In 2017, when Pinterest searches for terrazzo increased 316 percent, Pinterest suggested the Italian flooring option would be a major trend in 2018. Indeed, the prediction was spot-on, with authentic terrazzo flooring making a big come-back to become one of the hottest flooring trends of the year. It wasn’t long before digital printing techniques enabled tile manufacturers to create realistic (and much less costly) porcelain look-alikes of the composite material. But terrazzo looks weren’t relegated to flooring.
As the terrazzo trend exploded, the look spread beyond flooring to include furniture, luggage, dinnerware, fabrics, wallpaper, you name it…terrazzo is now everywhere. A quick hashtag search on Instagram reveals nearly a half-million hits for #terrazzo. Search on Pinterest, and you will be rewarded with seemingly infinite scrolling of terrazzo looks.
What is Terrazzo?
Traditionally featuring a medley of marble chips, terrazzo is a costly and laborious dying art. Terrazzo originated several hundred years ago in the Mediterranean region. Back then, terrazzo, which is the Italian word for “terrace,” was made by pressing marble or other stone chips into the surface of natural clay and then sealing it with goat’s milk for a mosaic look. Eventually, cement replaced clay, and bits of glass and painted tile found their way into the surface.
Today, most of the terrazzo installed includes resin, polymers, and epoxy. Natural stone chips, such as marble, quartz, and granite are top choices for a terrazzo finish, but you’ll find other types of aggregate such as glass pebbles, synthetic chips, and silica bits. While stunning in looks, durable, and relatively easy to maintain, authentic terrazzo is extremely labor-intensive to create and install, making it one of the most expensive types of flooring available.
How is Terrazzo Made?
To give you an idea of the labor (and mess!) involved, here are the basic steps for creating a terrazzo floor:
- The existing flooring is removed, and the concrete surface is roughed-up to ensure the terrazzo mixture will adhere. Cracks are filled in, and a leveling compound is applied if the substrate isn’t flat.
- If you’ve opted for a design, the pattern will be transferred to the substrate using metal strips to separate each section of the design.
- Next, a sandy cement base is applied, and while it’s still wet, the terrazzo mixture is spread on top and leveled out (one section at a time). At this point, extra bits of aggregate may be sprinkled on top and smoothed into the surface.
- As the mixture hardens, the surface is compressed and flattened with a heavy roller.
- Once the terrazzo mixture has completely cured ( at least 48 hours), a large grinder is used to smooth the top. It’s a messy, dusty process because the stone and cement are ground into a fine powder.
- Tiny pinholes on the surface are filled with a pigmented slurry.
- For the final step, the terrazzo surface is brought to a gleaming shine with a polisher that uses very fine diamond-grit pads to give the floor a glossy, smooth finish.
With all these laborious steps, it’s no wonder that real terrazzo is so costly. Porcelain terrazzo-look tiles are a beautiful (and typically more affordable) alternative for floors and walls, offering superior performance, lower maintenance, (heavily soiled terrazzo should be cleaned with a buffing machine, but no need for that with porcelain tile alternatives!), and better slip-resistance (newly installed and polished terrazzo floors are very slippery).
Check out Terrazzo by GIO, available in two finishes and a range of colors and styles — Aggregate, Fleck, and Deco Mix.
GIO is your gateway to beautifully designed, strategically selected collections of floor and wall tile sure to fit your demanding specification requirements and unique style. We look forward to working with you!