito or Terrazzo?
The term “Granito” is actually partly misleading, as it refers to the property of a terrazzo floor. “Granito” means that the floor is covered with granite, but this is not always the case. After all, terrazzo is the collective name for floors that can contain both granite and other grains of natural stone. Therefore, terrazzo does not always have granite. Consequently, it can just as easily be made with just pieces of marble or other bonding materials such as glass shards, pieces of silver, or even gold.
Terrazzo is still made using the same method as before. First, the customer and contractor discuss the design. After the optimal solution is found, concrete is poured locally at the intended location.
Small pieces of natural stone, glass, or other elements are pressed together in concrete, epoxy, or clay to make terrazzo. After this intensive and unique process, the material is dried and grinded. In addition, it is possible to mix the product with a pigment or other coloring material so that the final product matches the buyer’s vision. Finally, the surface is grinded to bring out the beautiful play of the floor textures.
Because no floor is made up of the same grains, every terrazzo floor has an authentic feel. Terrazzo floors are known for their unique composition since almost any design is possible. By choosing certain grains, you can create the most unimaginable creations. A personalized design, such as a logo, is a fairly popular choice.
Dutch or Italian?
“Terrazzo” is an Italian word similar to the Dutch word “terras.” But what do these two words have in common? Correctly translated, the term “terrazzo” means “covering a terrace,” and the term is very similar when we compare it with the definition of a terrace, namely: “A terrace is an outdoor seating area in a garden with a paved surface. The pavement may consist of pebbles, paving slabs, decorative stone, gravel, crushed stone, shells, wood planks, or other appropriate building material.”
In the case of terrazzo, the paved surface consists only of a mixture of grains of natural stone, marble, or sandstone mixed with cement, water, and sand. This best fits the Dutch definition. However, terrazzo is no longer used exclusively for terraces: today, we see this type of floor just as often in interior spaces.
The History Of The Terrazzo Flooring
The first mosaic works date back to the Roman Empire (200 AD). During this period, Roman artisans from the Friuli area created beautiful mosaics. At the time, this only applied to walls and ceilings. This technique was applied to the floors after more than a hundred years. The Moors were the first to make this mosaic tile. On worktables, they filled molds with a mixture of plaster and marble stones, combined with pieces of glass, silver, or gold. This method is known today as terrazzo making.
This technique was reinvented in the fifteenth century by workers from Venice. They were looking for ways to reuse discarded residual material from the marble quarries. Therefore, as a solution to the problem, it was proposed to produce terrazzo. As a result, the Venetians built beautiful terraces without buying new raw materials.
At the end of the nineteenth century, this technique became known among the Dutch. This was because the Italian “maestro” (masters) from the impoverished region of Friuli moved to prosperous countries such as the Netherlands and, at the same time, brought their work with them. Thus, terrazzo has become a popular flooring. Even in the social housing sector, houses were decorated with beautiful terrazzo flooring. The Hague Passage and the Roman Bath at Heerlen are notable places to admire.
However, until the 1970s, terrazzo was not as versatile as it is today. At that time, it was laid only with gray cement, to which beige or white tones were added, combined with marble grains of secondary colors, such as yellow, red, or black. Only a few years later, it became possible to work with white cement. Unfortunately, this was not enough to keep the trend going, and terrazzo disappeared from the streets for almost forty years.
Terrazzo has only returned since the beginning of 2018. This is because the floor is now available in various colors and the rarest materials. This coating is a worldwide architectural phenomenon in both old and new conditions. Nevertheless, the Italians remain the great forerunners in this field, thanks to their experience and large marble reserves.
In all shapes and sizes, terrazzo flooring can be installed to suit any taste preference. Today there is a choice of many colors of natural stone grains and other elements such as glass, silver, or even gold. It is also possible to change the color of the cement. This gives the designer more options. By mixing different materials, unique color combinations can be achieved, giving the floor a classic, rustic or modern look, for example.
A rustic floor is a good choice for creating terrazzo in pastel, powder, or soothing colors. The classic terrazzo floor gets its look when combined with geometric or symmetrical shapes. Traditional colors include burgundy, plum, dark brown, and warm brass. A modern terrazzo floor benefits from asymmetrical balance, discreet use of color, or a striking design that consciously directs all attention to the floor.
Terrazzo is an expensive flooring compared to other types. Therefore, due to its high cost, it is often used only to cover an object or a small space. Examples of objects are countertops, bathtubs, tables, thresholds, or stairs. The bathroom, kitchen, courtyard, hall, and toilet are small spaces where terrazzo is often used.
Terrazzo is most often found in monumental buildings or old houses. This is due to the fact that terrazzo prices used to be lower than they are today.
