The Renaissance was an incredible time for artists and architects, with plenty of ground-breaking innovations in the arts coming about. But alongside all the fancy sculptures and haunting stained glass, there was an incredible amount of waste in the form of scrap chips. It was probably an accidental discovery outside of artisan workshops that led to terrazzo, but over time, Italians noticed that walking over those marble, glass, and other durable chips pushed them into workshop floors.
The result was an early form of the breathtaking material we know today. Over time, Italians learned to create terrazzo on purpose, by scattering the chips from workshops onto clay bases, compressing them, and polishing them for a more uniform look. It has since been used in such famous locations as St. Peter’s Basilica and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and spread like wildfire in new homes built from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Terrazzo is considered a sustainable floor option, provided you choose one made the old fashioned way: out of recycled materials. Leftover bits of glass, marble, stone, and even more modern materials like plastic can be included in a terrazzo floor to create a unique look. And with a zero VOC base, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a floor that’s safer or greener. It’s even approved for LEED-certified buildings and contributes to the points that are required for LEED certification.
As long as there are manufacturing processes going on, there will be plenty of waste that can be turned into terrazzo. It’s an excellent way to use up these materials and prevent them from ending up in a landfill. Plus, the material is incredibly durable, even when used in high traffic areas like entryway floors, so unless you simply want a change, there’s no reason to worry they’ll need to be replaced.
Terrazzo is one of the most flexible surface coverings available, and considering its long lifespan, one of the best values. Of course, if you’re not planning on being in your home for a while, you may find that the cost (which is similar to high end ceramic tile) to be a bit more than you’d budgeted for. However, if you’re in your dream home or at least the one you’re planning to retire in, there’s nothing that works harder or lasts longer.
You can use terrazzo indoors or out, on floors, inside showers, on walls, or as a backsplash; the possibilities are literally endless. Since it can be purchased as premade tiles or poured in place, it’s also a great solution for oddly shaped areas. There’s no pattern to match, and no wrong direction to turn terrazzo tiles, making a tile option a reasonable DIY project for people who want to try their hand at their own backsplash or shower tile.
If you’d rather use a pour-in-place terrazzo option, you’ll likely need professional help. There’s a great deal of equipment and skill involved in getting everything just so to keep your terrazzo at its best for the long haul.