The terrazzo floor is a low-maintenance flooring solution that is made by mixing marble chips and bits of natural stones (like quartz, granite, glass, and others) with a cement-based binder.
Not only for elegant and long-lasting indoor floors in homes and offices, but you can also find them beneficial when installed in wet spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms (for surfaces such as countertops and backsplashes, and shower bases).
These can also be a great addition to your patio or pool deck.
While the floor itself requires very little maintenance and is known for its smooth, polished look – it can still get worn out by persistent resistance from heavy foot traffic.
If you notice your old terrazzo floor gradually losing its shine, you can get it restored either by cleaning and painting OR by polishing your old floor.
What follows is a detailed step-by-step guide that will walk you through all the procedures for cleaning and painting your terrazzo floors.
How to Paint Terrazzo Floors?
To properly paint and whiten your terrazzo floors, it’s important that you clean and prep your floors prior to applying the paint.
This will promote paint adhesion better, making sure that the applied paint will remain intact for a long.
Here are the outlined steps and procedures you will need to follow…
Step 1. Clean the floor
Your aim here is to get rid of all the dust and debris along with the stains that may have developed over time.
- Start by cleaning your terrazzo flooring with a broom or a dry mop
- Next, use an all-purpose cleanser with a gallon of water to prepare a cleaning solution
- Using this solution, mop up your terrazzo tile floor and let it dry
- If there is any old sealant gunk dislodged on the floor, use a floor scraper (or a stone tile stripper solution) to remove it from the surface
- Finally, rinse the floor with clean water to remove the residual debris and gunk, you can use a wet vacuum cleaner if you want
Keep in mind, that if there is excess oil, grease, wax buildup, or rust stains on your floor, you may need to remove them using a more powerful cleaner like a tri-sodium phosphate-based cleaning solution.
Step 2. Patch up the cracks
Old terrazzo floors are susceptible to getting cracks and holes and you will need to fix them up before moving forward to refinishing.
Using color-tinted epoxy is best recommended for patching up any visible cracks or fine holes in your terrazzo floor.
When choosing the epoxy for floor repairing, make sure that its color matches as closely as possible to the color of the marble chips you have on your terrazzo.
Step 3. Apply the primer
After you have given the floor enough time to dry up, it’s time to apply the primer to your terrazzo flooring.
This will enhance the bond between the paint and the floor.
Most importantly it helps to hide stains and seal surfaces properly so that new paint can be applied on top for a color change.
- Using a paint roller evenly apply the latex primer
- Start from one corner of the floor while working out your way out of the room
- After you have applied the primer, let the primer sit for about 2-3 days so that it gets dried and hardened completely
Step 4. Apply the paint
For the best-updated look and shine of your terrazzo floor, water-based paint is the most recommended solution.
It’s easy to apply with a paint roller and it gets dried very fast.
For colors and hues, you can pick anything from lighter shades to more vivid ones according to your personal preferences.
- Using your paint roller apply the premium quality terrazzo floor paint evenly on the surface as you have done with the primer
- Allow the paint to dry completely for about 24 hours and then recoat the flooring with a second paint layer
It’s good to use a roller extension handle that can allow you to work easily in certain areas.
Also, I recommend slightly overlapping your roller strokes while covering the entire floor area.
This will most likely give a better finish.
Step 5. Seal your terrazzo floor
Applying the water-based sealer to your dull terrazzo floors, not only adds a glossy appearance but will also help keep the paint from chipping.
Applying a penetrative sealer also means that you are closing off all the pores within the terrazzo that can allow different materials/liquids to seep into the floor and cause discoloration.
Plus, it will also help in protecting your terrazzo floors from ultraviolet staining/fading, acid staining along with mold, and mildew growth.
So, after the second paint coat is dried completely, finish off the freshly painted surface with a protective sealer finish using a good-quality acrylic sealant and a paintbrush.
For enhanced protection, shine and luster, apply two to three coats of sealer once the first coat of the sealer is dried completely.
Once you are done, wipe off excess sealant using a dry mop or a piece of rag.
Tips and Warnings:
If your terrazzo floor looks too old, stained, or dull, I recommend crystallizing the surface using an acid solution.
Then grind your floor with a planetary grinder and finally buff the floor with a polishing powder to restore its shine back.
Also, you should avoid walking on the freshly painted terrazzo floor surface for up to 24-hours.
This is important to allow enough time for the paint, and sealer to dry up and get cured.
Can You Stain Your Old Terrazzo Floor?
While it’s possible to stain your old terrazzo floor to restore and bring its shine, it’s important to know that not all terrazzo floorings can be stained.
Basically, when you are applying the stain to your floor, the marble and stone particles being impermeable will not take the stain color – it’s only the porous cementitious part that will absorb the stain.
