What is Terrazzo?

Terrazzo as a building material has been around for a long time and commonly used in commercial buildings because of its durability and low maintenance. The floors are versatile and durable.

Terrazzo flooring

An entertainment lounge that uses terrazzo flooring

Although it came from an Italian word for “terrace,” terrazzo has been a favorite of builders and owners alike for flooring, but as you will see later, its use has evolved and come a long way.

But first, how it all started.

Old Terrazzo flooring

An example of a terrazzo flooring in earlier times

Brief History of Terrazzo

Ancient Civilizations

During ancient civilization, some of the early users of Terrazzo are the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. The people mostly used it on their sacred mosaics and even on their floorings. That’s why you can only see Terrazzo only in churches or temples and other sacred establishments.

The 18th Century

Originally, the credit of creating Terrazzo goes to the Italians. because Italian laborers or workers are using it on the floors of their own home. They can’t afford the expensive materials that’s why they just use the fragments of marbles, glass and other leftover materials.

After gathering leftover materials, they bound it all together using a cement mixture, which marked the beginning of Terrazzo. The laborers improvised something for their homes specifically on their floors. And little did they know that their craftsmanship will lead to innovation in the flooring industry.

mosaic terrazzo tiles

Terrazzo floor in the staircase Klosbachstrasse 150, 8032 Zurich, built in 1898 by the Ticinese architect (Source: Wikipedia)

So, in this era, there are also different mosaic artisans that are using it as their flooring material for different buildings. People are calling them as “terrazzieri” because they are using Terrazzo in most of their works. The Terrazzieris during that time is becoming the talk of the town for using an unusual flooring material in Venetian architecture, especially in churches.

Terrazzo made its debut to the United States around the 1890s. It wasn’t not that popular yet but it’s constantly gaining some publicity during the Beaux Arts period.

Even though Terrazzo was becoming popular at that time, there were still some negative feedback. People say that it is easy to break, it is prone to cracks etc. But those comments were not able to stop it from evolving and growing.

As our technology developed throughout the years, terrazzo has also developed. There were various innovations that took place in the production of it. Those innovations led it to today as one of the strongest flooring tiles and it has brought it to a new level.

Production Process of Terrazzo

After looking at the beginnings of Terrazzo, let’s look at how it is made. The production starts by gathering composites materials.

These materials are marble, quartz, granite, glass, and other suitable materials. Next, the materials will be poured into a binder mixture. It can either be to a cementitious binder (chemical binder), or in a polymeric (physical binder). But it can also be a mixture of both. Depending on the standards of every flooring or tiles company.

After doing that, metal strips can also be added. Because this is the material that is often used to divide each section or segments. It can also serve as an added effect to Terrazzo because it can change the patterns of the floors.

So, after all those procedures, sprinkling some materials on top of it can be done as well. But make sure that it must be done before the mixture sets in. Otherwise, the added materials will not be able to blend properly to the mixture.

As a last step of the procedure, the surface shall be polished smoothly or otherwise finished to produce a uniformly textured surface.

Commercial Uses of Terrazzo

Palladiana terrazo

A department store that has terrazzo floors


the counter in the same department store that uses Terrazzo

We can credit this to the innovation that has been made from the 1800s up to the present. That’s why it’s often used in high-traffic areas like airports, as well as office buildings, shopping malls, and hospitals.

Terrazzo Becoming the Building Material of Choice

Terrazzo is coming back even more popular now.

Why? Because it is incredibly durable, low maintenance and doesn’t absorb bacteria or water.

This makes it ideal for pool areas, high traffic areas, kitchen – and we do not just mean on the floor. You can be creative with countertops and walls. It is great for both commercial and residential applications.

terrazzo floors and countertops terrazzo floors terrazzo for the entire establishment terrazzo materials by the pool terrazzo for homes

Terrazzo in the Present Age

Let’s now look at the status of Terrazzo in our current age. A lot of people today are now using this kind of flooring material in more creative ways.

It has come back with more versatility not only for commercial but also for residential spaces and in more ways that you can imagine. The ideas of its application include countertops, tables, stairs, benches and more!

The countless design possibilities make terrazzo as a material to give your home a unique accent in practically every corner. The modern designs can be so unique it is a conversational piece in itself.

Plus, they are quite practical – easy to maintain and clean. And did we say durable too to last decades?

terrazzo stairs

terrazzo for stairs

terrazzo as walls and backsplashes

terrazzo as walls and backsplashes

Terrazzo as walls and backsplashes

terrazzo table

Image courtesy of Katie Gillies

Just to show the versatility and creativity of terrazzo, here’s a post by Katie Gillies that we have found on Instagram. In her post, she is marketing her products which are Terrazzo tiles. This just shows another reason why terrazzo is so popular – you can be creative with it.

terrazzo tiles

Image credits: Katie Gillies

terrazzo tiles
The timeless floors that have been used in ancient times, and in the 1800s, and up until now, terrazzo tiles are regarded as one of the best building materials, for floors and everything else.

So whether for commercial purposes, or you simply want eye-catching floors, walls, tables, and countertops that are unique as they are creative, consider using terrazzo – it is durable, low maintenance, and simply awesome.