How to Install Terrazzo Tiles How to Install Terrazzo Tiles

What You'll Need
Prying tool
Cement board equal toarea to be tiled
1 inch drywall screws
Drill with screw attachment
Carpenter's glue
Utility knife
Electric sander and 100 grit sandpaper
Thinset mortar
Notched trowel
Terrazzo tiles and spacers
Tile saw
Rubber grout trowel
Sanded grout
Plastic bucket

Terrazzo tiles refer to a tile design that creates a unique surface by embedding different colored rock, marble, and glass chips in a layer of cement. The method and style have their origins in Italy, and no two terrazzo installations are exactly alike. The key to success with this tile project is a correctly poured cement underlay to prevent future tile cracking or loosening.

Step 1 -- Prep the Floor and Cementboard 

Remove any trim from the floor, using your pry bar and hammer. Start in one corner of the room and lay your cement board one section at a time, until the entire area is covered. Screw in a drywall screw approximately every 12 to 14 inches, and also apply a coat of carpenters glue to hold the cementboard securely in place.

Score the seams of each cementboard section with your utility knife, and fill in each one with a layer of thinset mortar. Allow enough time for this to dry according to the manufacturer's recommendations, and then sand the entire layer of cementboard with the sander and 100 grit sandpaper until it is totally smooth.

Step 2 -- Divide Floor and Apply Mortar  

Use your snapline to lay two perpendicular lines that create four equal floor sections. These will serve as guidelines for applying your terrazzo tiles in a consistent pattern. Begin in one section where two quadrants meet, and apply a layer of thinset mortar, a few square feet at a time. Work quickly to prevent the mortar from drying out and curing unevenly.  

Step 3 -- Apply Terrazzo Tiles

Begin in one corner where you just spread a layer of thinset mortar, and press the first tile firmly in place. Be careful not to press so hard that mortar begins to seep over its edges. Continue applying small sections of mortar and pressing in your tiles, and place a tile spacer between each one. When you reach the corners of the room, you will need to cut terrazzo tiles to fit with your tile saw. Take your time when using this tool, since terrazzo tiles that are cut too quickly can easily crack. Always wear protective glasses when using a tile saw.

Step 4 -- Mix and Apply Grout

Combine your sanded grout with water in the plastic bucket. Add water in gradual amounts and mix thoroughly until it is roughly the consistency of cake icing. Allow it to set for about 8 to 10 minutes before applying to your terrazzo tile. Spread the grout with your rubber trowel (also called a grout float). Focus on getting a generous amount in between each of your tiles. Scrape any excess grout off the tops of the tiles with the rubber edge of the trowel as best you can, and wipe off the rest from the tile surface with a damp sponge. Allow the grout to set for 48 hours before walking on your new terrazzo tile floor.

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