Is there beautiful terrazzo flooring under all the carpet in Mike & Lindsey’s “House of Good Taste”?

Report #2 on their new Retro Renovation journey

uncovering-original-floorHOGT-graphicMike and Lindsey were so eager to see whether there was beautiful original terrazzo flooring under the miles of wall-to-wall carpet in their “new” 1964 Edward Durell Stone “House of Good Taste” that after they closed, they made an immediate bee-line to pull up the carpet. Much to their delight, they uncovered a whole lot of terrazzo flooring in excellent structural condition — although there were also a few strange surprised hiding under all that cream carpet.

mid-century-terrazzo-flooringMike writes:

We knew prior to buying the home that the original terrazzo floors were hiding under the carpet. The owner admitted never seeing them, as the same carpet had been down for the entire 25 years they owned the home.  Unable to get confirmation of their condition, and only able to get a small peak by pulling back a corner of the carpet, we hoped, prayed, and kept our fingers crossed that they were in good shape. We knew that refinishing structurally sound terrazzo would not be a huge deal, but repairing significantly damaged terrazzo is a big expensive undertaking. We literally headed straight to the house after closing to pull the carpet up and find out what were were dealing with…

mid-century-living-roomEach section of carpet we pulled back produced a huge sigh of relief as we unveiled some of the coolest terrazzo we had ever seen. A bright white base with black, grey, and green flecks. Although it was extremely dirty, yellowed, and covered in carpet pad glue, it was in excellent condition. There were carpet tack strips nailed directly into the terrazzo all around the perimeter, but from research we knew those holes could be dealt with. What confused us were all of the square paint lines on the floor… it took us a minute to figure out what they were… but we realized that someone must have taken all the doors from the kitchen cabinets, laid them out on the floor, and proceeded to paint them directly on the terrazzo!!! I can just image what was gong through their head, “who cares, nobody will ever want to see these ugly floors anyway”

original-terrazzo-flooringWith the terrazzo exposed to the light of day after 25 years, The House of Good Taste renovation begins!

remodeling-work-in-progressOur overall goals for this renovation include giving the house a timeless feel, so that regardless of whether it is 50 years ago, present day, or 50 years from now, things just “feel” right.

The following is our general renovation outline, which we are sure will evolve as we get into the details. We are blessed to have our master carpenters from L&D Construction also acting as our general contractor. The house was last updated in the late 80’s, and we look forward to peeling back the interior layers while keeping its great bones intact. We hope you enjoy this journey with us. We welcome all comments, suggestions, and criticisms along the way 🙂

Complete redo, but with same basic layout.

Walls and ceilings
Scrape popcorn and every inch floated out completely smooth. [Precautionary Pam reminds: Be sure to work with a properly licensed professional to determine whether there is any vintage nastiness such as lead or asbestos in the surfaces and layers of your house before remodeling!]

Restore the terrazzo and new flooring in all the non-terrazzo areas.

Doors and trim
Replace all doors and trim throughout.

New ambient and accent lighting throughout. Outside of the huge skylight, the lighting does little for a house that has so much to show.

Complete redo.

Not touching them at this point, they good enough as is to live with for now. Gotta leave some projects for the coming years right?

Exterior and landscape
Exterior does not really need much besides some paint touch up, and thinking about landscaping at this point would make our heads explode.

But first things first… DEMO!!!


Congratulations, Mike and Lindsey on the awesome terrazzo!

Ack! I cannot understand the logic behind painting doors inside the house on perfectly fine terrazzo flooring without drop cloths. I sure hope Mike and Lindsey — with the help of their properly licensed professionals — can clean up their beautiful terrazzo floors and make them look as good as new. Mike and Lindsey — It sounds like you have your hands full with that long list of projects — I for one am super excited to see how your home progresses over the next several weeks. Thanks again for sending another installment of the “House of Good Taste” chronicles and keep up the good work and updates.

