In theory, painting over existing terrazzo flooring should be an easy and cost-effective alternative to ripping it up and replacing it with something else. In practice, it can become a messy, expensive nightmare – unless you follow a few crucial steps. Terrazzo flooring is made by exposing marble chips on the surface of concrete and polishing until smooth, either directly on the ground or in tile form. While it was pretty trendy in the 1940s and '50s, not everyone loves the chipped look. It can be slippery, too, so it's not ideal for households with young kids or older residents. With the right prep and materials, you can transform unloved terrazzo into flooring that suits your style.
If the terrazzo flooring has been covered with carpet, use solvent cleaner and a scraper to get rid of any adhesive or remnants of foam padding. Then, clean the whole floor with a product that cuts through grease, dirt and oil. A trisodium phosphate (TSP) product should do the trick. Basically, your floor needs to be squeaky, spotlessly clean. Any grease or dirt will make it trickier for the paint to bond.
Make sure the floor is fully dry after cleaning, leaving it for at least 24 hours. Then, with a paint roller, apply a thin layer of strong, white latex primer. This will help the paint bond to the terrazzo floor. The primer needs at least three days to harden and achieve its maximum bonding capability. But, it will be dry enough to tread on after about two hours, so there's no need to decamp.
On the Tiles
Now for the fun part – making your old floor look pretty and new. Use a good-quality, water-based paint and apply with a roller. Paler colors might need two coats, depending on the desired finish. If you're after a tile look rather than a solid color, add flecks or swirls in a different shade with a small paintbrush. That's probably best only attempted by confident arty types, though, or it could look a bit messy.
Your freshly painted floor should look lovely, but don't make the mistake of leaving it there. Without a top coat, the paint could get chipped as quickly as nail polish. Use a good quality, clear acrylic finish or sealant and apply to the floor with a large paintbrush. This should help protect the floor so it stays stylish longer.