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Keep Your Terrazzo Floors Beautiful1

Marie S. Hammer and Carolyn J. Combrink2

Terrazzo was widely used as a flooring material in Florida homes from the 50's to the 70's. It was often selected by families who were especially concerned about economy, ease of care and durability. Terrazzo was used successfully in entranceways, bathrooms, laundries, recreation rooms and sometimes the entire house. It was suitable for any area of the home where underfoot comfort, noise control or the special aesthetic effects associated at that time with carpets and resilient floor coverings was not needed.

What Is Terrazzo?

There is nothing new about terrazzo. It has been used as a flooring material for at least 2000 years, dating back to the Golden Age of Rome. The word itself is of ancient Italian vintage, derived from "terrace" or "terrassa." Over the centuries it has been defined as a "form of mosaic flooring made by embedding small pieces of marble in mortar and polishing."

Today, terrazzo is making a come back as older homes in Florida are remodeled. Many terrazzo floors were covered with wall-to-wall carpeting when carpet became the "flooring of choice" in the late 60's to the mid-90's. Now these floors are being uncovered and people, particularly in South Florida, are appreciating them for their beauty, ease of maintenance and the 50's look.

There are few flooring materials in use today that require less care than terrazzo. Yet, people have problems in maintaining it. Why is this? There are perhaps two reasons: (1) a lack of understanding of the material and its required care; and (2) neglect — it requires so little care that we simply forget it!

To best understand terrazzo, first consider its ingredients — marble and portland cement. They are mixed together in a ratio of two parts marble and one part cement. During the installation process additional marble chips are sprinkled on the surface so that at least 70 percent of the exposed surface is marble.

Terrazzo's marble surface is practically non-absorbent, so most materials which stain simply do not affect it. But the cement binder is very porous and absorbs stains easily. This is the portion of your terrazzo floor which requires much care and protection.

  • 1.

    This document is Fact Sheet FCS3106, a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: May 2003. First published: September 1986. Revised: April 2000. Reviewed: May 2003. Please visit the EDIS Web site at http://edis ifas.ufl.edu

  • 2.

    Written by Carolyn J. Combrink, former Housing and Equipment Specialist; revised by Marie S. Hammer, former professor, Housing/Home Environment and reviewed by Mary N. Harrison, professor, Consumer Education, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean

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