There are three types of binders used to anchor the marble chips or other aggregate that appear in your Terrazzo floor. One is a Portland cement type of product, and the second product is referred to as a polyacrylic modified Portland cement which includes an acrylic additive. The third element is an epoxy or polyester system often referred to as a resinous thin-set system. Although each system has the role of anchoring the aggregate into a hard composition once the topping has been placed, the treatment of each does vary.
Terrazzo floors are known to have ease of maintenance, but this should not be interpreted to mean that no care is required. Once one understands the care requirements in the early stages of a new Terrazzo floor, he can not only avoid possible problems, but will soon recognize Terrazzo’s economy of care and the aesthetic values.
It is important to note that harsh cleaners and sealers can damage Terrazzo. Therefore, only materials known to be neutral with a PH Factor between 7 and 10 should be used when scrubbing or mopping your floors. You should also avoid all-purpose cleaners or soaps containing water soluble, inorganic or crystallizing salts, harmful alkali or acids. These materials could prove harmful to your floors.
Another important factor is the use of sweeping compounds, which contain oil. Not only are they a potential fire hazard, but these compounds can penetrate through terrazzo flooring permanently discoloring it. Additionally, many of these compounds contain sand, which is hard to sweep and could abrade your floor if not removed.
- Portland Cement-Type Systems:
The Terrazzo surface has a minimum of 70% density of marble chip surface exposure. The marble chips have a very low porosity of absorption, thus the portion of this floor system that needs protection is the Portland cement binder that has 30% or less of surface exposure. This is why our specification requires a penetrating solvent-type sealer be applied to this surface immediately following the final polishing. This helps to inhibit the penetration of spilled materials upon initial contact with the Terrazzo floor; however, spills must be cleaned up immediately in order to prevent stains caused by repeated or long term exposure. This process seals off the minute pores in the binder.
At this point internal protection has been achieved, but because it is a penetrating liquid material, the final sealers will not produce a sheen to the floor surface. Unless it has been specified otherwise, once the owner occupies the building he provides his own maintenance and will seal the surface to achieve the desired sheen.
A new Portland Cement Terrazzo floor may initially appear to be mottled in color, especially the darker colors. This is the product’s normal characteristic as it progresses through the curing process. This blotchy appearance gradually disappears provided the floor is maintained during the curing cycle.
- Resinous-Type Terrazzo Systems (Epoxy and Polyester):
Because the matrix in these systems becomes a non-porous surface, no penetrating-type sealer is used on this type of floor. Only surface sealers, as mentioned in these instructions, are used.
A frequently asked question: “How often must we sweep or scrub this floor?” The amount of foot traffic a floor receives obviously dictates this answer, but most public buildings normally require daily dust mopping as part of their maintenance procedures. Daily dust mopping removes not only the dust, but also the grit tracked into the building. This grit acts as an abrasive on your floor’s hard surface.
As for scrubbing: Normally, a newly constructed building contains a considerable amount of construction air dust that will eventually deposit itself on the floors. Initially, scrubbing should be considered twice weekly until the time when the construction dust no longer exists. After that, wet mopping once a week should ensure a clean appearance on your floors.
Most owners want to see a high sheen on their terrazzo floors, however, care must be taken in the creation of terrazzo products. Due to concerns in floor building safety, a sealer must be water-based and within the acrylic family of maintenance products made for Terrazzo. It should also have the Underwriters Laboratories classification that it has slip resistance with a coefficient of friction rating of a minimum of 0.5 or higher.
It must be understood that solvent-based sealers not only have a tendency to discolor with age, but have a removal problem for the user especially when wear patterns develop or discoloration dictates stripping them from the surface.
The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association (NTMA) does not sell products, it tends to use generic terms in its suggestions. Based on NTMA guidelines, we recommend acrylic, water-based sealers be mopped on, in one or more coats, in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended instructions. If a high sheen is desired, this procedure can also be followed by an acrylic, water-based finish for daily or weekly buffing.
Please note that it is essential to maintain a clean appearance on your floor. Water, mops and other equipment must be clean!
Cleaning Procedures: Keep in mind, your terrazzo floor is a work of art. You wouldn't risk injuring fine art pieces hanging on your wall. So, why would you treat your beautiful flooring any differently? Your terrazzo floor is an investment in your home or business. Because it is an art forum, it should be respected as such - remember, it has value! Take care of your terrazzo floor and reap the benefits and rewards of owning it.
All terrazzo floors have special cleaning needs, specific to their situation. Your floor's cleaning cycle should be regulated by the amount of foot traffic it receives. Neutral cleaners are designed to react only if a solution of clean water and cleaner, mixed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, is allowed to remain on the floor surface for several minutes. This provides the time necessary for the grime-dissolving action to occur. After sitting for several minutes, the dirt-laden solution should be removed from the surface by squeegee, vacuum or mopping, and then rinsed with ample amounts of clean water. It is important to keep the floor wet during this entire cleaning process, so the dirt does not reabsorb into the floor.
There is another process that produces a sheen without the application of sealers. Here is how it works: As you clean your floors with the neutral cleaner/water solution, your final mop up picks up the majority of this cleaner, but still some remains on the surface. After several such procedures, the residue of the cleaner will be come “buffable” and will result in a sheen by buffing after each washing. This method of achieving a sheen never requires the stripping action, which reduces your maintenance costs.
Important Note: In the event your floor becomes heavily soiled, consult with your local terrazzo contractor or the NTMA for directions before using any type of "miracle cleaner," suggested by someone NOT familiar with Terrazzo. Ignoring this warning could prove harmful to your floor surface.