The General Contractor & Terrazzo:
The Reputation vs. The Reality
Seven Keys to Grief-Free Installation
Info & FAQs
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First, installation has become simpler, cleaner and cheaper, while terrazzo’s design capacity has expanded exponentially. Over recent decades, the terrazzo industry’s large-scale shift to epoxy from traditional sand-cushion has dramatically lowered costs while playing a key role in the several game-changing improvements in the process.
The Seven Keys to Grief-Free Installation
Key #1: The bigger the space, the quicker the pace
Mr. Iorio said he always presses GCs to allow them a scope of at least 2,500 square feet; it’s worth the tremendous savings to the schedule. When even more is space allotted, the terrazzo crew can get in and then vacate the area even more quickly, he explained.
Being able to occupy 5,000 square feet unrestricted pushes the schedule ahead dramatically, Mr. Iorio said, noting that once he sits down with GCs to show the difference, they are always on board.
“GCs are amazed how much time it shaves off—20-30 percent of working days,” he reported.
Key #2: Trade talk: sequencing teamwork
While Yorie Tile & Terrazzo installs tile, terrazzo, epoxy floors and marble, Mr. Iorio states that among those finishes, “terrazzo is actually the most user-friendly for the GC, with the proper scheduling.” While noting that the challenge of scheduling a terrazzo installation can’t compete with the ease of VCT, he ranks it among class-A lobby space finishes with stone slab or marble tile.
The first line of defense in protecting finishes is well-planned sequencing. Experienced general contractors shared their recommendations for successful scheduling.
“When sequenced properly, installing terrazzo is no big deal,” said Henry Serry. He emphasized the need for conversation between the GC and the terrazzo contractor before the job begins about the requirements of the installation within the project as a whole.
Mr. Serry managed an award-winning terrazzo installation in Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union’s San Antonio headquarters,
The medallion alone required a couple of months’ work, Serry recalled. There was no way around planning for the time needed to allow the terrazzo crew to fully occupy that space.
Mr. Serry explained that proper terrazzo installation is highly “project dependent, even room dependent”: installing it requires close attention to what trades go in before and after the terrazzo itself. For installing finished millwork, wood panels and doors, for example, time should be allowed at the end.
Justin Boehm, Senior Project Manager with DE Harvey Builders in Pearland, Texas, seconded Mr. Serry’s recommendations. He encourages GCs and terrazzo contractors to put their heads together and include other subcontractors in coordinating all the variables, from space and timing to access to and from and around the terrazzo installation.
Key#3: Cracking the case of the substrate
Communication between the various trades is, again, therefore, essential to the smooth progress of project featuring terrazzo installation.
“The GC and the terrazzo and concrete contractors need to have a good solid meeting two to three weeks before pouring any concrete,” Mr. Iorio cautioned. “It’s well worth the hour conversation. It saves a lot of grief and the final result shows the coordination.”
All parties concerned need to reach clear agreement about expectations for flatness and all substrate issues, with any needed adjustments made to the plans, he cautioned. Particularly with renovation projects, if trenching of the concrete is necessary, for example, that’s a conversation GC needs to have with both contractors.
In addition, most terrazzo contractors dry grind now. Polishing is now the only step his company grinds wet, Mr. Iorio reported, noting also that in spite of the sound of it, the amount of dust generated with dry-grinding is minimal.
“Dry grinding has saved a lot of grief,” he declared.
Improved diamond equipment has not only rendered terrazzo more user-friendly for all concerned, but it has also improved the appearance of the terrazzo, Mr. Iorio added. The luster of historic terrazzo floors earned only by age is achieved instantly with an epoxy floor.
A perhaps less obvious problem arises when terrazzo falls victim to its own sterling reputation as an indestructible finish. While terrazzo is exceptionally durable, floor protection after installation is still a must, Mr. Iorio said.
“I’m not asking for more protection than for other finishes,” Mr. Iorio explained, “but we can’t have masons rolling pallets over it.”
If terrazzo is protected properly after it’s completed, such as by laying down plywood sheets over it, work can continue above it two days later, against 30 days for floor tile, according to Mr. Iorio.“That’s a considerable benefit to the back end of the schedule.”
Membership in the NTMA is limited to contractors who meet rigid proficiency standards and participate in educational seminars conducted annually by the association.