What is Terrazzo?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Terrazzo is a flooring technique that results in an attractive and durable floor that is easy to maintain. Created with the use of pieces of marble or stone chips, terrazzo is an excellent option for a number of different decorating schemes. A cement binder provides the medium for arranging the stone or marble chips, making it possible to create terrazzo floors that are unique in color composition and design.

Traditional terrazzo flooring is created onsite, rather than prepared elsewhere and then installed. Any existing flooring in the space is removed or prepared to receive the layer of concrete that forms the basis for the terrazzo. After smoothing the wet cement into place, the surface is embedded with colorful stones and marble chips. At this juncture, the arrangement of the stones and chips can be very free form, or carefully placed to follow a specific design idea. Part of the beauty is that it is possible to use as many pieces of stone or marble as desired.

Once the chips are in place, trowels and other tools are used to make the surface as smooth as possible. The smoothing does not have to be exact at this point, as the goal is really more to ensure the stones are firmly in place before the concrete sets. After the cement has dried, grinding machinery is brought in to achieve a more precise even surface, and also add an element of polishing to the floor.


The final step in preparing the terrazzo floor involves cleaning and sealing the surface. After the polishing is completed, any residue is removed from the surface, and a thin layer of sealant is applied. The end result is a colorful floor that will hold up well to a lot of traffic, be easy to maintain, and will last for many years.

Today, there are specially designed terrazzo tiles that may be affixed to an existing floor in a process that is similar to the installation of linoleum tiles. While the design styles are more limited than the freeform approach, installation generally takes less time and requires less preparation.


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