Terrazzo Restoration A — Z — Terrazzo Restoration Blog

Terrazzo Restoration A - Z - Terrazzo Restoration Blog

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This page, as well as this entire site is designed to give homeowners, who have terrazzo floors, information to help them decide if their terrazzo floors can and should be restored. I talk to people every day about their terrazzo floors. Over the years I have come to understand many of their concerns. Many terrazzo floors that can be restored are turned down by companies because they lack the experience and knowledge to find and fix the problems. Conversely, some floor are taken on by companies that get in over their heads. or, do not understand the problems they are seeing. I hope this page and many others on this site can give you the knowledge to understand what can and cannot be done. If you like what you see please like  us on Facebook. The Facebook like buttons are at the top and bottom of this page.

How do I know if I have a terrazzo floor? Many new home owners look under the carpet hopping for wood. That is unlikely in Florida, but some are shocked to see terrazzo. I hear these stories every day. Terrazzo floors were installed during original construction in banks, schools, government buildings, airports and many homes in Florida built between 1950 and the early 1970s. You can recognize it by the stone chips in the floor. In Florida it can usually be seen in the door step of the front door. It might be painted, or tiled, so it could be hidden. Terrazzo is the hot floor now. Everyone is starting to understand that terrazzo is the greenest, easiest floor to keep up and can last for centuries. No tile, carpet or vinyl can make the same claim. Floridas old terrazzo is mostly made from Portland cement and marble chips. These floors may be stained, have hundreds of chip holes from old carpet tack strip or still be covered with tile and these floors can look better today than they looked sixty years ago. Today we can fill those chip holes, remove old stains that have been in the floors for years and tear out almost any covering to get to the floor.

Terrazzo Restoration Prep (How to get ready for terrazzo floor restoration)

If you have scheduled your terrazzo floor  restoration it helps to understand how to properly prepare your house. Here are a few things that should be done before the terrazzo restoration company arrives. First off your floor should be completely cleared. I am often asked if furniture can be moved around during the restoration. The simple answer is no. Restoration takes over ten steps of grinding and polishing. Everything should be moved to the garage, or an area not being restored. Areas not being restored are to be protected with plastic to keep out dust. All interior doors get removed. If you have an alarm system be sure to call the security company and have that system placed on test mode. A little dust can set off a smoke alarm. Be sure your breaker box is unlocked. Terrazzo restoration uses many tools and, until the techs understand how your electrical grid is set up they will most definitely pop breakers. It is also a good idea to tape breakers with live wires off. We do a lot of terrazzo floors in home that are in the middle of a remodel. These homes can have a lot of bare wires. Most companies will move the refrigerator, so make sure it is empty. If the company you choose has a trailer make sure to leave room in the driveway sear the entrance. The more steps between the door and the trailer, the more contamination may travel into your home. Empty out everything from the shelves in the closets. That includes all the clothing as well. All these things should help to have a smooth start to your terrazzo restoration .

Terrazzo Stain Removal

Terrazzo Restoration A to Z was designed to give people, with terrazzo floors, a chance to understand all aspects of terrazzo restoration. Many homeowners want to know about the terrazzo restoration process and whether their terrazzo floor can be restored. Lets start from the beginning. When I go into a house, for a pre-inspection, I look for what stains are present, what damage has been done in the past and the quality of the original installation.  will start with these three things and expand on them.  Many stains are removed from terrazzo during restoration. We usually pre-treat heavily stained areas, before we start the job. One great tool for removing stains in terrazzo is an industrial strength hydrogen  peroxide. We can put this product down days in advance to help lighten a stain. After grinding we treat the stain between grits. The goal is to keep the floor wet with a bleaching agent all day and overnight again. On a four day job we will treat the floor every night until  the stains are gone. Other stains can come from glue, used to hold down carpet padding. Glue on terrazzo floors can present big problems for companies that use a buffer to restore the terrazzo. Buffers do not have enough down force to remove most pad glue from terrazzo. Even the old non-planetary grinders that weigh eight hundred pounds can have problems removing glue. We use a planetary grinder that weighs around four hundred pound and is very aggressive on glue stains. We have a ninety-nine percent success rate with pad glue. If your terrazzo floor was already restored, by another company, and still has glue stains we can likely remove them.

Another type of stain that is harder to remove is staining from old waffle padding. No other problem damaged more terrazzo floors then these carpet pads did. If the goal is to completely remove these stains then maybe the best option should be to cover the floor. That being said we have had a lot of success making these floors look great. These pictures show a floor done at the end of 2013. Other companies turned this job down, but when we were finished the owner loved his floor. Check out our page dedicated to terrazzo with pad damage. It shows more pictures.

