Many people question what is terrazzo? To answer that question, terrazzo is capable of forming many unique finishes. If to sum up terrazzo in one sentence, terrazzo is described as a composite material, poured in place or prefabricated for precast terrazzo which is used for flooring, base, walls, stair treads, countertops, and other custom products. Terrazzo consists of chips of marble, granite, quartz, glass, shell or other suitable materials. Terrazzo uses either a cement or epoxy matrix as the binder.
Terrazzo has an interesting history with roots all over the globe. Going back more than 500 years to Italy where marble was the main material of choice. Venetian workers would use scrap marble fragments that they saved from their upscale projects, placing them next to each other in a clay mortar base for their own residence and terraces.
Terrazzo is also related to the technique seminato (meaning seed). For this technique, workers would toss large marble chips into the wet cement that was later ground and polished. Together, these two methods create the generic form of terrazzo that involves pieces of stone that are bonded to a cement bed.
While credit is traditionally given to the Italians, as it is commonly recognized that terrazzo was invented by the Venetians, archaeologists have found evidence of terrazzo-like floors in ruins in Turkey dating back 10,000 years ago.
At the beginning of the terrazzo trade, marble and granite were the traditional choices of aggregate with its beauty and abundance from quarries around the world and on many occasions being a locally sourced material for projects.
Mother of Pearl, coral, shell, and pebbles were also used regionally but are now commonly used worldwide. With the introduction of epoxy and its expanded binding capabilities, it has made way for new materials to be used as aggregates. These aggregates include post-consumer recycling of glass, mirror, plastic, porcelain, and concrete. Regardless of the material to be used as aggregate for the terrazzo industry it is processed in the same manner whether it’s being sourced from a quarry, the ocean, or a recycling center. The aggregates are crushed and ground through a screening process to regulate sizing.
Sizes range from #00 at 1/16 “ through #8 at 1 1/8” in size. Afterward, aggregates are bagged in specifically weighted bags.
“Terrazzo is a dying art, costly and laborious, but so worth it”