Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Installing and Maintaining Terrazzo

Tossa Enrico Razzo and his famous custard marble.

Mrs Razzo had a problem. Her husband Tossa never stopped talking.

He drove her totally bananas.

“It must be a defective gene” she often said.

Then one day she realised the only time he ever shut up was when he was knitting. It was as though if his hands were kept busy he didn’t talk as much.

He liked to knit although there wasn’t much call for woolly jumpers in southern Italy. She thought she would keep him busy so she asked him to knit her a tea cosy, then a pair of gloves, some socks, a woolly hat…. Another tea cosy. On the eight hundred and fifty second tea cosy she was starting to run out of ideas. The conversation level was rising.

Then she had an idea. This would keep him quiet for a while.

“Tossa dear, I love marble” she said one day, ”can you make me a marble bath?”

“A marble bath love?” he replied. ”That doesn’t sound easy, marble comes in flat pieces.”
“You could chisel one out of a solid block” she ventured.
“Chisel a bath out of a solid block!” he thought with a distinct absence of ease. He remembered with horror the severe tongue lashing he had received when he had not got the temperature right for the milk in her cappuccino four years before.

“Her eyesight’s not too good.” He thought, “perhaps I could cheat a little.”

Tossa set to work. First he went to an old quarry and found lots of small chips of rock, they were different colours but that didn’t matter. He found some cement, he mixed a very fine mix and put a bit of custard powder in it to make it a light yellow marbley sort of colour. He then mixed in the chips of stone and moulded the cement into a rough bathlike shape and left it to set.

Three days later he looked at his creation. “Damn” he thought. “You can’t see the chips, it looks like custard that has been in the fridge for three months and what an ugly shape.”

But then an idea drifted across his mind. “Hmmm, I wonder.”

He found a flat rock and started to rub the inside of the bath. After a while the chips started to show. He carried on rubbing, it was very slow laborious work but after a month locked in his garden shed he had a beautiful smooth bathlike shape with a surface that looked rather like….. well sort of like….umm….er. Well not like marble but a bit like a very rare type of custard coloured granite.

He gritted his teeth, put in his earplugs and called his wife.

Surprisingly she didn’t even notice that it was not real marble. Finally roused from her month of blissful quiet she was taking no prisoners.
“It’s not shiny enough” she said and stormed out.

Dejected he returned to his task. “I’ll never get this thing shiny.” He remembered the difficulty of getting his Wellingtons shiny for church on Sunday. “Perhaps I could cheat again” he pondered. “Where’s the shoe polish?”
He found some wax and mixed it with a bit of paraffin. He rubbed it onto the surface and started polishing it off with a rag. After some more hard work it started to look quite shiny. He called his wife

This time she was impressed.
“Fill it up” she yelled. He obliged.

Her rather large mass sank into the bath and settled like a beached whale in the bottom. Crack! The bath, without any steel reinforcing, cracked across the middle. She never even noticed, it was only a very small crack after all.

And so it was that the world’s first cracked T.E. Razzo bath was made.

Now the project was finished Tossa’s wife started to worry. She had to keep him quiet. She invited a friend around to see the wonderful bath.

“OOOH can you make me one Mr Razzo?”
“Of course he can dear, can’t you Tossa?”

Tossa winced and went back to the shed. It was the start of a long career.

No sooner had one bath been completed that another was started.
His baths became very popular and Tossa set up a small shop with his name over the door “T.E. Razzo, bathmaker to she who must be obeyed.”

The rest is history.

These days T.E. Razzo baths are more poplar than ever. Not only that, you can have washbasins, benches, floors, even walls made from fake custard marble, you can even have different colours - and they always seem to have cracks in them.

How to install terrazzo and take care of it

So if you are building a house or renovating a bathroom you may well be considering terrazzo. Making terrazzo is highly labour intensive which is why it can be far more cost effective in Bali than in other countries. Terrazzo can look good and wears well but there are a few things you should look out for:

1. The base structure for a terrazzo bath is usually made from light concrete blocks with a thin skim of cement. This is not strong enough when filled with the considerable weight of a bathful of water and why they tend to crack. Instruct your builder to make sure that the concrete base is made out of concrete with steel reinforcing in it.

2. Think of the size of your terrazzo bath. They are usually very large and will take an ordinary hot water heater about three months to fill. Either keep the bath small or get a “demand” (as opposed to storage) hot water heater.

3. Keep terrazzo clean but remember it has a sealant on the surface. Do not use abrasive cleaners such as cream cleaners, scouring powders or scouring pads as these will take off the sealant leaving the bare terrazzo which will easily pick up stains. Be gentle and use soap and warm water.

4. If your terrazzo looks a mess (particularly if it is cracked) it is not easy to repair. Crack repairs are usually only superficial, they don’t look good and will soon crack again. It is usually better to tear it out and start again.

5. There are many terrazzo tradesmen around in Bali. They are able to clean, polish and reseal your terrazzo for you. Be careful, there are several that learned their trade saying “terus, terus” in a carpark. It is best to find someone with some well made terrazzo and get a phone number.

Finally don’t underestimate the ability of terrazzo making to help you connect with your inner self. Long hours in the shed bring an inner peace you know. In fact marriage guidance counsellors are considering terrazzo therapy for particularly difficult cases and even spa schools are putting terrazzo making on their range of holistic therapy courses.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

17 July 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
Telephone: +62-361-288-789, Fax:+62-361-284-180