Terrazzo is the Italian word for terraces, and it was invented a few centuries ago by workers in Venetia using discarded pieces of marble. Eventually, it became a way to create contemporary construction designs that would become popular in homes and businesses worldwide. Terrazzo tiles are known for their versatility and beauty, giving designers and architects a much more contemporary option for wall and flooring materials.
The origin of terrazzo tiles
In the 15th century, marble workers in Venetia used odd-sized marble pieces thrown away in the production of marble slabs. It was a cheap solution to surface their living quarters with marble. Rough and uneven surfaces can be improved using terrazzo, and to achieve a flatter and much smoother surface, workers would rub the terrazzo surfaces with hand stones.
Artisans from Europe migrated to the United States in the late 17th century, and terrazzo was extensively used in monumental structures. The home of George Washington at Mt. Vernon uses terrazzo floors in many of the main rooms.
Strengthening terrazzo tiles
After 1920, marble strips were produced for making terrazzo tiles, as were metal strips. However, the high demand for metal during World War 2 prompted the use of plastic strips. These strips are important for terrazzo tiles because they can control the shrinkage of the terrazzo topping. They can also prevent cracks that mar the aesthetics of terrazzo surfaces. Strips of different gauges are available to create various intricate and elaborate patterns.
Beautifying terrazzo tiles
Soon after, electric grinding equipment produced a more refined finish on the terrazzo tiles. Grinders would use Carborundum stones placed on a rotating head to produce excellent results. White Portland cement was later used to increase the colour selections of terrazzo tiles because it can easily be mixed with a wide range of mineral pigment additives. In fact, the spectrum of colour options is unlimited because any colour can be added to the cement. To enhance the beauty of the terrazzo tiles, sealers and cleaners were later developed by chemical companies in Europe and the US.
In recent decades, we have seen new ways to use terrazzo tiles, including adding acrylics, latex, polyester and epoxies. As a result, new variants emerged, such as the rustic terrazzo used in stairways, pools, terraces, plazas and sidewalks. When choosing terrazzo tile for your home or business, you can choose the natural colour palette of marble. From thick to thin, terrazzo tiles should fit almost any design requirement. For modern house designs, terrazzo is used for interior and exterior uses.
Throughout history, terrazzo has been proven as a sensible choice. Home and business owners can achieve the expected beauty with low maintenance costs. The history of terrazzo is as fascinating as the tile itself is visually attractive.