Resilient and Sustainable Terrazzo Flooring

A closer look at how this material survives floods and supports green design
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Sponsored by The National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association
By Jeanette Fitzgerald Pitts

The Inherent Resilience of Terrazzo

Terrazzo has many qualities that make in an inherently resilient material. It is extremely difficult to damage, and it can be easily repaired. It also is designed to last. Terrazzo installations can be found where the terrazzo flooring is still in use and more than 100 years old.

Durable

Terrazzo is designed to be more than decorative; it is designed to be used. It has an incredible compressive strength. Compressive strength of a material indicates its ability to resist compression. Materials often receive a compressive strength rating, which quantifies a compressive strength limit. If a material is compressed underneath a load that exceeds its strength, some materials can fracture, while others deform irreversibly.

As it relates to terrazzo, the compressive strength of a terrazzo floor with a concrete binder is 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi), which is identical to the compressive strength of the concrete slab on which the terrazzo is installed. This means that the concrete terrazzo flooring will not be compromised before the concrete slab it rests on is. Terrazzo flooring with an epoxy binder has a much higher compressive strength and is able to withstand loads of up to 10,000 psi.

In terms of impact resistance, terrazzo, again, is a hearty solution, especially when compared with other popular materials like large-format porcelain. A porcelain tile is not fully bonded to the underlying slab when it is installed, which results in a hollow spot underneath the face of the tile. This weaker area can be more easily cracked and broken when struck. Terrazzo is not installed as a tile but is poured upon the concrete slab as a liquid, forming a complete bond with the concrete slab underneath, devoid of hollow spots that would compromise the strength of the surface.

Easy to Maintain and Repair

In addition to being difficult to damage, terrazzo is easy to maintain, repair, and restore. Imagine a terrazzo floor that has been installed in a school for 50 years. If it gets chipped or starts to look dirty, maintenance teams can simply remove the old sealers and grind and repolish the floor. In no time at all, the terrazzo floor will be gleaming as if it were brand new. The thickness of the material makes it possible to grind it down and restore the appearance of the surface. If the terrazzo floor happens to crack, it can be patched and made functional again.

In terms of maintenance, terrazzo only requires regular damp mopping with clean water and occasional resealing. Wax and polishes are unnecessary, and even harmful to the surface by creating a buildup that dulls the finish. There are special sealers available for terrazzo that can be used to enhance the appearance of the product or provide additional protection, if desired.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in November 2019

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