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Terrazzo is believed to have been accidentally invented in Italy several hundred years ago when mosaic artisans walked upon marble chips they'd swept onto their terraces, thereby tamping down and smoothing the marble. After that terrazzo floors were no accident as workers figured out how to use clay as a base for polished marble chips. Nowadays, terrazzo is made somewhat differently, although what hasn't changed is the beauty and durability of this flooring material.
How Are Terrazzo Floors Made?
Terrazzo is a mixture of Portland cement and marble aggregate, although other materials (including granite, onyx, glass, and metal) may also be added for color and texture variety. The mixture is poured over a prepared concrete slab, where it's then spread and worked down with rollers and trowels. Next, additional aggregate is hand-spread and rolled out. Once this rough base layer has been created, it's smoothed and polished with a heavy duty grinder. After that a thin layer of tinted cement is used to coat the floor and cover up any imperfections created by air bubbles. The final step is to polish the surface to a finish shine.
To read read a more detailed explanation of how terrazzo floors are made, check out this overview from This Old House.
Terrazzo Floor Benefits
Reasons to install terrazzo in your home include the following:
- Old World Beauty: Famed Renaissance artist Michelangelo used terrazzo as a medium and the flooring can be found in high-end hotels and other commercial properties throughout the world. Adding terrazzo to your home will introduce a distinctly elegant look, one that homeowners can customize with colors and patterns of their choosing.
- Longevity: Properly installed terrazzo is durable, long-lasting, waterproof, and requires very little maintenance. The material is appropriate for high-traffic areas, bathrooms, and even outdoor applications (such as around a pool). Wherever terrazzo is installed, it's not a stretch to say that it will last for decades or, in some cases, centuries.
- Natural: The original terrazzo floors of Northern Italy were made from recycled materials, and the recycled glass that's often found in modern terrazzo floors continues this tradition. Terrazzo is also non-toxic (it produces no VOCs), as its primary ingredients are stone and cement, and the flooring is itself recyclable.
Terrazzo Flooring Costs
- Installed onsite by professionals, terrazzo floors might cost $20 to $100 per square foot. Accounting for this large price range is the scope of the job (smaller jobs tend to cost more), the level of detail (custom patterns demand significantly more, as well as skilled, labor), and the exact components of the aggregate. A typical residential job (say, a 15' x 15' kitchen) might only cost $25 to $50 per square foot (or, roughly $5,500 to $11,000).
- Terrazzo tile, at around $15 to $30 per square foot installed, is a much more affordable option. While they don't allow for the high level of customization that traditional terrazzo does, these tiles are available in a wide range of colors and textures.