What is terrazzo, cost, and how to incorporate terrazzo into your home
Terrazzo (Italian for “Terrace”) was invented in Venice over five hundred years ago. Workers in Venetia were often left with discarded marble pieces, where they would put these small marble rocks in clay and grind them flat. These were used as a low-cost alternative to marble for their living quarters.
In the late 1700s, the United States started adopting terrazzo. The usage quickly became popular as the US has a lot of marbles. Monuments and historical sites began using terrazzo flooring, including George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon.
Fast forward to the 1970s, thin-set, or epoxy-based terrazzo was introduced. This quickly sparked the popularity of terrazzo, with a wider selection of colors, thickness, faster installation, and less susceptible to cracking. However, it can only be used for interior, as it may lose its color and peel when used outside, unlike cement-based terrazzo.
What is Terrazzo?
How terrazzo is made and can terrazzo be used outside?
To put it simply, terrazzo is a composite material, made of small pieces of stone materials or chips (marble, glass, stone), bound together with either cement or epoxy, and polished to get a smooth surface.
Generally, there are three basic types of terrazzo:
Cementitious terrazzo – This traditional terrazzo is heavy and takes a long time to dry. Color choices are also limited and things like glass can’t be used as it is not porous. On the upside, they feel more like stone and is ideal for both indoors and outdoor use, especially in high traffic areas.
Polyacrylate terrazzo – The “middle ground” made from a combination of cement and latex. They require less work and less product, so are less expensive. This type of terrazzo is preferred for homes with an existing level slab. It also has more design options, can be dyed to match just about any color, and can often include glass and mirrored chips.
Epoxy terrazzo – This is the most versatile and most commonly used type of terrazzo in the market today. It’s the strongest and the least susceptible to scratching, fading, staining, or cracking. Epoxy terrazzo is available in any color and is the best option for making intricate designs. If you’re remodeling your home, it can be installed over existing concrete or wood substrate. It has a non-breathable quality and can’t be penetrated by moisture, which also means that it can’t be installed outdoors. Epoxy also does not fare well under prolonged sun exposure.
Pro Tip: Speak with a contractor to get guidance on your options within your budget. It is also best to leave installation to professionals, as it takes a lot of skill and not something you can easily install yourself, which DIYers may mistakenly assume like working with concrete.
What are the Pros and Cons?
Why choose terrazzo
Apart from its distinct look, terrazzo is low-maintenance and incredibly durable. However, what sets it apart is its customizability. Bonus point: terrazzo is considered eco-friendly and does not release any volatile organic compound (VOC), while epoxy terrazzo often includes recycled materials (be sure to do your research beforehand).
On the downside, terrazzo is expensive and will require professional to install.
Today, terrazzo is a popular option in homes due to its versatility and beauty, giving architects and designers endless colour and material options (not just marble, think granite, quartz, and glass).
How to Incorporate Terrazzo in My Home?
Terrazzo can feature almost anywhere in the home. It’s a great option for flooring, kitchen tops, backsplash, and bathroom tiles.
If you’re wondering what goes well with terrazzo, you’re in luck! The organic look of the materials makes terrazzo a perfect base to pair with brushed metal, silver, and gold. Terrazzo with neutral patterns and colors such as gray looks great when paired with natural wood or timber as seen in the images below.
Pairing terrazzo with other organic materials such as stone and using warm colour schemes also works well as seen in this kitchen by Doherty Design Studio.
If re-flooring or full renovation is not an option for you, there’re a lot of terrazzo furnitures and home decor pieces that can still add a unique and playful element to your home. Personally, I’m a big fan of table and lamp with terrazzo base.
Depending on budget and usage, there are plenty of options when it comes to terrazzo.
Are Terrazzo Tiles and Floors Expensive?
For tile options, the first thing to be aware of is deciding between real vs faux terrazzo or sometimes called terrazzo-look (which are generally made out of porcelain). Real terrazzo is generally much thicker and much more durable. Of course, the big differentiation is cost. Real terrazzo tiles can cost anywhere between $130 to $500 per square meter ($12 to $46 per sqft – some can even go higher)*, while faux terrazzo can generally be found in the $40 per square meter price range (depending on colour, patterns, and manufacturer, price can be lower or higher, but still a cost-effective option to achieve the look).
For flooring, another thing to consider is poured terrazzo flooring. This will involve more preparation and will generally cost more in labor, as opposed to laying tiles. It is more suitable for a new build or refurbishment, as the surface needs to be ground and polished. On the upside, poured terrazzo will look seamless with no grout joints, making it much easier to keep clean. This makes it a good choice for a bathroom.
*Price are indicative and should only be used as a guide.
Most terrazzo countertops are not poured in place. The size of your countertop will impact the overall cost, as they are typically sold in slabs. Various factors such as length, edge detailing, and thickness will affect the price.
Pro Tip: If you opt for a cement-based terrazzo countertop, make sure it is properly sealed to maintain its resistance to staining.
Where to Buy Terrazzo Tiles, Countertops, and Flooring?
For our local Australian-based reader, here are some places where you can purchase terrazzo slabs and tiles:
(These are our personal recommendations and is not sponsored, endorsed, or associated with any of the brands)
Terrazzo Furnitures and Home Decor
For those who love the look of terrazzo and looking to incorporate them into your home without the hassle of renovating, there are many objects inspired by or incorporating terrazzo into the design. Below are some of our favorite picks from various categories; lamps, tables, kitchenware, and vases.
Disclaimer: The recommendations below contains some affiliate links. This means that when you click on a link and purchase something from that site, we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.