Most people who love terrazzo know the floor might not be perfect. We have restored many floors with pad damage and had very happy home owners, though some staining remained. One thing that helps cover this problem is a very shiny floor. When you get a lot of reflection, the floor looks so busy that these stains are not so noticeable.Another type of stain can come from vinyl or ceramic tile. The stains in vinyl and ceramic tile are often in a grid pattern. This can be from cleaning the floor and having water and dirt travel to the terrazzo floor. It can, in extreme cases, be orange or yellow. These stains need dealt with. We have gotten these stains up when they were very dark. If you simply try to grind and polish them out you will fail. These stains need treated over the course of the restoration, if not in advance of starting the job. Another problem we often see with terrazzo flooring is cracks from foundation settling and chip holes from removing tack strip and nails.

 Terrazzo Chip and Crack Repair

In all the terrazzo restorations I have done over the years in Florida we seldom see a floor without chip or cracks. Back in the day people fell in hate with terrazzo for many reasons. It was slippery, it was high maintenance as the floors needed stripped and re-finished periodically and over time the floors were hard to get clean, as the floors were done to one hundred or two hundred grit. This led most to simply cover their terrazzo floors with a variety of flooring. Today, Floridians are tearing out that old flooring and going back to the terrazzo flooring that lies under their tile or carpet. There are many ways to fill these chip holes in your terrazzo floor with a variety of results. I am asked, almost every day, if chips and cracks in terrazzo flooring can be repaired. The answer is yes. Last month I took some prospective customers by a house we had just finished restoring. We had fill over one hundred and fifty holes. The couple walked the floor for several minutes. In the end they could not find any repairs. This is always our goal, but everything we do is by hand and by eye. We can repair chips and crack to look great. Remember a repair is a repair, so if you fix a crack in terrazzo many thing can impact the results.

Terrazzo Crack Repair

Cracks in Terrazzo Flooring    One of the main problems that influence how well a crack, in terrazzo flooring, turns out is where the crack is located. If a crack is in a doorway, or in front of a full length window it can never be invisible. If you stand over the crack you may not see it at all, but if you stand back and look out the door you will see it. Our goal in every repair is that it does not detract from the beauty of the terrazzo floor. Over the many years we have done terrazzo restoration we have made it a point to get better at crack repairs. When people worry about cracks in terrazzo floors the worry is almost always greater before the repair then after.

Terrazzo Tear Out of Carpet, Tile, Vinyl and Everything Else

Carpet, Tack Strip and Nail Removal From Terrazzo

A lot of old Florida terrazzo was covered with carpet. Carpet is easy to remove from terrazzo, but tack strip and nail cause most of the damage we see on terrazzo. Most carpet padding was glued down. All the padding should be removed and the glue should be scrapped. Tack strip should be inspected to see if extra nails were used during installation of the tack strip. Properly installed tack strip on terrazzo flooring should have nail holes drilled into the floor and aluminum nails used to hold the tack strip down. Unfortunately few terrazzo floors had tack strip properly installed. If you see smaller nails heads between larger ones, then there will be damage to the terrazzo. All of the damage can be repaired. These small nails usually did nothing to support the tack strip, but only made chips in the floor. Another problem is steel nails. These nails were, most often, installed with a nail gun and often caused stalling, or chips around the nail. While the nails can be cut, the damage may already be done. There is also likely damage to threshold areas. Every time a threshold was removed the nails were most likely pulled. Thresholds nail heads, unlike tack-strip nail heads, are flush with the ground. This leaves no room to cut the nail head. Even the best of restorers struggle to reduce damage from metal tack strips on terrazzo flooring.

 Tile Removal from Terrazzo

Many have told me they thought since their terrazzo was covered with tile it could not be restored. That of course is not true. Tile removal does not come without complications, but the tile can be removed and in most cases the terrazzo can be restored and the result is a beautiful, polished long lasting terrazzo floor. We also have a page showing tile removal and a restored terrazzo floor.

When removing tile from terrazzo much caution should be used. First always wear gloves, goggles and safety glasses. A respirator is also advised. The easiest tool to use is a chipping hammer. That is also the tool most likely to do damage. If you use a chipping hammer use a mid sized one and a floor scraper tool. Make sure to clean the floor often so you know if you are doing damage. If the tool does not keep moving on the floor it will cut the floor. A safer way to remove tile is with a hammer. You still need to use the same safety equipment. Hammer the tile and break it up. This will usually give you the best results.

