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Installing and Maintaining Terrazzo

Terrazzo Floor Design

Terrazzo and how we install and maintain it

Terrazzo is a popular cement based material used for to provide a hard wearing but attractive surface for the walls, staircases and floors of commercial and domestic buildings. Here we look at how it is made, problems (usually cracking) that occur, how to avoid problems and how to maintain terrazzo.

What is Terrazzo?

Terrazzo is a composite material made from chips of marble, quartz, granite, stone or glass which is set in a cement or polymer based render which is then ground and polished to give a smooth finish. It can be made in place or precast before installation. It is used for both internal and outdoor floor stairs and wall surfaces, baths, kitchen benchtops.

It comes in a wide range of colours and grain sizes, the coloiur is made by selecting colours stone or crystal chips and mixing colouring agents with the cement sceed the chips are set in.

Close up of terrazzo

Terrazzo is often laid in panels separated by dividers of strips of brass, aluminium, glass and even wood and these panels are often used to separate colours and/or to make up floor patterns. Metal strips often divide sections, or changes in color or material in a pattern. Additional chips may be sprinkled on top of the mix before it sets. After it is cured it is ground and polished smooth or otherwise finished to produce a uniformly textured surface. "Terrazzo" is also often to used to describe any pattern similar to the original terrazzo floors

Very popular for floors and stairs, especially in government buildings, in recent years it has become very popular for making baths, kitchen tops and washbasins.

How to install terrazzo and take care of it

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.

Surface finishing and Polishing of Terrazzo

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.

Copyright © Phil Wilson December 2007
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