Terrazzo has been trending for a while now (it even made it onto our lists of 10 Upcoming Tile Trends for 2023 and 2024 Tile Trends), so it’s only right that we dive into exactly what it is and why it can be a great choice for both residential and commercial spaces! Plus, we’ll share our favorite options for terrazzo-look porcelain tile so that you can get the appearance of terrazzo at a more cost-effective price.
The Evolution and Meaning of the Word “Terrazzo”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “terrazzo” has been around since the early 20th century–the year 1902, to be exact. It evolved from the Latin word “terra,” which means “earth,” and literally translates to “terrace” in Italian.
Terrazzo is defined as “a flooring material made of chips of marble or granite set in concrete and polished to give a smooth surface.”
Similarly, Britannica discusses terrazzo as a “type of flooring consisting of marble chips set in cement or epoxy resin that is poured and ground smooth when dry.” The encyclopedia further notes that terrazzo was ubiquitous in commercial and institutional buildings in the 1900s, and that its surface is smooth, hard, and durable, making it easy to clean.
Terrazzo in the Past Vs. Today
Terrazzo is thought to have its roots in Egyptian mosaics, but it was popularized in 16th-century Italy. At this time, terrazzo was usually made by first pouring a concrete floor before setting marble chips into its surface and then polishing it. This material’s primary use was as a method to reuse stone offcuts.
Sometimes, the concrete was poured into its intended location by hand, but it could also be precast into blocks and then cut to size and installed.
In modern times, though, terrazzo often comes in ready-made tile form, and you can even imitate the look of traditional terrazzo with porcelain and ceramic tile.
While terrazzo was once only made with cement, today, resin can be used for a smoother, more crack- and scratch-resistant surface, although it typically comes at a higher price.
Terrazzo: Pros and Cons
Let’s dive into some of the advantages and drawbacks of traditional terrazzo.
- Beautiful and elegant, with an artisanal Mediterranean feel
- An excellent choice for public buildings thanks to its durability
- Can be refinished repeatedly, increasing its longevity
- Can be used for flooring, walls, backsplashes, and countertops
- Considered a sustainable decorating option due to its long lifespan
- Retains warmth and pairs well with underfloor heating
- Easy to maintain with a nylon scrubbing brush or steam mop and a cleaning solution with a neutral pH
- More affordable than marble, granite, and other types of natural stone
- Many color and material options, with fragments ranging from metal and glass to quartz and marble
Below, you can see our Terrazzo Gray Scallop Mosaic and Terrazzo White Scallop Mosaic, each of which incorporates stone with recycled glass. These stylish mosaics have a semi-glossy finish and are meant for use on walls, making them excellent choices for a kitchen or bathroom backsplash.
- Can be slippery, so may not be ideal for residential applications where children and elderly people live - however, you can apply non-slip additives to the surface of terrazzo
- Traditional terrazzo must be installed by professionals, although you can DIY the tile version
- Expensive when factoring in professional installation
- Must be sealed for water resistance
- Poured variation can be prone to cracking (slabs are more resistant to cracks)
- Traditional terrazzo in historic homes may contain asbestos
Get the Look of Terrazzo for Less with Porcelain Tile
Some of our favorite porcelain tile options replicate the look of traditional terrazzo at a much lower price.
For example, our Marrakech Terrazzo Gray 8x8 Porcelain Tile and Marrakech Terrazzo White 8x8 Porcelain Tile are both just $5.95 per square foot. The Marrakech collection was created with boldness in mind, offering a variety of patterns with classic designs for eye-catching flooring that gives any room a unique touch.
As one review states, this tile was “even more lovely than I had imagined from the website photos…The 8" size gives the terrazzo a homey feel, while still being reminiscent of upscale institutions and commercial buildings.”
At $5.98 per square foot, our Agora Terrazzo 32x32 Multicolor Porcelain Tile is a true steal. The Agora collection reinterprets classic designs to add a contemporary edge and is a great choice for residential and commercial applications alike.
If you’re in search of a terrazzo tile that looks a little more luxe, then the Veneziane Terrazzo Gray 12x24 Porcelain Tile may be the ideal option for you. At $8.80 per square foot, it’s still cost-effective but adds a new layer of refinement with its high-quality inkjet technology.
This tile comes with eight to ten unique faces to more accurately mimic the look of true terrazzo, and it has a PEI rating of 4, meaning that it’s appropriate for residential, commercial, and even light industrial applications. (Learn more about PEI ratings here.)
Plus, this tile has been precisely cut around the edges, allowing for minimal grout lines, which creates a clean and nearly seamless look.
A similar choice with a different color scheme also comes from the Veneziane collection. Our Veneziane Terrazzo White 24x48 Porcelain Tile (seen on the wall in the picture below) costs $10.80 per square foot and shares the same attributes as the gray terrazzo porcelain tile above.
Our Flake Terrazzo Dark Gray 30x30 Porcelain Tile, Flake Terrazzo Black 30x30 Porcelain Tile, and Flake Terrazzo Light Gray 30x30 Porcelain Tile, each priced at $9.58 per square foot, all use the same inkjet technology described previously and have rectified edges for minimal grout lines. These realistic representations of traditional terrazzo can be installed by DIYers or professionals.
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