Historic homes in South Florida had only four types of flooring. In order of their prevalence, they are
wood, tile, terrazzo and concrete.
Ninety-nine percent of all wood flooring was installed with Dade County Pine and red or yellow oak.
Usually the boards were roughly 2¼” wide. In some homes, the formal areas (living and dining
rooms) were laid in a border pattern. They may or may not have been stained when laid. Dade
County Pine flooring has one big claim to fame – the resin in the wood is so dense that termites
would rather try to eat something else. The termite damage in pine flooring vs. oak is significantly
lower. But there’s the good news about termites: they are driven to eat in a straight line. Usually they
chew up a board in its length rather than jumping to the next board. You need to replace some
flooring? It’s a board or two because the damage is linear rather than scattered. There is some
wider “plank” flooring in some homes, but it’s relatively rare.
Wood floors are “refinished” by sanding and re-surfacing. Guess what sanding does? It removes a
layer of wood (dust resulting). There are only so many times that a wood floor can be
sanded/refinished before the nails begin to show. It is important to try to maintain rather than think
about “refinishing” your floors. [FUTURE LINK HERE]
Staining? It’s an issue of preference only. Time periods evolve around light floors, dark floors, light
Tile floors are usually found in two places (bathrooms, sometimes kitchens) and entry rooms.
Bathroom tiles were usually small, hexagonal white tiles, sometimes with a border of pattern of
colored tiles. In the 40’s and 50’s bathroom tiles had special bargello and other patterns that made
them very interesting. It’s sad when a new owner tiles over or completely rips out the old hex tile.
The 1920’s was an interesting period of tile “recycling.” Many, many Spanish Revival homes had
entry or Florida rooms that had concrete flooring embedded with broken tiles. No particular pattern
to these, but an interesting, colorful pattern evoked something more than re-use of broken tiles from a
There was also a plentiful application of 4” square red “Cuban” tile for entry rooms as well.
Fireplace hearths? Many different tile applications were prevalent. Usually as wide as the hearth and
as deep at 18” to 2’, these hearths evoke a special era as well.
Not often used, but when found these floors tell a very interesting story. Early concrete was applied
to entry rooms, staircases and kitchens. When not covered with tile, these early Florida surfaces
were stained or painted. Because of their rarity, they are particularly interesting and valuable.
Terrazzo is a flooring based with concrete and finished with another layer which is embedded on the
surface with colored marble chips. When there is a change in color or design, metal dividers are
inserted into the cement layer. This application became very popular in commercial structures (stores)
and the entire floor surfaces of homes in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was cool, easy to maintain by
mopping, buffing and/or waxing. In Cuba, even sidewalks were sometimes made in this manner.
While it has been little appreciated in today’s historic world, many homes of this time period have
now reached “historicability” and this flooring material comes along with it. Many homes with
terrazzo have been surfaced-over with wood, ceramic or Mexican tile, thought to be more desirable.
There are those who treasure Terrazzo for what it is and wish to maintain it. There are companies
who specialize in terrazzo restoration. Often the worst restoration problem is little holes on the
perimeter where wall-to-wall carpeting was laid. The good news is that this can be repaired.
Florida Historic Homes