Also, there’s a significant difference in applying the paint and stain which lies in the fact that paint will only sit on the top of the flooring surface, whereas the stain will penetrate deep into the cement parts of the terrazzo floor.
In other words, when you are painting the terrazzo floor you will be adding a visual appeal to your floors, but when staining, the natural colors added will be more long-lasting and tough.
To apply the colored stain to your terrazzo floor you can follow these steps:
Step 1- Strip the floor
Using a floor wax remover, strip off the build-up wax or debris.
If there is a layer of sealer or a polish already present, use a wire brush or an electric floor scrubber to strip them off.
Step 2- Acid etch to open the pores
Next, it’s time for acid etching which is usually done by mopping the entire floor with a solution of 250-ml of muriatic acid (or white vinegar) in a bucket of water.
This will open up the pores of cement on the floor to absorb the stain better.
Make sure you use protective gear like a face mask and gloves while performing this technique.
Step 3- Rinse and stain the floor
Rinse the entire floor to remove the solution from the floor and then using a paint roller, apply the stain evenly.
Work on small sections at a time and buff these sections using a non-slip, non-buffable floor finish.
This will help penetrate the stain better into the cement of the terrazzo while making sure that the buffing does not create slippage conditions on the terrazzo.
When you have applied the stain to the entire floor, wipe off the excess stain using a mop.
How to Polish Your Old Terrazzo Flooring?
If you still like the color of your existing floor and do not want to repaint them, it’s better to get them polished for a refreshed look and shine.
For some, it may not seem possible to polish an old terrazzo floor without the use of a professional company.
However, you can undertake the project yourself if you have the right tools and supplies.
Your local store may have the right equipment for you to rent which completes the job sooner and for less money.
Some of the equipment that you will need includes the following…
- Crystallization Solution
- Diamond Abrasives
- Planetary Grinder
- Polishing Powder
Once you have your materials, you can use one of three methods to polish your terrazzo flooring; diamond polishing, polishing powder, or recrystallization.
Of the three methods, diamond polishing is the most expensive, but it also lasts the longest.
The other two methods are far more affordable, but the shine only lasts for around two years, one-quarter as long compared to diamond polishing.
Before you make your decision, here is a breakdown of all three methods.
1- Diamond Polishing
Terrazzo surfaces that are diamond polished not only last for a long time they are low maintenance as well.
Lasting up to eight years, they can maintain their high-gloss finish with relative ease.
Start with the planetary grinder and use coarse-grid diamond abrasives to grind down the surface.
This will get rid of the scuff marks, scratches, and the like.
Next, polish the surface using medium-grit abrasives followed by fine grit. The result is a high gloss finish that will last.
2- Polishing Powder
You’ll need to purchase some pH-neutral polishing powder and rent a buffing machine.
Next, attach soft polishing pads that are light shade to the buffing machine, so they do not stain the terrazzo flooring.
Now, sprinkle the polishing powder on the surface and buff it until the floor absorbs it all.
Once finished, use a wet mop to clean away any residual polishing powder and let the floor dry.
Once dry, buff it again until you see a glossy finish.
Sometimes called vitrification, this is a method that uses an acid solution, a polishing machine, and a steel wool pad to polish the floor.
Simply pour a little of the acid solution onto the surface.
Run over it with the polishing machine that has the steel wood pad in place.
The wool will grind away at the scratches and imperfections, but it is the acid solution that creates a glossy finish.
The glossy look is because of the interaction of the acid solution with the terrazzo flooring itself and the results will last about two years.
How Much Does It Cost?
There are several factors that go into how much it costs to polish your terrazzo floor.
This includes how much floor is needed to be polished, the labor costs of hiring professionals, and the method of polishing that you use.
If you hire contractors to do the work, expect to pay about $30 per hour to polish the floor.
This is on top of the $1 to $8 per square foot it costs in terms of materials.
You can expect to pay the most using the diamond polishing method, but the results will last four times as long.
It also costs more to polish existing terrazzo flooring compared to new surfaces especially if you are hiring a contractor.
This is because of the clean-up of the dust and debris that the polish may cause.
The Bottom Line
Terrazzo floors are beautiful and are popular for centuries – due to their tough distinctive look.
Although the combination of materials, it’s made up of, makes it a highly durable flooring option; painting, staining, and polishing can help restore its natural shine and luster.
Make sure you use the right materials and follow the above guidelines next time you desire to paint your terrazzo floors in your home.
If you are not comfortable with doing the job yourself, then hiring a professional contractor is the answer.
Be sure to hire the best in your area to get the results that you want. But be prepared to pay a considerable amount to have it done.
Otherwise, you can save money when you do the work on your own.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.