Vinyl tile should be removed with a razor scraper when possible. If this works it is the best tool. If that does not work you should try a thicker scraper. If paper is still present over the terrazzo floor use water to wet the paper backing from the vinyl tile off of the terrazzo floor. One problem that can arise is that the adhesive can actually hole the tile to the floor so well that when you pull up the vinyl tile pieces of the terrazzo floor come up with it. look at the bottom of the tile while pulling it to make sure small pieces of flooring are not coming up along with the tile. They will look small, but can cause major problems in restoration.

Ghosting From Tile on Terrazzo One of the biggest misconception about terrazzo is that once you install tile the floor can never be restored. That being said there are some problems associated with tile removal, then restoring that terrazzo. One of those problems is ghosting. I will never forget restoring a terrazzo floor that had carpet on it. When the floor was wet you could see the grid pattern from tile that had once been on the floor. With that in mind you can understand what ghosting is and where it got its name. Not all ghosting presents in the same way. Some ghosting is more clear when the floor is wet, while other ghosting shows up as the floor dries. Ghosting is, primarily, caused from moisture trapped under ceramic tile. As moisture travels up the terrazzo floor it cannot escape. The  water saturated terrazzo terrazzo can take days, weeks, or even years to dry out. Moisture tends to escape through the grout lines and be trapped under the thin-set and tile.

As you can see, in the top picture, ghosting on a terrazzo floor will present as a grid pattern on the floor. The areas where the tile was present are darker and the areas where the grout was are lighter.

Terrazzo Restoration and Polishing

From its origination in Venice Italy people have searched for ways to polish terrazzo floors. Originally, terrazzo was sealed with goat milk, which helped give it a shine. Terrazzo floors were later sanded and polished with corn husks. Of course corn husks could not produce a high shine. When terrazzo floors started to be installed in the U. S. The floor were ground and a topical sealer of finish was then applied to the floor. This meant the floors needed stripped and a new finish applied quite often. In time they would amber, or darken. Over the years many tired of this routine and covered the floors. Almost every day someone will ask me the question, Why would anyone ever cover this floor. Today people recognize the value and beauty of terrazzo. Under normal use a diamond polished terrazzo floor will never need professionally cleaned. There are many ways to restore terrazzo flooring.

For years restoration companies used a buffer and diamond pads. Polishing powders came into vogue several years ago. This allowed service providers to hone and then switch to these powders. Though the floors did not come out as shiny as diamond polishing they were easy to do and it was harder to damage the floor.  The final polishing powder for terrazzo and marble maintenance is 5X. 5X uses an acid to get a high shine on terrazzo and marble floors. This shine rarely lasts. The biggest problem with terrazzo is that there are many different kinds of stone. 5X takes a different amount of passes for different stones. To many and you burn the stone. Not enough and the stone will not shine. With a mixture of types of marble you will rarely get a great shine on all the stones. Some will not shine at all. Another method is crystallization. Some call this terrazzo restoration method re crystallization, or vitrification. These floors need buffed every one or two years. The biggest problem with this system is that it is used as a shortcut by most companies that use it. Many who use this system have little in the way of equipment and knowledge. They simply try to cheat the floor shiny.  I believe the best method of terrazzo restoration is done with a planetary grinder.

I use a four hundred pound planetary grinder with dry diamonds to get the best shine possible.  I use all dry diamonds to remove water damage possibilities. If you look through many pictures on this site you will see floors done with water. Once we developed a system that could out perform wet polishing we never looked back. Now all our floors are done dry.   You clean with a neutral cleaner and dust mop often. Put a rug outside and inside every entrance.

Penetrating Sealer For Terrazzo Floors 

We seal with a penetrating sealer that lasts around five years before another application is needed. Fluoropolymer impregnating sealers use advanced technologies to protect your floors from oil and water based stains. To prolong the life of these products clean your terrazzo floors often. Lowes sells a premium sealer from DuPont that can last for five years. This premium fluoropolymer sealer is applied with a pump up sprayer and a finish mop. Apply it then let it dry completely and remove the excess with a mop and water. These sealers need to cure for several hours after being installed. These sealers go into the floor, but not on top the floor. They fill in the pores in the floor to keep dirt, oil based and water based stains out. These, water based, sealers are great and safe, but remember terrazzo consists of, mostly, marble and ,in the case of old terrazzo, Portland cement. Both of these are acid sensitive. If you spill wine on your terrazzo  floor the sealer will protect your terrazzo and give you time to clean it up, but the floor may be etched on contact. IE, the floor might lose the shine in the spill area. This problem is easily remedied with a hand tool and  a couple diamond impregnated pads, as the etching rarely goes very deep. It usually only takes a few minutes to fix.

Proper Terrazzo Care


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