The National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association says that epoxy terrazzo is the best thin-set system available, offering the lowest maintenance costs and the quickest pour-to-grind installation time.

There are a few other types of thin-set systems, such as polyacrylate (a latex-fortified cement) and monolithic (a cement-based system with a thin cross-section), but epoxy terrazzo is generally stronger and more durable. Its also less prone to cracking, says Hardy.

The epoxy resin cures overnight and can be polished the next day, permitting faster project turnaround. Traditional terrazzo may require up to seven days of curing before polishing can begin. In addition to the quick curing and finishing time, epoxy terrazzo is also lighter in weight (only about 3 pounds per square foot installed) than thicker cement-based terrazzos. This makes the material more suitable for multistory use.

Other attributes of epoxy terrazzo include:

  • Abrasion resistance

  • Excellent stain and chemical resistance

  • High impact resistance

  • Thermal-shock resistance

  • Does not shrink, permitting installation of larger monolithic sections

  • The colors are permanent and will last the life of the floor without fading

  • No need for depressed or recessed concrete slabs to accommodate the topping thickness

  • Nonporous finish does not support bacterial growth, mold, or mildew

  • Low maintenance (surfaces are seamless)

  • Extremely durable, which translates into lower life-cycle costs

Care and Maintenance of Epoxy Terrazzo Floors

Because epoxy terrazzo surfaces are smooth, seamless, and nonporous, they are very easy to clean and won't harbor the growth of mold or mildew. They also resist staining caused by chemical, oil, and grease spills. Most manufacturers recommend simply washing the surface with a neutral cleaner, followed by rinsing. In high-traffic areas, the surface should be protected by at least two coats of acrylic or urethane sealer to reduce wear.

Epoxy Terrazzo Floor Coating Limitations

Although epoxy terrazzo offers many benefits when compared with other decorative floor toppings, it does have some limitations. Probably the biggest drawback is that the system is nonbreathable, so it traps moisture vapor transmission coming up from the concrete slab. This can result in loosening of the epoxy topping or improper curing. When epoxy terrazzo is installed onto concrete slabs on grade, manufacturers often recommend the installation of a good vapor barrier.

"While moisture transmission is a problem, I wouldn't single out epoxy terrazzo," says Cain. "It's just one of many floor surfaces that can be affected. Moisture transmission can also be a problem with ceramic or resilient tile, wood, and carpeting."

"Another downside is the high cost of initial installation, due to the labor and skill level involved. It's usually not an economical surface to put down in facilities that won't be around for decades," Cain admits. "It's a 40-year floor. If you stretch the cost over the floors life span, though, the maintenance and installation costs are very low."

Other potential limitations:

  • Epoxy terrazzo is generally not recommended for outdoor use because of concerns about UV exposure.

  • Once the epoxy is mixed, it has a working time of only 45 minutes to an hour, so it must be placed without delay.

  • Because divider strips should be installed directly over all control and expansion joints in the slab (to prevent the topping from cracking at those locations), the strips can interfere with some designs.

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