The Rediscovery and Modernization of Terrazzo

The Rediscovery and Modernization of Terrazzo - Australian Terrazzo Marble

The Rediscovery and Modernization of Terrazzo

Terrazzo was first discovered around the mid-15th century by Venetian artisans.  They saw that they could reuse discarded marble fragments left over from crafting opulent marble floors for the wealthy.  They did this by using the leftover marble slabs to surface the terraces around their dwellings.  These fifteenth century artisans set the marble slabs in clay to help anchor them in place then rubbing the entire surface with hand stones to smoothen out the area making it easier and more comfortable to tread on.  And thus terrazzo came to be.

As the years progressed, so did their terrazzo craftsmanship and know-how on better, more improved techniques.  The use of terrazzo spread slowly but surely into other countries as a more affordable but still beautiful and long lasting option compared to marble.  The more gifted terrazzo artisans were able to improve their technique in showcasing terrazzo’s almost limitless design possibilities.

Today, terrazzo has made a comeback, with better installation techniques, more design options and more cost-effective solutions for terrazzo flooring systems.  Builders, homeowners and designers alike have rediscovered the beauty and durability of terrazzo floors making it one of the most preferred choices for floors and other installations such as benchtops, countertops, stairs, risers and many more.

Alongside the improvement of craftsmanship and methods for terrazzo installation, modern technology has significantly helped propel its popularity and enhancements.  Add to this the fact that despite all the improvements, terrazzo remains as one of the most environmentally friendly flooring systems in the market today.  These days, the addition of post-consumer materials such as glass bottles adds to the uniqueness and overall aesthetic appeal of terrazzo as a building material.

Terrazzo has truly stood the test of time and technology, and will continue to be improved upon by those that enjoy perfecting their terrazzo craftsmanship.  What better testament to its timelessness than to visit and see ancient terrazzo floors that are still in existence all over Venice, Italy.

Terrazzo – The Ideal Flooring and Installation Material for Builders and Designers

Terrazzo – The Ideal Flooring and Installation Material for Builders and Designers

Terrazzo – The Ideal Flooring and Installation Material for Builders and Designers

Since its discovery in the early 16th century, terrazzo has become one of the more preferred flooring materials for artisans, builders and craftsmen because of its expansive design possibilities and comparatively low maintenance needs.  From its very humble beginnings to its inevitable rise to popularity, terrazzo has remained a strong contender amongst building materials.

 

Strength and Beauty Combined

To this day, quite a few ancient terrazzo floors are still in existence especially in Venice, Italy.  You would be hard-pressed to take a leisurely stroll around the city without running across a beautifully laid out terrazzo floor.  This is a testament to terrazzo’s strength and durability.

Terrazzo floors have 3 layers – a concrete foundation or subfloor, a sandy layer and then the last layer where the aggregate materials are combined with cement or epoxy.  Each layer contributes to terrazzo’s strength and unique aesthetic.  Add to this, the way terrazzo is installed has been improved upon and is continuing to be revolutionized with the help of technology.  These days, it is easier to create more intricate and complex designs thanks to modern technology like Waterjet and CNC cutting machines.

Other flooring systems in the market today, whilst aesthetically pleasing fall short when it comes to durability and design flexibility.  Hardwood floors have quite a number of natural “enemies”; ceramic tiles are not only limited by its geometric shapes but it is also nowhere near as durable and formidable as terrazzo.  Designers and builders often recommend terrazzo to commercial space developers not only because of the many design possibilities that it can offer but more importantly, terrazzo performs really well in high-traffic areas such as food courts, airports, hospitals and hotel lobbies – basically anywhere there will be massive and high impact foot traffic.  Furthermore, terrazzo is perhaps the only flooring system that can be used indoors and outdoors.

 

More than just a Floor

These days, terrazzo is being used in more than just flooring systems.  Designers and builders alike have found that with the advent of newer technology, terrazzo can be used for 3D wall installations, steps and risers, wall partitions, kitchen and office countertops, and even art pieces.  And the possibilities for more uses and improvements have no end.

Complex Terrazzo Flooring Designs Made Simpler through Waterjet Technology

Complex Terrazzo Flooring Designs Made Simpler through Waterjet Technology

Complex Terrazzo Flooring Designs Made Simpler through Waterjet Technology

It has long been established that terrazzo is a builder’s dream material because of its durability and strength.  Its design possibilities are also virtually limitless.  Countless ancient terrazzo installations are still in existence until today, all of them strong testaments to terrazzo as long-lasting, picturesque and design-flexible.

Despite the centuries that have passed, builders and designers alike still choose terrazzo for design-centric flooring installations.  Over the last decade, a renewed interest in terrazzo has surged.  Designers have rediscovered its virtually limitless design possibilities.  Architects and builders have rediscovered its innate strength and durability.  The demands for terrazzo flooring in residential, commercial and institutional spaces have increased.

Ancient terrazzo flooring designs were started out hand-formed and as a result, show minute differences in regularity.  Recently, new innovations in the form of Waterjet technology has allowed terrazzo flooring to be more complex without losing uniformity and consistency.  Waterjet technology can be utilized to cut intricate designs and shapes into which terrazzo can be poured into.  And because the cuts are computer-driven, the shapes can be duplicated as many times as needed without compromising the design’s uniformity.  Basically, anything that can be drawn on the computer can be cut by Waterjet technology.  The major reason why terrazzo and Waterjet technology make for the perfect combination is, while other building materials like stone, ceramic etc., can be cut by Waterjet, only terrazzo can be cut economically into different simple and complex shapes thus making it more design friendly and flexible.

