Interiors

The Advantages of Terrazzo: Unlocking the Unique Aesthetic of an Age-Old Material

image of a terrace

The Design Advantages of Terrazzo

First used in Renaissance Italy, Terrazzo uses embedded stone and colored chips. The chips create a lustrous patterned surface that’s both durable and beautiful. And because it is customizable, there are many advantages of using terrazzo.

Terrazo was first made as a way of creating a lustrous textured surface. Terrazzo finishes are a trendy finishing not only for the common areas of prominent upscale buildings. But also in the walls and floors of residential homes. Although a composite material, terrazzo’s shiny appearance and natural texture make it feel more authentic than most forms of faux stone finishes.

Today, terrazzo has experienced a revival in popularity in commercial and residential architecture with its enduring qualities and remarkable design flexibility. Architects for many major buildings are rediscovering the many beautiful possibilities in using terrazzo. Since terrazzo can be used as both a wall and floor covering, with residential designers following suit.

Composition

Historically, terrazzo was the product of recycling and efficiency. What we now know as terrazzo was first formulated by Italian sculptors. They used a mix of clay-based cement and marble chips from their studios. This was in order to create a faux finish for their balconies and terraces (hence the name). Terrazzo proved to be immensely popular well beyond renaissance Italy, becoming a common feature in large building atriums across the globe.

Terrazzo is a composite material comprising a cement base embedded with various iridescent stone chips. The terrazzo mixture is cured in water. Then it is polished and sealed to create a shiny, smooth walking surface. Besides the traditional marble chips and powder, other materials can be suspended in the mixture. This creates a broad assortment of color and grain. The result can range from stone like granite and onyx to pieces of metal, glass, or mother of pearl.

Terrazzo is given a wash once it is smoothed; either polished or fulget, which can be applied regardless of the shape. Polished terrazzo is favored in dry interior spaces, whereas fulget terrazzo is used in exterior areas that may be exposed to moisture. Rather than tile grout, terrazzo is kept in place by separators. These are usually made of metal or glass, but can occasionally be made of actual stone.

Advantages of Terrazzo: Man laying Terrazzo on floor.

Advantages

Terrazzo has the same key advantages of stone. The added bonus is that terrazzo is easily shaped to fit its purpose. In addition, terrazzo is non-slippery and doesn’t provide irregularities that would promote tripping. This makes it ideal for outdoor waterproof deck systems. It is also abrasion resistant.

Another appeal of terrazzo in architecture is that it is eco-friendly and safe for the workplace. Besides being made of scrap stone, the product itself is inert and non-toxic, leaving no volatile organic compounds or other harmful substances.

Design Potential

Terrazzo is also very customizable. Designers can have custom blends of terrazzo formulated to suit their desired aesthetic. Terrazzo can be formulated to have large or small chips, which can create different grains and patterns to the surface.

Most types of terrazzo use small chips to create a grainy surface and this is just one of many design possibilities. Chips can be used to create visually interesting contrasts and highlights. Some chips can even take on unique shapes, which can be set into the terrazzo with little fuss.

Terrazzo is also easy to shape. Different blends and patterns of terrazzo can, therefore, be used to create complex geometric patterns in the walls and floors that they are used with. The advantages of terrazzo are, with any shadow of a doubt, both widespread and extremely beneficial.