Read all of Mike and Lindsey’s stories about their Edward Durell Stone House of Good Taste

  1. Joe65 says:

    For a quick before/after what “restored” terrazzo and new lighting can do, you can see some pics at my This Old House entry. The web site isn’t the best for browsing (slow to load/slow to update) but it’s currently #48 of 333 in the whole house category, pics 6, 7 and 10 show it best. (Link, if permitted: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/yourtoh/remodel-contest/gallery?entry_id=5382aeba66bc756a0600a697) and just the kitchen as #118 of 622 (link: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/yourtoh/remodel-contest/gallery?entry_id=5382a0fb66bc756a0600a228&image_id=1)
    These floors were in constant, uncovered use for 50 years. For restoration, they were ground down (professionally) with diamond grit buffers, then sealed. The same companies that grind/polish concrete SHOULD have the equipment to do this, but may not have the experience. If this level restoration is in your plans, expect to have the ground-off terrazzo slurry ooze all over (during) and dried powder in every nook and cranny on the floor afterwards; a lot like drywall dust.

  2. Eva says:

    Just purchased a house built in 1970. We have terrazzo in part of the house, but not all, so we’re having a hard time figuring out what might be under the 80s ceramic tile in the kitchen and bath. Does anyone know of a way to tell?

    Also, I know my parents covered their terrazzo because they had us–babies and terrazzo aren’t the best mix. My brother ended up with a chipped tooth and a black eye–my grandparents jumped to have wall-to-wall carpet installed.

    Anyhow, we also have a lovely white with blue, black and grey flecks. I’m wondering though about fading. Some areas–such as the exposed step down to the back porch–look faded. Is that because the top layers needs grinding? How often does that need to be done? Am I going to find faded walkways throughout?

  3. Cysco says:

    My house has poured terrazzo throughout. Before you do anything major to your newly discovered floors, get yourself some 3M StoneTech Products

    StoneTech Concentrate Revitalizer
    StoneTech EX6-16 1-Pint Oil Stain Remover

    I use a Hoover Floormate with the Revitalizer and it works like a champ. Old terrazzo floors were sealed with a pretty solid sealer so there’s probably a good chance that the paint or whatever didn’t penetrate down into the portland cement.

    The absolute last resort should be re-polishing the floors with a sander. That’s a sure recipe for disaster.

  4. samantha anastasiou says:

    How lucky! I love Terrazzo flooring. I have looked into it, and they are making Terrazzo Tiles that are easier to install than the traditional method which is laborious and $$$, ie pouring the Terrazzo in and letting it set. Does anyone have any experience with the tiles?

    1. Cysco says:

      I used the tiles in a bathroom we re-did. They work like a champ.

      The bathroom had poured terrazzo floors originally. we gutted the bathroom and removed a wall between the area where the sinks are and the water closet area with toilet and tub. because the floors were poured, the area we removed the wall left a hole in the floors.

      We had to chisel out the old floors pour leveling and installed the new terrazzo tiles so that they were flush with the rest of the floors. You lay them like normal tiles, only you probably want the thinnest of gaps between them to create the allusion of a solid surface. They look great!

  5. ineffablespace says:

    The 1960s and 1970s were a time of high interest rates and sometimes the construction materials and methods reflected this. I would replace hollow core slab doors with solid core slab doors or period appropriate panel doors without any guilt at all. I think that sometimes you have to determine what the original *intention was, and consider that, as well as actual execution–because sometimes the execution or materials may have actually fallen short of what the architect designed or originally specified.

  6. Bren says:

    Popcorn ceilings might not have been in this house originally but l like them (too). They’ll always remind me of retro houses.
    Why replace all the doors? I like the ones in the pictures, especially if they’re the originals!
    ‘Anybody out there besides me love the slat or mirrored doors on closets, and REAL wood doors (including garage doors) and hate it when they’re replaced with Home Depot/ Lowes looking ones?!!

    1. Mary Elizabeth says:

      You don’t have to have faux wood replacements. We have bought birch plywood and luan interior doors at big box stores and also at a place any of you living in New England should visit–House of Doors in two Connecticut locations. They can take a basic interior or exterior door type and make anything you want, essentially.

      The Cheshire location is particularly fun for retro lovers, as out front you get to see Paul Bunyan, one of those 1950 “muffler men” roadside statues preserved by the owners as a “flagpole” when local ordinances wouldn’t permit them to install a sign that large . He has been memorialized in the “Zippy” comic strip. See also the Roadside America site http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10793.

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