After many decades of articles and interviews, certified technical documentation, and architectural theses dedicated to the in-depth study of the subject, it can definitely be stated that every novelty employed in the world of green building today is known, disseminated, and shared instantly with a simple click.
But have you ever wondered what criteria, beyond expressive ones related to historical eras, were used for choosing the floorings used in the palaces of wealthy and powerful clients by the great architects of the Renaissance, when the only means of dissemination was word of mouth? Surely the solution was to use natural materials, preferably close to the construction site, reliable in terms of resistance, and stylistically in line with the authenticity of the works of art they had in mind to create or have created in those spaces.
Marble was certainly an appreciated product, perhaps the first choice for everyone, as it was synonymous with the elegance of that era due to its properties: large sizes achievable through slabs with intricate patterns and inlays, and the availability of various colors.
For example, the marbles used for the floors of the imperial apartments in the Quirinale Palace in Rome. However, it was not always the only choice and not for every environment.
For example, the Salone dei Cinquecento, which is the largest and most important room in terms of historical and artistic value in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, with its 1,242 square meters of herringbone floors in smoothed and rectified terracotta, makes us understand that perhaps Vasari chose it because it was the most suitable product to highlight the marvelous coffered ceiling, where a series of paintings on the theme of the exaltation of Cosimo I, his works, and his dynasty, are framed by magnificent golden carvings.
Indeed, how were these finishes achieved on terracotta? The "arrotatura" smoothing process was carried out by rubbing with very fine powders such as emery, pumice, hard sandstones, and sand, which, when mixed with water, became highly abrasive.
HOW TO PURCHASE TERRACOTTA TODAY:
These knowledge and studies are now found as cultural heritage and are available to us in the artisan workshops of old craftsmen, thus expanding the offering of handmade terracotta in terms of colors, surfaces, and dimensions. The advent of the Internet has revolutionized our perception of materials.
All it takes is typing the relevant "keyword," and a world opens up where we can find ready-made images of individual products or settings on official websites or social media profiles to choose from. The user's behavior follows a precise search process.
First, one identifies styles that match their needs: rustic, elegant, or contemporary (interpreting colors, shapes, and surfaces). Next, the company is contacted, which nowadays even in the smallest businesses always has a sales representative who can provide technical information and samples, sending them to the architecture studio or directly to the interested party's home. All kilns offer the same working system: delivery of the terracotta, installation, and on-site treatment. Finally, the production partner that has achieved the most satisfying cost-benefit result is chosen. The empathy conveyed by the sales representative is certainly a determining factor because, unlike all other commercial flooring products, handmade terracotta is never a product that is purchased without expertise and personality. While analyzing the average cost of the finished product, including the purchase of the material and on-site finishing treatment, it should be considered that it carries significant weight in the often tight budget affected by the "trials and tribulations of the construction site" until its installation. Another discriminating factor in choosing flooring is the production time of handmade terracotta.
However, there remains the need not to settle and not to fall into the trap offered by merchants with products similar to natural ones, such as porcelain stoneware, which seem like a remedy for every problem. From our analysis, we have determined that the percentage incidence of the cost of a medium-quality artisanal floor, whether it be terracotta, parquet, stone, or marble, generally accounts for around 4%, sometimes as much as that of good-quality porcelain stoneware! Therefore, compared to the overall construction cost and execution time, it is truly negligible and absolutely worthwhile not to make the wrong choice of the right flooring, especially because an artisanal floor increases the value of the finished work and is a sort of investment equal in cost to an industrial one, especially considering the high total costs of new construction or renovation and the long time frames involved, bureaucratic obstacles aside. However, there is always an important issue to be resolved: the process that guarantees a result that matches the expected product seen and desired in photos or in-person during the preliminary phase of ordering by the designer and the client. With this, we do not in any way want to discredit the real value of each individual craftsman who, despite the continuous rise in raw material prices, passionately and dedicatedly carries on the arduous and complex trade of the terracotta manufacturer. At Living Cotto, we have simply revolutionized our work systems to optimize technical times on construction sites.
