When it comes to kitchen countertops, the trinity of marble, granite, and quartz are still the first things that come to mind. Given their highly desirable combination of beauty, durability, and prestige, this should be no surprise.
Given that they are the most popular options for premium countertops, though, one can understand that choosing any of the three can feel a bit “basic”. Those with an eye for something a bit more distinct and unique just might find terrazzo countertops to be the perfect fit.
In this article, we’ll be showing you everything you need to know about terrazzo countertops to help you decide if this is the right material to use for your kitchen.
What Is Terrazzo?
In its simplest description, terrazzo is a composite material that is made up of an aggregate that is worked into a matrix that binds everything together into a predetermined form when it dries and cures.
The aggregate material is made up of one or more types of crushed rocks, glass, or other materials, while the matrix material is usually some form of epoxy or cement. We will examine these material choices in more detail in the next section.
Although its unique appearance makes it appear quite modern, terrazzo has actually been around since before the 1800s, with the most notable example of this being a paving technique used in Italy called seminato, which used a similar process of topping formed cement with a layer of decorative rock fragments (usually marble).
Different Types of Terrazzo Countertops
Being a composite material, one of the strong suits of terrazzo countertops is how versatile it can be in terms of design.
Just a simple change in the materials used to make terrazzo can produce a dramatically different look to fit different preferred styles. Some of the variations in terrazzo countertops that you will find on the market include:
Terrazzo can have all manner of different aggregate materials, with the ‘traditional’ selection being a mixture of marble and glass. Quartz terrazzo is also a fairly common choice, and you may also find examples with crushed seashells.
Those looking for something a bit more unique can find terrazzo made with plastic chips and even metal fragments, with different materials producing interesting colors and reflective effects.
Changing the size of the aggregate material fragments can give the terrazzo a different visual texture. This is typically split into three types: standard terrazzo, micro terrazzo that has very fine particles; and Venetian terrazzo that has larger aggregates that look more akin to a mosaic.
There is also another variation called Palladiana terrazzo that uses even larger chips of marble tiles, producing a visual basic effect that’s almost like a paver.
With regards to what size of aggregates you should get, there really aren’t any strict rules, so feel free to choose whatever you feel works. Many designers will even recommend mixing and matching aggregate sizes for a distinct look.
In terrazzo, two options are by far the most popular as the matrix or base material—epoxy and cement. As the name suggests, the matrix material is the material that holds the aggregates together. In the case of countertops, epoxy is by far the more popular of the two types.
Now don’t get us wrong, cement-based terrazzo is still very much a viable option, especially if you need a more durable countertop for outdoor use; however, epoxy-based her also tend to have a lower cost and is more flexible in terms of color customization.
While on the subject of color, it is worth noting that terrazzo can have whatever custom color you feel like having—all you need to do to make that happen is to approach a dedicated terrazzo maker that has recoloring expertise.
Such a custom color for your terrazzo countertop can be applied either by dyeing the epoxy binder or by picking out aggregates that are of a specific color.
Of course, it should be noted that while it is definitely possible to color terrazzo a certain way, it is not easy by any means. If you absolutely cannot afford to deal with a manufacturing lead time for a custom color, ready-made countertops are always available.
In addition to all of the options that we’ve discussed above, there are a few more variants of terrazzo that you can find on the market to have on your kitchen countertop.
Faux terrazzo is one such example—a form that attempts to replicate the unique look of the real thing with extra thin paint chips and flakes cast in an epoxy form instead of actual rocks. While it doesn’t really come close to the look of actual terrazzo, it gets most of the way there for a tiny fraction of the cost.
Terrazzo tiles are also an interesting alternative to the standard method of making terrazzo countertops, as instead of forming the countertop in one piece, they are cut up into prefabricated tiles that can be ready-made and quickly installed into your kitchen.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Terrazzo Countertops
Why choose terrazzo countertops:
- Customizable. Terrazzo can be made with different aggregates to produce all manner of looks and styles. The possibilities are practically endless.
- Low maintenance. The smooth and resilient surface of terrazzo countertops makes it easy to maintain—just regular cleaning will keep it in top form for many years.
- Eco-friendly. Most, if not all terrazzo is made with aggregates of recycled stone, glass, and other materials, ensuring their manufacture has little environmental impact.
What to keep in mind:
- Difficult installation. Because of the unique way that terrazzo is made it can be quite difficult to install without the help of a professional contractor, which is not only time-consuming but also fairly expensive.
- Difficult to repair. although terrazzo is generally durable, it is similar to marble and granite in that they can chip if not installed correctly—and compounding on the previous point, trying to repair chipped-off terrazzo can be pretty costly.
Are Terazzo Countertops Expensive?
Talking about pricing when shopping for countertops can be quite difficult as, depending on the exact specifications that you’re looking for and where you plan to be shopping, the prices for different materials can vary quite widely.
That being said, terrazzo countertops tend to be more affordable on average than granite or marble countertops, but more expensive than acrylic, steel, concrete, and travertine tops.
Although more bespoke countertop designs can drive up the price of terrazzo to match the more premium options on the market, terrazzo still outperforms the others in terms of its much easier and cheaper maintenance.
Are Terrazzo Countertops Reliable?
As we covered in a previous section, terrazzo is prized for its resilience and durability while also providing a very distinct and customizable look.
Terrazzo countertops are more than able to compete with more premium options like granite and marble in terms of heat resistance and resistance against chipping while also being lower in cost on average.
Sealing these countertops are generally not required (although this depends on certain factors as explained below), but applying a sealer every few years or so can dramatically extend its lifespan.
How to Maintain Terrazzo Countertops
Generally speaking, how easy it is to maintain terrazzo countertops mostly depends on the type of terrazzo that you have. The key characteristic to look out for here is porosity, as this dictates how susceptible the terrazzo is to dirt and how often it will need sealing.
In this regard, epoxy-based terrazzo is more desirable than its cement-based counterpart because of its lower porosity, needing a sealant to be reapplied less often (or even not at all).
Both types are generally pretty easy to clean as they are very smooth materials. The only thing you really need to look out for is your use of chemicals—specifically avoid any harsh chemicals when cleaning terrazzo countertops as they can eat away at the material.