What Is Terrazzo? A Guide to the Popular Material

This favorite flooring and surface material stands the test of time.

terrazzo samples

Jacob Fox

The word terrazzo comes from “terra,” which is Latin for ground. This antiquity-inspired material gives an artisanal feel to home interiors. Terrazzo is a composite material made with marble, granite, glass, or quartz chips set into cement. Its roots start in Egyptian mosaics, but it became popular in 16th century Italy to make use of stone offcuts. It is either poured by hand or precast into blocks that get cut to size. Restaurants and hotels often use this durable material in heavy traffic areas, like bars and lobbies, but it also can be perfectly placed in a residential home.

Terrazzo is a popular choice for floors, walls, and accent pieces, like tables, backsplashes, and outdoor patio surfaces. It comes in multiple colors and designs, which can be purchased as ready-made tiles. If properly sealed for water resistance, it can be applied to any area of your home, including the bathroom and kitchen. There are many reasons to fall in love with terrazzo; it is durable, attractive, and affordable. Generally cheaper than granite and marble, it can be an eye-catching alternative that doesn’t break the bank. 

kitchen modern terrazzo floors

Emily Followill

Types of Terrazzo

Terrazzo installation is called a system because it includes multiple layered materials, which ultimately determine the thickness, weight, and gloss of the product. For flooring, the system choice is important to determine the desired weight and style for your space. Here are some common terrazzo systems:

  • Epoxy/thin-set epoxy: Thin and durable; ideal for commercial or residential settings. 
  • Polyacrylate: Breathable material that uses small chips. Ideal for outdoor use.
  • Sand cushion: Wire enforced, heavy; ideal for high-traffic areas.
  • Monolithic: Lightweight and affordable; ideal indoors for schools, malls, and busy areas.
  • Bonded: Thin and heavy. Professional install recommended. Limited colors and sizes.
  • Rustic: Outdoor installation. Rough surface is slip resistant; ideal for pools and patios. 
terrazzo floors white hallway

Emily Followill

Terrazzo Tiles Installation

For large surfaces and intricate designs, it is best to go with a professional terrazzo installer to make sure the job is done correctly. As an alternative for the handy, installing terrazzo tiles can be a rewarding project. The following instructions provide basic guidelines for installing terrazzo flooring.

1. Measure Area

First, measure the space where you want to install terrazzo tiles. Multiply the length by the width to calculate the area of the space. Get enough tiles for the area and a few extra to account for cuts or design preferences.

2. Prepare Surface

Remove any old flooring. You might need a leveling compound if the surface needs to be leveled first. Ensure a clean and level surface, smooth enough for the terrazzo flooring. 

3. Adhere Tiles

Apply a coat of adhesive to the surface and lay the tile neatly

4. Complete Terrazzo Flooring

Once you place the tile, press them firmly so that they are set. Repeat this process to complete the terrazzo flooring in your desired area. Wait for two to three days after the installation, then grout the joints and fill in the gaps. Lastly, coat and seal the floor with a water-based or permanent sealer.

terrazzo floor kitchen office modern style

John Granen

Terrazzo Maintenance Considerations

Terrazzo is easy to maintain. If properly installed, it is naturally durable and has a long lifespan. But, like any material, it is still susceptible to cracks, stains, and blemishes over time. Use coasters and potholders on terrazzo countertops where moisture and dark stains could soak into the surface.

To clean terrazzo floors, sweep, mop, and vacuum frequently. Use a cleaning solution with a neutral pH balance to remove any stains or streaks. Avoid harsh chemicals or acidic solutions that could damage the terrazzo. Buff with a soft cloth to restore shine. 

terrazzo samples

Jacob Fox

How Much Does Terrazzo Cost?

The price of terrazzo varies based on many factors. Terrazzo tiles usually cost under $12 per square foot, but with labor and installation, that price can double. Poured terrazzo flooring is less than $15 for the same square footage, but the labor and installation can be less than $35 per square foot based on the materials, location, and difficulty of the work. 

Unless you’re a flooring pro, it is likely best to go with a professional flooring expert to make sure that every part of your terrazzo system is correctly in place. However, for smaller DIY projects like backsplashes, tables, and terrazzo decor, there are many DIY tutorials available online to get inspired.

close up of terrazzo flooring

Paul Dyer

Is Terrazzo Flooring Worth It?

Terrazzo is popular because its value to price is outsized. It also creates a long-lasting first impression. However, it does have drawbacks. It doesn’t retain heat well, so this can make for cold winters. If you have terrazzo in a historic home, it is possible that it contains asbestos. If the flooring begins to deteriorate or crack, seek professional help to remove or repair it. 

Lastly, terrazzo is built for a lifetime, so make sure you really love it before committing to this material. If you think you’ll want to change your style soon, consider the time and cost of removing terrazzo or having professionals come in to lay new manufactured flooring atop the terrazzo. Try terrazzo in a small area first if unsure before making a permanent decision that could be costly to reverse.

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