Despite its origins being commonly attributed to the Venetians around 500 years ago, archaeological discoveries have unearthed compelling evidence of floorings resembling terrazzo in ancient Turkish ruins dating back an astonishing 8,000+ years.
Today, the attractive, decorative flooring option has earned a well-deserved reputation for its exceptional durability, remarkable versatility and enduring aesthetic appeal.
This impressive flooring solution is the result of a meticulous combination of various aggregates, ranging from the timeless elegance of marble and stone to the innovative use of recycled materials, all thoughtfully comprised in a resilient binder.
Both epoxy and cement terrazzo have emerged as popular choices for commercial applications, and while the aesthetics of the finished floor can often be similar, there are a number of fundamental differences to be considered when deciding on the most appropriate technology for a new development or renovation project.
Often in renovation projects, every millimetre between floor and ceiling is being fought for.
When it comes to floor-to-ceiling height restrictions, every millimetre counts. Epoxy terrazzo triumphs in this aspect, boasting a thinner profile of as little as 8.0 mm once ground down. In contrast, cement terrazzo, including the setting bed, requires a significantly thicker layer.
While new build developments can factor in the depth of cement terrazzo and its required bed layer, the reduced thickness of epoxy terrazzo opens up additional possibilities for renovation projects where floor-to-ceiling height is at a premium.
Terrazzo has been established as an attractive, luxurious floor treatment, regardless of whether it is epoxy or cement based.
A cementitious binder is usually white or grey, with colour built up through the addition of iron ore, resulting in earthy, subtle tones.
Epoxy binders are available in a huge range of RAL or BS4800 shades, allowing for more flexibility when it comes to design.
While both options offer a stunning visual effect, the vibrancy of epoxy tends to suit more playful interior schemes, or environments where mimicking distinct brand colours is desirable.
While marble is found in both epoxy and cement terrazzo flooring, the range of suitable aggregate types opens up with epoxy. Glass, mirror, mother of pearl and even plastic aggregates can be used in the resin equivalent, creating an additional level of design flexibility.
Cleaning & maintenance
Commercial environments demand flooring solutions that can withstand heavy traffic, impact and everyday wear and tear, particularly in key front-facing spaces like lobbies and concourses, where terrazzo is a popular choice.
Epoxy terrazzo rises to the challenge in these areas with its exceptional resistance to heavy footfall as well as its ability to withstand stains. The resin binder and sealer create a less porous finish than its cementitious alternative, making it easier to clean and maintain.
Cement terrazzo is incredibly durable — the terrazzo floor in George Washington’s house in Mt Vernon is still intact 280 years after its installation — but it does require regular sealing to guard against staining, making it a more high-maintenance option.
There are a number of considerations relating to the installation of terrazzo flooring.
Projects where time is of the essence would benefit from choosing epoxy over cement terrazzo. The materials for cement terrazzo are often cheaper than epoxy, but the latter has a remarkable curing time of around 24 hours, allowing for quicker progress towards the grinding and polishing stages, while cement terrazzo necessitates a longer waiting period before it can undergo grinding.
In new build constructions, the heavier weight associated with cement terrazzo can be factored into the design stage, but the lighter weight of epoxy terrazzo not only expedites installation but also addresses concerns related to weight loading, rendering it a compelling choice for a wide range of applications.
Cementitious terrazzo is susceptible to shrinkage cracking through natural drying while its epoxy equivalent is dimensionally stable. Divider strips can be installed every 1.2 – 1.5 m to minimise this cracking in cement terrazzo, but this can limit design options for the finished floor.
As we continue to strive for greener building practices, considering the environmental impact of flooring materials is essential.
Both epoxy terrazzo and cement terrazzo contain low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), promoting healthier indoor air quality, and can be filled with recycled aggregates.
Cement production, however, unfortunately comes with a high carbon footprint due to the energy-intensive manufacturing process. The extraction and processing of raw materials, such as limestone and clay, require significant fossil fuel consumption, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and the high-temperature kiln firing process releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide, further exacerbating the environmental impact.
Both options are incredibly durable and will offer upwards of 25 years’ service with appropriate maintenance, minimising the need for frequent significant repairs – or even rip-out and replacement – and reducing the volume of materials sent to landfill.
Epoxy or cement terrazzo
Both epoxy and cement terrazzo continue to be popular choices for commercial environments, and while each option offers high performance and luxurious aesthetics, epoxy terrazzo delivers on flexibility and eco-credentials, giving architects, specifiers and interior design professionals peace of mind that their projects meet the mark for aesthetics as well as sustainability.
Vebro Polymers’s vebro Classic Terrazzo is an epoxy terrazzo flooring system that has been chosen for a number of impressive projects, including Singleton Distillery Visitors’ Centre and Sunderland City Hall.
The existing buildings at the Scottish whisky distillery were transformed using a combination of vebrores PU SL HD, a solid-finish, heavy duty, self-smoothing polyurethane flooring system with outstanding strength and performance, and vebro Classic Terrazzo.
The new build Sunderland City Hall was constructed on the former Vaux brewery site in the heart of Sunderland, creating a new hub for the city’s civil service teams.
Looking for epoxy terrazzo flooring?
Contact your local Vebro Polymers team to discuss your project requirements.