Terrazzo Flooring and its Environmental Sustainability
Among all the flooring systems in the market today, terrazzo flooring is regarded as one of the most sustainable and environment-friendly. This is due to how the terrazzo material is made and the components that make it up. Terrazzo flooring is typically made out of cement with the addition of other materials such as scrapped marble, rock or post-consumer glass. The use of these post-consumer composites makes terrazzo eco-friendly because nothing is wasted. Every scrapped material is processed and added into the mix to create uniquely designed patterns and colours. This uniqueness is also what makes terrazzo one of the most design-flexible flooring materials available to builders and designers.
Historically, terrazzo is probably one of the first, if not the original recycled flooring system. Ancient Venetian workers took scrapped marble that were left over from building houses of the wealthy and set them with clay to build patios around their residences. Today, terrazzo flooring continues to be environment friendly that is both durable and low-maintenance. Additionally, because of its composition, terrazzo has no volatile organic compounds or VOC, further cementing its eco-friendly status.
And because terrazzo flooring is massively durable and longevity – often lasting as long as the structure it resides in – environmentally conscious builders almost always recommend the terrazzo flooring systems for structures with high foot traffic such as malls, hotels, airports and hospitals. Furthermore, because terrazzo flooring can be refinished repeatedly, there is literally no need to replace any materials. This is especially very beneficial in structures like hospitals and airports where the opportunity to rebuild or change flooring systems is very scarce due to the nature of the structures’ purpose.
Terrazzo flooring is definitely the benchmark for all eco-friendly materials. It boasts of high sustainability, longevity and durability without stinting on design flexibility. Also, because of all these excellent qualities, building and installation costs have become non-issues.
The Three Basic Types of Terrazzo Flooring
Have you ever found yourself stopping dead on your tracks because the floor you’re walking on is beautifully and intricately designed? I have been known to scramble a few floors up so I can take in a more complete view of a hotel lobby floor. So when I found out about terrazzo, I now want to go searching for malls, hotels and other buildings that use terrazzo. This is because numerous establishments often turn to terrazzo flooring to create one of a kind designs and patterns. These days however, terrazzo is also used for other things besides flooring; walls, countertops, outdoor benches and sometimes even artwork.
Terrazzo is used to describe both the material and the method and is almost often confused with mosaic however it is really quite different from the latter. The difference being the pieces of marble used in the making of mosaic is usually cubic and uniform compared to the more free form marble chips used in terrazzo.
There are three basic types of terrazzo flooring:
- Traditional terrazzo – also called cementitious terrazzo. This type of terrazzo is heavy and requires laying a thick cement subflooring or foundation to start. This type is ideal to use for both indoors and outdoors especially in areas where there is a higher ratio of foot traffic.
- Polyacrylate terrazzo – this type of terrazzo uses a combination of cement and latex which helps in strengthening the mixture allowing a much thinner spread and therefore “cures” quicker than traditional terrazzo. This type of terrazzo flooring is actually preferred for homes which already have existing level floors. It also has more design flexibility compared to traditional terrazzo and can often include post-consumer glass in the mixture.
- Epoxy terrazzo – this is the most versatile, strongest and most commonly used type of terrazzo in the market today. It is practically impervious to scratching, fading, unsightly staining and cracking. It is mostly installed in structures that have multiple levels. However, epoxy terrazzo is not advisable for outdoor installation as it is non-porous and the epoxy does not fare well under prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Each type has its own pros and cons. Despite some limitations however, terrazzo is still the preferred material for airports, malls and hotel lobbies.
How to Care for your Terrazzo Countertops
Terrazzo countertops are increasingly growing in popularity among designers, builders and more importantly, homeowners. This is happening because terrazzo countertops are proving to be more durable than any other countertop materials in the market today. Apart from its longevity, terrazzo is also highly customizable, with a variety of aggregate materials and colors to choose from. What this means is, your terrazzo countertops can easily be made to match existing color schemes or made to the exact color specifications of your preference.
Like any terrazzo-made surface, maintenance is relatively easy however there are important things to remember so that your terrazzo countertops’ longevity and durability is increased. Moreover, with the right kind of care and cleaning, terrazzo countertops will look as flawless as the day they were installed.
Here’s a handy guide on tips and what to avoid when cleaning and caring for your countertops:
Cleaning and Care Tips:
- Always use soft cloths or fabric when cleaning your terrazzo countertops
- For buffing, always use a clean cloth to finish
- In the event of stains, clean them up right away. Do not allow stains to sit and settle in deeper. Gently blot the stain then clean it afterwards.