COLLEZIONE ELEMENTI: TIME IS ON OUR SIDE
After these premises, which are the result of years of experience and specific market studies, we come into play at Living Cotto with our proposal: Collection Elements.
This collection allows for the installation of low-thickness, pre-treated handmade terracotta, reducing the overall construction time by an average of 40 to 60 days. Most importantly, it allows for the preservation of the chosen color palette, as the terracotta does not undergo chromatic alterations caused by subsequent construction activities (such as initial wetting and drying after grouting, second wetting and drying after the descaling wash).
THE ADVANTAGE OF NOT USING SAND AND CEMENT IN INSTALLATION:
In Italy and around the world, every terracotta floor, whether grouted or ungrouted, with or without hydrophobic pre-treatments (primarily useful for the grouting phase), needs to dry and expel moisture from the joints in the form of efflorescence (whitish patina) and sulfates (dark stains). To complete this process, as these floors have now become fully functional, the drying time is unpredictable and dependent on the environmental conditions (more or less dry, more or less ventilated).
This means that no operator can guarantee specific completion dates for the project. In practice, if we have seen a specific color and treatment solution in advance, we cannot determine a specific date for when that product will be available for its final transformation, namely treatment. The treatment process is divided into two important phases: the descaling wash and the stain-resistant treatment. For the descaling wash, machines equipped with rotating brushes, either soft or hard, are brought to the site. The floor is washed with an acidic solution (approximately 1 liter per square meter for each pass, using approximately 33% buffered hydrochloric acid). Depending on the residual calcareous deposits, the wash may need to be repeated multiple times (on average, twice, which equals approximately 2 liters per square meter, or about 0.60 liters of acid per square meter and approximately 1.40 liters of water). Then, the floor is rinsed with water only, but for a longer period (approximately 2 liters per square meter). Often, an additional descaling wash is required to remove certain dark moisture stains, which cannot be guaranteed to be completely eliminated. Therefore, in addition to the acidic wash, an alkaline wash is used, with the same consumption as before. Two workers can wash, rinse, and dry approximately 100 square meters of flooring in a maximum of one day. The total amount of liquid absorbed and aspirated during the acidic wash is approximately 4 liters per square meter, plus an additional 4 liters per square meter for the alkaline wash (totaling approximately 8 liters per square meter). At the end of this operation, the floor retains 100% humidity, and there is also the crucial and critical issue of disposing of the produced (toxic) liquids, which cannot and should not be dispersed into the environment.
The second phase consists of the stain-resistant treatment and wax finish. This operation can only be carried out on a dry floor or, at most, with residual humidity below 40% to ensure the effectiveness of the stain-resistant treatment and to avoid subsequent issues at the completion of the project. The sequence of treatment products is much faster, and typically 100 square meters can be finished in 3 days. However, from the descaling wash to the waxing, a minimum of 9 days may pass, during which a construction site shutdown is required to avoid compromising the final result and to ensure daily ventilation of the area. We have provided these technical details to make you aware of the consequences that choosing a different type of terracotta entails.
OUR TREATMENT: WE PROVIDE CERTAINTY
After the initial drying, each individual piece is laid on the floor, descaled, treated, and polished by hand using organic and environmentally friendly products. This allows us to achieve the desired pattern specified by the designer and/or client while fully respecting the health of the workers and the environment. Tests conducted on the product confirm its exceptional resistance to staining from common liquid substances. We must note that the only substance that managed to penetrate the treatment after 3 hours was raw extra virgin olive oil.
We have developed and tested a convenient system for removing oil stains that is guaranteed to be "do-it-yourself." In case the client is unable to resolve the issue using the provided products and systems, we are ready to resolve it at our expense with our operators.
It is important to note that, after the grouting and cleaning of the floor, the pre-finished system allows for immediate use and unrestricted living on the floor in just one day. Every product for regular cleaning, maintenance, and preservation can be easily ordered and delivered along with the materials. Our company's work is not solely focused on the sale of the product, but primarily on customer loyalty, demonstrated through the high level of attention that Living Cotto pays to all operational phases of the project (coordination, installation). Our goal is to deliver a truly "state-of-the-art" floor that is biologically and environmentally sustainable in every aspect.