Waterjet technology is a computerized cold-cutting technology that can cut the majority of building materials into any two-dimensional shape, of any size and thickness.  This technology is perfect for cutting the aluminium forms into which terrazzo is poured into.  This merging of technology and terrazzo is best seen in larger commercial spaces like hotels, food courts, holiday resorts and the likes.

Terrazzo Floors Squares up Against Ceramic Tile Floors and Hardwood Floors – A Point by Point Comparison

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Terrazzo Floors Squares up Against Ceramic Tile Floors and Hardwood Floors – A Point by Point Comparison

Terrazzo has been used as a building material for floors for centuries.  The methods used for installation, maintenance and customization have vastly improved over the years.  These days, more and more builders and designers recommend and choose terrazzo over all the other available flooring systems in the market today.  Compared to the two other more popular flooring systems – ceramic tiles and hardwood, terrazzo looks to have edged both in popularity because of its characteristics.

Below is a point by point comparison between terrazzo, ceramic tiles and hardwood – their individual characteristics and the advantages and disadvantages of using one flooring system over the other.

TERRAZZO CERAMIC TILES HARDWOOD
DURABILITY Terrazzo floors are known to last a lifetime given the proper upkeep.  Point in fact, most of the earliest known terrazzo installations are still around these days. This type of flooring material, despite the improvements made to its manufacturing are still prone to chipping and is therefore not the ideal or preferred material for high foot traffic areas. Hardwood floors have so many “enemies” such as water, sunlight, dirt build-up and mould growth that contribute to its short lifespan especially compared to terrazzo floors.
COST Terrazzo floors, compared to the other two types of flooring discussed, come out to be the more cost-effective as it outlasts and outperforms both.  It may start off costly due to installation fees however because terrazzo floors are very low maintenance without jeopardizing durability and strength. Compared to terrazzo and hardwood, ceramic tiles often come out as the more affordable flooring system.  However, costly repairs and high maintenance needs often times add up resulting in more money spent. High quality hardwood floors are not exactly cheap but still more affordable than a terrazzo flooring system installation.  However, high maintenance and repair costs end up making hardwood floors a more expensive option especially for commercial spaces or larger residential homes.
MAINTENANCE Terrazzo floors are very easy to maintain. Additionally, with proper maintenance, repairs are almost never needed. Easy to maintain but because ceramic is not known for its durability, repairs are needed quite often. Hardwood floors are very high maintenance.  Repairs are costly as you can’t necessarily remove or replace just one floorboard.
DESIGN FLEXIBILITY Terrazzo is the most highly-customizable flooring material in the market today.  With virtually limitless colour combinations, design executions and installation methods, terrazzo edges out all the other flooring materials design-wise. Customizable to a point however the actual shape of tiles hinders what can be done design-wise. Very limited when it comes to design possibilities. Aesthetically still very impressive however hardwood floors are mostly recommended for small area installation and not ideal for large commercial spaces or residential homes.

Know Your Terrazzo Floors – The Different Types of Terrazzo

Know Your Terrazzo Floors – The Different Types of Terrazzo

Know Your Terrazzo Floors – The Different Types of Terrazzo

Terrazzo floors have become quite popular with builders and designers because of its design flexibility and ease of customization.  Depending on the stone chips and other aggregates that are mixed into the cementitious base, designers are able to manipulate the aesthetic outcome to perfectly match it with an existing colour scheme or have it complement the design elements surrounding it.  Because of this, virtually no two terrazzo floors are alike.  What’s more is that as new technologies in improving manufacturing techniques come out, terrazzo as a building material has the potential to be even more design-flexible and also cost-effective.

 

There are different aesthetic types of terrazzo which can be determined by their appearance:

Standard terrazzo is made from moderately small stone chips.  Typically this type of terrazzo is ground and polished.

Venetian is similarly ground and polished however the stone chips are larger than that of the chips compared to the standard terrazzo.  Additionally, smaller sized stone chips can also be mixed in with the larger stone chips.

Rustic has a uniformly textured finish with the stone chips slightly exposed which is accomplished by spraying the surface before the binder has fully set.

Palladiana has more of mosaic finish, characterized by very large stone chips, the joints between slabs infused with standard terrazzo.

 

Terrazzo can also be categorized based on construction methods or project specifications.

Thin-set terrazzo is characterized by a thick resinous topping typically at ¼” or 3/8” that’s directly applied over a subfloor which is made from concrete for its stability although in some cases, the use of plywood subfloors is considered a good alternative provided the plywood is properly installed.

Monolithic terrazzo is characterized by a thicker cementitious finish at ½” which is typically applied directly over a concrete subfloor.  Once the subfloor is smooth, a bonding agent is applied to ensure that the finish adheres properly to the concrete.

Bonded terrazzo also has a ½” thick cementitious finish however unlike monolithic terrazzo, it is applied over a sand-cement mortar underbed which then sits on a finished concrete slab.  The benefit of this kind of terrazzo the sand-cement underbed absorbs any variations in the concrete slab provided there is a slab depression of 1.75” to 2.5”.