Q: We need eco-friendly countertops and we've heard terrazzo is the way to go, but how expensive are they? Is going green worth it if they are too pricey?
Asked by Amanda
Editor: Here's what our friends at Green Home Guide say.
Answered by Kirsten Flynn, Sustainable Home
Terrazzo countertops are a great choice for a green kitchen, and I love the way they look. Terrazzo usually refers to marble chips cast into a slab, tile or flooring. Lately a lot of products have entered the market that substitute recycled glass chips for the marble.
Both of these materials are very eco friendly, for the following reasons:
- Both are very durable -- longevity is an important consideration in a green material. If you do not need to replace it, you are not using raw materials to create the replacement product, and not adding anything to the landfill.
- These materials are very easy to clean, and do not need harsh chemicals to clean or seal them.
- Both use recycled components for the bulk of their volume. In the case of traditional terrazzo, most of this material is marble chips that are a byproduct of marble processing, thus making it a postindustrial recycled product. Glass terrazzo uses a combination of postindustrial recycled waste (from glass manufacturers) and postconsumer glass such as bottles and windshields.
There are two categories of terrazzo. One uses a cementitious material like concrete between the chips of either marble or glass. The other uses some kind of resin-based material as the bonding base. They have slightly different performance characteristics.
- The cement-based terrazzos feel more like stone, and like stone they need to be sealed. Although the glass or marble is pretty impervious to staining, the cement between the chunks of glass is porous and can show a red wine ring or similar stain.
- The resin-based countertops are more resistant to staining but do not feel as much like stone, and are made from a petrochemical material.
I think the final decision would be based on which product has a color and other visual qualities that match your vision.
How much will terrazzo cost?
But you asked about price, and unfortunately that is a difficult question to answer definitively. The short answer is that it is expensive. Let me run through the process of creating countertops and give you some rough figures.
Like when you purchase stone, you are not pricing by the square foot, but rather by the amount of full or half slabs of material that you need to complete the project.
- IceStone and Vetrazzo are cement-based glass countertops that are available both as full slabs or half slabs; a slab tends to be approximately 55-60" deep and 100" long.
- If your countertops are standard depth, you can get about 16 linear feet of countertop from a slab.
- Slab prices range between $2,000 and $4,000 depending on color, so you can expect to spend $125 to $250 a linear foot of countertop for material only.
- I have no idea what fabrication costs would be in your region, but in our area it might come close to doubling the price.
OK, those are the most expensive, and there are some other options. First of all, EnviroGlas is a resin-based recycled glass countertop which tops out at about $20 a square foot less than the options mentioned above. They also give you many options of customizing the colors, included in their standard price.
- Many of the larger manufacturers of quartz-based countertops are making materials with recycled glass content, like Zodiaq's Terra line, or Cosentino's Eco line.
- The White Diamond color out of Cosentino's product line has a lovely Coke-bottle-green glass in it. These slabs would be about $2,300 each, at least in my area.
If you love the look of these materials, but are quietly having fits about the price as you read this post, there still is another option for you.
- Wausau tile makes large-format terazzo and glass terrazzo tile, sold through Dal Tile showrooms, which can be used as countertops. I know most people want a slab rather than a tile counter, but their tiles are available up to 24" by 24", which means you would only have one grout line every two feet.
- These tiles have a top price of about $35 a square foot, without labor, and thus are an affordable way to get a terrazzo look.