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What Are Terrazzo Tiles?

A close look at terrazzo tiles samples.

Do you think marble counters look pretty amazing? How do you feel about granite? What about quartz? What if you could have them all at the same time…all in the same tile? Terrazo is a mixture of all these materials and more.

If you want a stone that’s highly durable and beautiful, you’re going to find that terrazzo is a really great choice. What sets terrazzo tiles apart from other options? Where can you use them? And how much is it all going to cost? The more you learn about terrazzo tiles, the more you’re going to find ways to use them in your home design.

Related: Types of Tiles | Types of Marble | Types of Kitchen Floor Tiles | Onyx Tiles | Granite Tiles | 2020 Return of Art Deco Tiles

Making Terrazzo Tiles

Terrazo is made from a mixture of marble, granite, quartz, and glass chips that are stirred together with cement. What you end up with once it hardens is an incredibly tough material that has all the beauty of natural stone and glimmers of many different colors that create a unique, endlessly interesting mosaic pattern.

The hardened slabs of terrazzo are cut into tiles to create terrazzo tiles. These tiles are incredibly strong and beautiful. Because concrete can be tinted to any color, terrazzo tiles are available in a huge array of different colors and shades. They look good in the kitchen, bathroom, or pool room designs.

This is a close look at a tile craftsman making terrazzo tiles.

The Origins of Terrazo

The word “terrazzo” comes from the Italian word for the terrace. Terrazo has its origins in Italy, where it was first created centuries ago. In its earliest form, terrazzo was made by pressing stone chips into clay, which was then sealed with goat’s milk. Luckily, builders started using concrete instead and nixed the goat’s milk. Through the centuries, the process of making terrazzo became more refined.

Terrazo made its way to the U.S. in the 1890s but didn’t really gain popularity until the 1920s. Earlier forms of terrazzo tended to develop cracks, which kept terrazzo from becoming a favorite choice despite its beauty. New technology helped to improve the way terrazzo was made. Now, it’s incredibly durable and hard-wearing. Today, terrazzo is made with epoxy and resin to keep it held together and seal it.

The Green Angle

Terrazzo tiles with marble patterned texture.

Terrazo has been around for quite a while now, but it has gained a lot of popularity in modern home design lately. This is because terrazzo tile is often made with recycled chips of stone and glass, which makes it a very eco-friendly option. As many people are looking for ways to integrate more Earth-friendly design into their homes, terrazzo has become an attractive and popular choice for many of today’s homeowners. Using recycled materials has become a big selling point in real estate, too.

Because terrazzo also retains heat well, it’s a great flooring choice for homes that have radiant heating. These heating systems have become very popular in homes that are designed to be energy-efficient and self-sustaining, which has helped make terrazzo a popular flooring choice again.

Using Terrazo Tile

Terrazo tile looks like a natural stone. The many chips of real stone that are used to make terrazzo give this material lots of depth and beauty. Terrazo is full of different colors and has lots of luster and shine, just like natural stone. But terrazzo is also a great design choice because it’s tough. Terrazo tiles are stronger than ceramic and even stronger than some other natural stones, yet it’s far more affordable than natural stone. Terrazzo tiles cost as much as some ceramic tiles.

This is a bright and airy mid-century modern kitchen with terrazzo tiles.

When it’s sealed, terrazzo tile is stain-resistant and water-resistant. Terrazo doesn’t chip and it’s tough enough to be used outside the house, too. If terrazzo tiles do become dull or damaged, they can be re-finished and polished to look brand-new again. It’s versatile, it’s durable, it’s easy to clean and it’s affordable. For many homeowners, all these qualities make terrazzo the perfect tile choice.

Because it’s resistant to water and stains, terrazzo tile is a great choice for the bathroom or the kitchen, where you want a tile that can resist everyday use.

What’s Not to Love?

If you’re thinking that terrazzo tile sounds pretty great, that’s no surprise. There’s a lot to love about terrazzo. However, there may be some things about this tile that you don’t love.

Because terrazzo must be sealed, it can have a somewhat slippery or slick surface compared to other types of tiles. This means it’s not always an ideal flooring choice, especially if you have young children who may be rather unsteady on their feet. It can also be a dangerous choice if there are elderly people in the home who also aren’t quite as steady on their feet.

This is a modern bathroom with full mosaic tiles on the walls and terrazzo tiles on the floor.

You will have to get some special non-slip finishing applied to the tile when you’re going to use it for flooring. Even with a non-slip surface, however, terrazzo tiles will still be incredibly hard. If you do fall on a floor made with terrazzo tiles, you’re going to know it.

Terrazo tiles do retain heat well, but they can also get very cold. If you don’t have a floor with radiant heating, these tiles will get cold under your feet in low temperatures.

Maintaining Terrazo Tile

So once you’ve got terrazzo tile, how do you care for it? You can use a dry mop or duster to wipe off terrazzo tiles on a regular basis. Use a wet mop or wet cloth to wipe down terrazzo tiles as needed to remove dirt. Any cleaning solution that is safe for stone will work for terrazzo. Every few weeks, use a polisher to keep your terrazzo tiles shiny.

Designing With Terrazzo Tiles

A look at various terrazzo tiles samples.

Terrazzo tiles can be used anywhere. They work for floors, walls, shower surrounds, counters, backsplashes, or outdoor patio areas. They’re available in any color scheme you want, they’re affordable and they’re a very low-maintenance option.

If you’re looking for a home design material that’s incredibly easy to maintain, green-friendly, and still looks amazing, terrazzo is a great choice. You can get these tiles in a variety of mosaic patterns that always look beautiful and interesting. Designing with terrazzo tile is easy because you can get it to look any way you want in any shade you like and put it anywhere in your home.