The Process and History of Terrazzo

For the sound story assigned to us, I chose to discuss the topic of Terrazzo flooring.  I chose this topic because I have an interest in the process and because my family has proud history in the industry.  My great grandfather started a Terrazzo and Tile business in 1936 after immigrating to Canada.

Terrazzo is a composite material poured into place, much like concrete, and then formed to the necessary specifications of the job, although in most cases it is used for flooring.  It typically consists of marble, quarts, glass, or granite in the form of small chips.  The chips are mixed in a basin, with either an epoxy or cement base for strength and flexibility.  After the Terrazzo mix has hardened in place, it is ground down to expose the chips.  It is ground several times with several different machines, each with a unique function and with various different grits on the grinding stones, a process that is quite specialized and time consuming.  After the grind, it is thoroughly cleaned, sealed and waxed to avoid staining of the freshly ground chips.

At the core of Terrazzo is sustainability.  It is much easier to refinish then to replace and can be resurfaced multiple times to its original luster.  Even Terrazzo floors hundreds of years old have needed little more than a surface refinishing to be restored to its former condition.  It is known to last as long as the building with proper maintenance and care.

Terrazzo has a strong and proud history still very rich in the Venetian Region of Italy.  The marble and various other materials used in the process were gathered from the scraps of upscale tile jobs by Venetian construction workers.  This was both an economically viable and environmentally friendly process for the labourers and masons in the area.  To bring out the shine in the floor, they were known to seal it with goat’s milk to preserve the luster, another very environmentally sustainable process.

For thousands of years the mixing and grinding process was done by hand with simple handheld tools, grinding stones and raw man power.  The grinding process was done without water to keep the dust from the air.  This unfortunately caused tile and terrazzo mechanics to have severe respiratory problems.  Thankfully, today the process is much safer with the advent of electricity and mechanized tools.

3 responses to “The Process and History of Terrazzo

  1. Very cool stuff, Christian!

  2. Well written Christian keep it up!

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