Poured-in-Place Terrazzo vs Tile Terrazzo
Updated: Mar 17
There are several different types of terrazzo installations. For now, we'll focus on Thin-set Epoxy Terrazzo which is a Poured-in-Place Terrazzo system in comparison to the variety of Terrazzo Tiles. Both have pros and cons. We’ll compare them both and see what’s the best option for you. We hope this blog entry will help you decide on what to choose for your terrazzo flooring.
Terrazzo tile is really an oxymoron. Real terrazzo is actually a poured in place
seamless floor with no grout joints.
These spaces between tiles produce noise – that noise can actually be heard usually at the airport when you pull your luggage across. Aside from the noise, there’s also dirt. The dirt quickly accumulates in grout joints which causes the tiles to look worn.
However, with Poured-in-Place terrazzo, the above-mentioned issues are eliminated.
Some terrazzo tile manufacturers claim a joint free system using a tight joint. However in our experience we’ve found these still open up and accumulate dirt.
Types of Terrazzo Tile
Not all terrazzo tile is the same. The market today consists of a wide range of product offerings. We’ve grouped them into three categories:
1. Thin Sheet Terrazzo Tiles: these would include tiles such as Nurrazzo, Floorazzo, and TrendQ. These are resin based thin terrazzo tiles ranging from ⅛”-¼’ in thickness. While the resin based binder is impervious and provides the best stain resistance these tiles are very thin and will often show substrate imperfections, similar to VCT.
2. Cement Terrazzo Tiles: these would include tiles such as Wausau Tectura Designs, Coverings, and Concrete Collaborative. These tiles use a cementitious terrazzo binder. The main downside to this is cement is porous.
Leaving the tiles susceptible to staining,
even if the tiles have been sealed.
The cement binder also is weaker and leaves tiles susceptible to chipping and cracking
Cement Terrazzo Tiles range in thickness from ½”-1” plus setting material, so a recession may be required to keep consistent elevations. These companies make some beautiful products just be aware of the potential downsides.
3. Epoxy Terrazzo Tiles: These would be produced by a precast manufacturer, such as Precast Terrazzo Enterprises, and will range in thickness from ½-¾” These tiles also utilize a resin based binder which is impervious and provides excellent stain resistance. The resinous binder also yields a very strong and durable product that is less prone to chipping or cracking and will also offer larger formats up to 4’x4’ The down side is these tiles are the most expensive and often a poured in place system is more affordable.
The average lifespan of tile is 10 to 15 years, while poured terrazzo lasts more than 40 years. So why does tile have a much shorter lifespan? It’s because of the exposed edges and corners of the tiles caused by the grout joints. These cause your tiles to start chipping and cracking. With poured-in-place terrazzo, you’ll never have to worry about chipped edges because it has an “A” rating for impact resistance. Epoxy terrazzo also has excellent physical properties, average compressive strength of 14,000psi, tensile strength of 4,800 psi and flexural strength of 4500 psi, which gives it the best durability and crack resistance of any system. Epoxy thin set terrazzo also offers flexible crack membranes to detail and treat substrate cracks and has virtually eliminated the cracking issues commonly experienced with former cement terrazzo systems.
Bacteria and Maintenance
Tile floor sanitation and hygiene is a priority when it comes to tile flooring. For tile terrazzo, dust and dirt accumulate in “micro-joints”. So how do we clean it? Well, here are a few to get started: vacuuming, grout cleaning, and steam cleaning. In order to kill bacteria, we must also use commercial products. Here’s the catch: terrazzo tile is very sensitive to commercial chemicals. This will cause the color of the tile to fade.
But with poured-in-place terrazzo, it has an outstanding chemical resistance do to its epoxy binder. Further the epoxy binder is impervious and will not support the growth of mold, mildew, bacteria or fungus so you can be sure to keep your facility in the best sanitary condition while eliminating unnecessary cleaning practices. Your terrazzo’s beauty and value will never fade, plus it’s the most environmentally friendly floor available.
Terrazzo tiles put you in a modular box so curvilinear designs are difficult and costly to achieve. Most terrazzo tile suppliers offer a fixed line of colors with a more limited color range. With poured in place terrazzo, your design options are endless.
You won’t be stuck with the usual square edges or exposed grout lines design. Furthermore, epoxy resin can be matched to any paint color offering an unlimited color range. Then there are hundreds of different aggregates you can mix together as well as vary aggregate sizes so you can develop your perfect color. If you have that dream floor in mind, then poured-in-place terrazzo is the best choice. Let your creativity decide!
Thin Sheet Terrazzo Tile are thin systems typically installing at an overall installed height of 3/16” -⅜”.
Cement Terrazzo Tiles are much thicker than poured in place terrazzo. These tiles come in at an overall installed height of a minimum of ⅝” thickness up to over 1”.
Epoxy thin-set terrazzo poured-in-place has a standard overall installed thickness ⅜” and we even offer a ¼” system if needed. Keep in mind that aggregate size will affect the terrazzo thickness. Typically as the terrazzo aggregate size increases so does the system thickness.
Most terrazzo tiles are highly polished at the factory and can be a more slippery surface particularly when wet.
Check with the terrazzo suppliers to ensure their coefficient of friction is compliant with your project needs. Epoxy terrazzo offers a slip resistant surface both wet and dry and is also certified high traction ANSI/NFSI B101.1 Dynamic Coefficient of Frictions DCOF .42.
Both poured in place and terrazzo tiles offer a variety of recycled content (Pre or Post Consumer up to 70%) and offer no VOC products,
such as Terroxy Resin Systems by Terrazzo and Marble Supply Companies which was recently GreenGuard Gold Certified and also offer Health Product Declarations, HPDs.
Lastly, terrazzo tiles are very in cost depending on the type and suppliers. Material cost of the thin-sheet terrazzo products can range from $10-25 per sf. Cement terrazzo tiles can range from as low as $6-7 per sf but can easily get as high as $50 per sf. Epoxy terrazzo typically installs for $18-20 per sf. It can be installed for as low as $10 per sf for larger simple project but can easily range to $35 per sf or more depending on size and pattern complexity. Cost for all systems will vary based on the overall size of the job.
The larger the job the better the pricing. A small job would be 3000 sf and less and will have higher costs. Complexity of installation also affect the cost. Are you designing a blow and go job one color no pattern or is it a multi color intricate pattern. The aggregate material type can also greatly affect the material costs so be sure to check with your supplier about the premium material content such as glass, mother of pearl or large aggregate terrazzo. We’ve found In most cases with project having greater than 3000sf, poured terrazzo can be installed for the same price as terrazzo tile.
The main advantage of terrazzo tile us that they installed quicker than a poured in place system and also are much easier to install so a specialty contractor is not needed. Poured in place terrazzo does take longer than most finishes to install.
However, with the advent of epoxy thin-set terrazzo the quick curing time has decreased the installation duration. Further, it permits for more flexibility allowing other trades to have access to the installation areas after pouring or the grout stage. The number of colors and intricacy of the patten also play into the installation duration. Minimizing colors and patterning will help shorten the installation duration.
We believe epoxy poured in place terrazzo is the best system. Terrazzo tile may be fine for lower traffic areas or smaller residential applications but we would steer clear for demanding commercial applications.
So what’s your verdict? We would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments section.