- There are cleaners that are specifically recommended for terrazzo countertops, these would be your best options in cleaning to get the best results.
- In some cases, gentle rubbing alcohol can be used to clean terrazzo and will remove most stains
Mistakes to Avoid in Terrazzo Countertop Maintenance:
- Never use gritty powder cleansers. They are abrasive and can cause small scratches on your terrazzo surfaces.
- Always check your choice of cleansers. Those that are acid based are harmful to terrazzo surfaces and most natural stone.
- Vinegar and lemon juice, staple ingredients in most organic homemade cleansers are extremely acidic and should therefore never be used on terrazzo countertops.
- Never use metal or hard plastic scourers to avoid further damaging terrazzo surfaces.
- Bath and laundry soaps and detergents should be refrained from being used as they leave behind fatty residue.
- Every couple of months, apply a fresh stone polish and buff gently to keep your terrazzo countertops shiny and looking new.
- Reseal once every couple of years.
Waterjet Technology and Terrazzo, Making Intricate Flooring Designs Possible
Terrazzo is one of, if not the most customizable building material. These days, it is used not just for flooring systems but also as 3D wall installations, counter tops and even smaller decorative pieces. Terrazzo is also one of the most durable and time-tested building materials. Ancient terrazzo dating back hundreds of years ago are still intact and gracing numerous halls, villas, bathhouses and palaces.
Over the years, terrazzo’s popularity has come back with fervor. Builders, designers and architects saw the need for a material that not only boasts of durability but is also highly customizable. Today, with the addition of computerized Waterjet technology, terrazzo has become even more design-flexible.
How it works:
Waterjet technology is a computerized cutting technology that can cut or shape most building materials including metal into any desired two-dimensional shape. In fact, materials such as stone, stainless steel and porcelain cannot be cut any other way into more intricate shapes using any other method without wasting or risking damage to the material. Also, because Waterjet cutting does not heat, harden or distort metal, it is the perfect method to use in cutting the aluminum forms into which the terrazzo material is poured. Additionally, anything that can be drawn on a computer can be cut by Waterjet.
Because it is computerized, Waterjet technology can create practically any shape or form into which the terrazzo can be poured into and can replicate it as many times as needed without sacrificing symmetry and uniformity. This marriage between technology and design is especially perfect for larger spaces like malls, building lobbies, food courts and other areas that serve as design focal areas or have a heavier than normal foot traffic.
With terrazzo tiles being heavily customizable and Waterjet cutting technology’s ability to cut more intricate and complex designs, there really is no limit to what can be created using both.
Basic Cleaning Guidelines for Terrazzo Floors
There is no other flooring system easier to maintain than terrazzo floors. If you know the proper way of cleaning and maintaining your terrazzo floors, they can remain as flawless as they were when they were newly installed. The thing to remember with terrazzo floors, you cannot deviate from recommended cleaning methods without first consulting your terrazzo builder. While terrazzo floors are pretty much impervious to most stains and cracks resulting from high impact trauma, using the incorrect cleaning solution or material can harm your terrazzo floors.
Here’s a list of Dos and Don’ts when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your terrazzo floors.
Let’s start with the Dos.
- After installation, consult your terrazzo builder for the best methods, cleaning solutions and materials that will give you the best results.
- Sweep before you mop. This ensures that grit and dirt do not scratch the surface of your terrazzo floors. This is especially important to remember when your terrazzo floors extend to your exterior spaces.
- Use only recommended cleaning products.
- Remember to always consult with terrazzo experts if you are unable to procure the recommended cleaning solutions before you deviate or change from what is normally used.
- Deep clean your terrazzo floors at least twice a month. More depending on the amount of foot traffic that your floors get.
Here are the Don’ts:
- Avoid using “great for every kind of surface” solutions. They do not have the proper pH balance needed to thoroughly clean your terrazzo floors without harming them.
- Don’t use an electric polisher without first sweeping your floors thoroughly. Doing so would ground debris deeper into your floor and over time could cause pitting and scarring.
- Don’t forget to thoroughly rinse your mops before using them again to ensure that all previous grit and debris have been removed completely.
- In the event that your terrazzo floors get heavily stained, do not attempt to fix the situation without first consulting with your terrazzo builder. While it is true that everything can be found on the internet, it is still best to get advice straight from those who are considered experts on the field.
Remember to stick to the guidelines and your terrazzo floors will remain flawless and pristine throughout the years.