Maintain Terrazzo Floors Effectively and Efficiently


If you have terrazzo flooring or are considering having some installed, it’s crucial to know your options to protect your investment for the long term. Like any floor, terrazzo requires maintenance. 

But how much and what kind of terrazzo floor care will depend on how you choose to protect the surface. There are three distinct maintenance approaches to consider: 

  • covering the floor with an acrylic wax finish, 
  • grinding and polishing the bare surface to a smooth shine, or 
  • coating with a water-based thin-film urethane.

Discover how to protect your terrazzo flooring investment for the long term with Ultra Durable Technologies.

 What is Terrazzo

The mixing of small chips of marble, quartz, granite, glass, or other materials into a binding substance to create paths, floors, and walls is an ancient practice. Cementitious terrazzo, in which chips are embedded into a cement base and then ground and polished, was developed in 18th-century Italy (where it got its name). Another type of terrazzo, which uses a polymer binder (now usually epoxy) instead of cement, first appeared in the 1970s. Epoxy-based terrazzo can achieve a wide range of highly customized, colorful designs, which gives architects and interior designers full control of what they like to display in a flooring system. 

Check out some additional resources on caring for terrazzo here.

While terrazzo is a very durable material, it is not indestructible. Wear and tear over time can take its toll. As outlined below, a few different practices have been developed to maintain it.

Acrylic Wax Application

An acrylic wax finish is commonly applied to protect the terrazzo and enhance its appearance. Acrylic finishes wear down quickly and require frequent buffing, recoating, and stripping (removing the old wax and recoating with several fresh layers). If this routine is neglected, the wax becomes dull from regular traffic and can turn yellow. It can even wear off completely, exposing the terrazzo to harsh elements.

Grind & Polish

As an alternative, modern grinding equipment can create a polished surface without a coating. Polishing increases the shine and clarity of terrazzo while avoiding the frequent upkeep of acrylic wax. 

However, the process of grinding and polishing can be extremely expensive. Not just that, but such a floor must be maintained regularly with diamond pads. Finally, without a finish to protect it, the exposed terrazzo is more susceptible to stains, etching, and other damage.

Water-Based Urethane Coating

A more recent development in maintenance maintenance is the use of thin-film urethane coatings. These are positioned to offer the best of both worlds: they require much less maintenance than acrylic while providing a strong protective barrier against staining or etching while also increasing shine and enhancing the colors. Additionally, if slip resistance is needed, different sizes of grit additives can be mixed into the coating to give it any desired level of traction.

Once you know these terrazzo maintenance options are available, it is helpful to compare the characteristics of these methods to discover which program best fits your needs.

Stripping wax

Acrylic wax floors require routine stripping and dealing with a huge mess like this!

Budget Considerations

On a per-coat basis, traditional acrylic finishes often seem to be the cheapest option due to the low initial cost. However, an acrylic finish demands regular buffing and recoating every few weeks or months, so the cost is continuous.

To the contrary, a single application of a thin-film urethane coating can last several years with no need for buffing and recoating. Keep in mind that urethanes typically cost more per gallon, and upfront costs may be somewhat higher. But considerable savings will be apparent over time.

Environmental Impact

Because thin-film urethane coatings require much less maintenance than acrylic finishes, they also dramatically reduce waste. These waste reductions include substantial savings in electricity and water, as well as much less chemical stripper and old finish routinely dumped down the drain. 

The elimination of buffing and the drastic reduction in recoating means fewer disposable materials are needed (such as machine pads, rags, single-use PPE, and packaging.) This results in less waste being thrown away. 

Yet another green bonus: fewer trips made by workers maintaining the floor can also mean less gasoline burned.

Indoor Air Quality

Switching from an acrylic wax finish to a water-based urethane coating can also improve indoor air quality. Chemical strippers used to remove old acrylic often emit high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are pollutants that can trigger respiratory, allergic, and immune effects. Buffing an acrylic finish also releases VOCs into the air as well as PM10 and PM2.5 particulates, mold spores, bacteria, and other allergens. 

A water-based urethane coating eliminates buffing and requires recoating less frequently, greatly reducing such issues. Additionally, chemical strippers are only required if replacing existing wax. In this case, the chemical stripper is only needed initially because the urethane can then be recoated (years later) without any need to strip away the prior coating.

Grind & Polish vs. Water-Based Urethane


Equipment Requirements for Polishing

The initial polishing process for terrazzo involves slowly grinding the floor with multiple passes using increasingly finer diamonds. This process is very labor-intensive and expensive. 

Because this process requires heavy-duty, specialized machines along with many hours of labor, polishing is often the most expensive option. Additionally, frequent scrubbing with diamond-impregnated pads (DIP) is required to maintain the sheen. Compared to traditional acrylic finishes, polished terrazzo requires less frequent ongoing maintenance. However, it still needs occasional grinding.

This timeframe is comparable to thin-film urethanes, which do not require specialized machines or as many hours of labor. Therefore, a urethane coating is less expensive per square foot than polishing.


Cost aside, the biggest drawback of polishing is that it leaves the bare terrazzo exposed and susceptible to damage. Specifically, the aggregate used in terrazzo often contains marble, which is susceptible to staining. This is especially noticeable in lighter color mixes. Also, terrazzo is also etched (partially dissolved away) by acids like fruit juice, soft drinks, vinegar, and acidic cleaners. 

Penetrating sealers used in the polishing process can help protect against this, but they must also be maintained and reapplied regularly. A thin-film urethane, by contrast, acts as a shield to keep scratches, scuffs, spills, and cleaning products from making contact with the terrazzo itself.

Other Considerations

Slip Resistance

Traditional acrylic wax and polished surfaces pose slip hazards. Thin-film urethane coatings, on the other hand, can be mixed with various grit sizes to achieve a customized level of slip resistance matched to the specific needs of an area. 

Applications near building entrances, along sloped floors, and other areas with frequently wet conditions will benefit from a coarser grit, creating a rougher surface to provide the best traction. Less coarse grit sizes are also available for areas that are not frequently wet. 

Explore our Resources to learn more about facility safety considerations.


Grit additives add traction and decrease the risks of slips and falls, but they simultaneously affect how glossy a urethane-coated floor looks. If a highly-reflective glossy shine is the goal, the absence of grit yields the best result. However, you can tone down the gloss level to a semi-gloss or a low gloss with the addition of a medium or fine grit. If you desire a true matte finish, the urethane coating may be formulated to achieve this without the need for any additives.

Maintain Terrazzo Floors Effectively and Efficiently

It is wise to keep in mind the time, effort, and money that is required to achieve the results you desire. Also, now more than ever, indoor air quality, slip resistance, and environmental impact are concerns that need to be considered. Being informed about your options is ultimately the best way for you to decide which maintenance process is best for your terrazzo floor surface.

Contact us today to learn more about our thin-film water-based urethane solution for terrazzo. Experience the benefits of Ultra Durable Technologies' EPIC High-Performance Floor Finish® and achieve a positive ROI. By choosing EPIC, you will also protect your building occupants’ health and safety, save water and energy, and enjoy beautiful floors for years to come. 

Leave a Comment