How to Install Terrazzo Flooring
Installing terrazzo flooring is not an easy job. A specialized company must consider several processes. The following steps are essential here:
- Preparation of the base, which often consists of a shallow sand-cement floor about three centimeters thick and poured over the old floor. A reinforcing mat is usually added to prevent cracking as much as possible.
- The application of a mortar consisting of cement, lime, or sand mixed with water. The mixture slowly hardens in the air. The terrazzo mortar is approximately 0.6” (1.5 cm) thick.
- Sealing of marble grains. In this process, the grains are pressed against each other utilizing compaction rollers.
- Drying. The floor must dry for at least three days.
- Surface grinding. It is carried out three or four times with a diamond abrasive. The floor acquires an authentic character. It is treated with soap, and the customer can rub it with wax.
Is Terrazzo Suitable For Any Room?
Terrazzo flooring is not the most straightforward and cannot be installed on every floor. This is because it requires a solid draft floor. Wooden, tile, or old terrazzo floors are not suitable as subfloors. Sometimes this problem can be solved by a specialized company. Terrazzo is preferably applied to a solid concrete floor. It is an ideal base as this material absorbs shrinkage or expansion stresses. For example, it is vital to reinforce the floor with fiberglass to prevent cracks or stretching.
Is Terrazzo Compatible With Underfloor Heating?
While not an obvious choice, underfloor heating can certainly be used in combination with terrazzo. One of the conditions is that the floor must be flat. This way, cracking can be minimized.
However, there is always the risk of cracking. That is why it is important to draw up a contract with the contractor, which will stipulate this issue and warranty obligations. In addition, it is imperative always to be able to contact a specialist for this type of flooring.
Terrazzo Flooring Pros
Like any other floor, terrazzo has both advantages and disadvantages. A big plus – in a stylish and authentic appearance. In addition, the foundation is strong, unpretentious, durable, wear-resistant, and has an insulating effect with thermal inertia.
- Fire resistance. Compared to other floors, a self-leveling floor such as terrazzo has an excellent performance in terms of fire safety. Terrazzo does not burn, having high resistance to destruction. Finally, the material does not emit hazardous gases.
- Environmental friendliness. Marble granules for Terrazzo are made from marble waste. In addition, the concrete self-leveling floor is a natural material that is always recyclable.
- Durability. Terrazzo is a floor made of highly durable materials. Both concrete and granules or other bonding material can resist erosion.
- Low operating costs. Terrazzo floors are effortless to maintain. This practical quality allows users to use the floor intensively without requiring special maintenance. In addition, the floor is easy to clean.
- Heat inertia. It is essential to consider heat inertia to maintain comfort in the home. The inert terrazzo flooring will provide a pleasant warmth because the material retains heat longer.
Terrazzo Flooring Cons
However, terrazzo has more than just advantages. The main disadvantage of this material is its sensitivity to shrinkage and expansion stresses, leading to the formation of cracks. In addition, installing such a floor is a rather laborious process, which naturally entails high costs.
- Risk of small cracks. In addition to the significant damages that can appear at the end of the terrazzo installation, there is an equally high risk of microcracks occurring when using it. If the crack is up to 0.008” (0.2 mm) wide, this is normal and acceptable, but real problems arise if this size is exceeded. As a result, floors may lose water resistance. Therefore, when installing large terrazzo surfaces, it is crucial to make expansion joints in them. Thanks to them, the tension in the screed is significantly softened.
Terrazzo Floor Care
Terrazzo floor care is not such a big job. However, it is important to give the floor the attention it needs from time to time. Here are some tips on how to maintain the beauty of terrazzo:
- Never move heavy objects on the floor, but lift them;
- Place felt pads under the legs of each piece of furniture and replace them regularly;
- For office chairs on wheels, it is important to choose non-staining soft wheels;
- Place rugs to reduce the risk of wreaths from outside dirt.
Terrazzo flooring is easy to keep clean. Spilled coffee or red wine? No problem. It is usually enough to wash the floor with warm water. To keep it clean, the user should grind the terrazzo from time to time with a linseed oil-based soap. Of course, the product used for washing the floor should be soft. Terrazzo floors with a polished finish require only water and litofin.
Chlorine, acid, or abrasive-based cleaners are very harmful to these floors. In such cases, the floor is destroyed, spots appear, and this can even lead to the fact that it becomes completely unsightly.
Should Terrazzo be Restored?
Experts usually recommend restoring a terrazzo floor rather than replacing it with a new one. During the restoration, the floor is intensively polished with grinding tools. After the careful work of specialists, the floor becomes smooth and ready for use again.