Traditional Terrazzo vs Faux Terrazzo

Traditional vs Faux Terrazzo

Traditional Terrazzo vs Faux Terrazzo

Terrazzo has been around for ages. In recent years, terrazzo has surged in popularity with designers finding versatile ways to incorporate the material into their building projects. Terrazzo contractors today install traditional terrazzo, either defined by a cement or epoxy matrix, and poured in place at the job site. The appreciation for the different styles terrazzo can create has led to the emergence of faux terrazzo.


When it comes to specifying terrazzo for a construction project, Concord Terrazzo Company always recommends a poured-in-place terrazzo system. For educational purposes, we’ll discuss the main differences between traditional and faux terrazzo.

What is Faux Terrazzo?

Faux terrazzo is an engineered product that imitates the look of terrazzo. The product is commonly used among the DIY community. Available in “terrazzo kits”, the materials include epoxy and decorative flakes or paint chips which are broadcasted to give an appearance similar to terrazzo. Faux terrazzo is applied to create products like countertops, coffee tables, and tile.


It is often dubbed as “poor man’s terrazzo” or “fake terrazzo”, which imitates the look of terrazzo but at a more affordable for residential projects.


Faux terrazzo should not be mistaken for the real thing.


Here are some examples of what faux terrazzo looks like (Source: Pinterest)

Traditional Terrazzo Meets Construction Needs

Terrazzo was invented during the 15th century. Venetian mosaic workers reused marble scraps to build terraces for their homes. Through the years, advancements in technology and materials have made terrazzo into a durable, decorative, and low maintenance flooring system, often installed in high traffic areas of commercial buildings.


Terrazzo is a flooring system that is poured on-site by skilled craftsmen. This process involves mixing materials, troweled at the desired thickness, and grind and polished to form a uniformly textured surface.


When considering material options, epoxy terrazzo offers designers more flexibility over cement terrazzo. Material options include marble, quartz, granite, pebbles, shell aggregate, and recycled glass, mirror, and porcelain chips, matched to any epoxy color. With the wide range of possibilities, designers can achieve any look they want. It is also a versatile material applicable for stairs, countertops, and walls.


In addition to its appearance, designers also prefer epoxy terrazzo for its physical characteristics. These characteristics include greater compressive and tensile strengths that yield a durable and long-lasting surface.

Consider Floor Performance

A terrazzo floor stands the test of time and is expected to last 75 to 100 years.


The long lifecycle provides a great return on investment for building owners seeking a cost-effective flooring system. Terrazzo’s high performance is in large part due to its durability. The wear resistance of the terrazzo is exceptional. That is why it is installed in high-traffic areas such as lobbies and hallways in schools, hospitals, and airports. Each time you walk by a terrazzo floor, it is noticeably in great condition.


Consider the thickness of the terrazzo floor. Thinset epoxy terrazzo, which is installed the most, is generally stronger than cement systems, but at 3/8″ thickness it is thinner and lighter. The system weighs 3-4 pounds per square foot. Cement systems have more thickness and weight. For example, sand cushion cement terrazzo is 2.5 to 3 inches thick, with a 1/2″ terrazzo topping. The system weights at 25-30 feet per square foot.


While faux terrazzo may look like real terrazzo, it does not share its physical characteristics. Because the system uses decorative flakes or paint chips, faux terrazzo is thinner at a maximum of 1/16″ thickness. As a result, it is far less resistant to the common wear expected in commercial buildings. Once colors wear down, it is much harder to refinish the floor. However, any traditional terrazzo floor can be easily refinished and restored during its lifecycle to look new once more.

Suffolk Municipal Center Terrazzo Flooring

Evaluating Intended Use and Costs

While traditional terrazzo yields long-term cost savings to install a flooring system, it doesn’t always meet everyone’s budget. People turn to faux terrazzo manufacturers or try to create the effect themselves at a lower upfront cost to them. However, faux terrazzo is not a real representation of terrazzo; therefore, its performance may only last a short period of time.


When considering the use of terrazzo on any project, factor in time. According to the NTMA, during the lifetime of a building, the total cost of flooring can exceed 35 times the initial installed cost. For buildings intended for long-term use or have high traffic areas, traditional terrazzo makes sense. It is important to acknowledge maintenance and replacement costs among flooring systems.


Faux terrazzo, and even terrazzo tiles, are often selected with the mindset that it is cheap, fast, and easy to install. Unlike traditional terrazzo, it does not require skilled labor and equipment. While terrazzo tile is an option to consider for commercial buildings, the NTMA states the net cost of doing a terrazzo tile installation is similar to a poured-in-place installation.


Alternatives to a poured-in-place system become problematic down the road. It will take time, money, and labor to frequently replace worn faux terrazzo or broken tile pieces. Poured-in-place systems take more effort to install, but once completed, they will last a lifetime.


Building owners begin to see ROI on a poured-in-place terrazzo floor a few years after its installation. This is because they save on maintenance costs. Terrazzo floors will require daily dust mopping and weekly damp mopping, with the occasional resealing. It’s quite easy to care for a terrazzo floor during its flooring lifecycle.

In Conclusion

When designing a school, hospital, airport or any other commercial building, traditional terrazzo excels in aesthetics and performance. Terrazzo allows for a seamless surface, that can incorporate beautiful design elements to enhance the floor. It is truly a one-of-a-kind flooring system.


While there are flooring choices that imitate terrazzo, at reduced costs, they do not yield durable and long-lasting surfaces.


To get the best quality flooring system for your commercial space, epoxy, and cement terrazzo should be highly considered.