HYGIENIC EASY-TO-CLEAN SLIP-RESISTANT FLOORS FOR COMMERCIAL & INDUSTRIAL KITCHENS
What to consider when selecting flooring for a commercial kitchen:
A commercial kitchen is used more intensively than a normal kitchen so it needs to be more durable and more resistant to abrasion and impacts.
Surfaces need to be non-porous / impervious to ensure that they do not absorb food juices and liquids, that happens with surfaces such as timber chopping boards and worktops for example, when surfaces are absorbent it makes them very difficult to clean thoroughly. It is imperative for food safety that surfaces can be cleaned quickly and easily and do not support the growth of microbes.
As with any kitchen surfaces, surfaces within a commercial kitchen need to be heat resistant. Hot cooking vessels (pots, pans, etc.) can be placed on worktops and in commercial kitchen they are likely to be bigger, heavy and sometimes hotter than in a domestic kitchen. Surfaces traditionally used in homes such as formica laminated chipboard or MDF worktops might crack or chip with severe impacts, particularly at the edges and corners of counters. Similarly white vitreous china sinks, such as 'Belfast' sinks, might also chip. Cracks and chip expose porous surfaces that harbour dirt and can support the growth of bacteria and other pathogens.
For these reasons, stainless-steel has become the default choice for worktops, commercial kitchen equipment and appliances, extract ventilation hoods, preparation tables, cupboards, cabinets, splashbacks etc. in commercial kitchens in factories, hospitals, care homes, schools, dairies, breweries, hotels, restaurants and bars across the world.
Equally, floor surfaces need to embody similar properties. It is likely that they will be far more heavily trafficked than a domestic kitchen floor, with more footfall, and potentially hard-wheeled trolleys and vehicles such as forklift trucks in industrial environments.
The floor will need to resist heat in case of accidental spillages or dropped hot cooking vessels & equipment. As previously mentioned, the vessels are likely to be bigger and heavier so impact resistance of the floor finish is even more important. In industrial food or beverage processing situations, containers might be heavy and occasionally fall during loading/unloading or in transit, for example steel beer kegs in pubs and breweries, and the floor finish will need to withstand this magnitude of impact.
If trolleys are used to transport products around the kitchen or processing area, particularly if they have nylon wheels they can cut into the floor finish, creating grooves, causing dust or breaking up the floor finish if it is not robust enough.
Traditionally tiles, such as quarry tiles, have been used in commercial kitchens. They are hard-wearing, durable, heat resistant and can be produced with surface textures to give slip-resistance. The main downside to tiles is the grouted joints between adjacent tiles. The grout prevents food and liquids going in between or beneath the tiles, but it also has a degree of porosity, meaning it is difficult to clean thoroughly. This allows small amounts of dirt to collect over time and can support mould or pathogen growth. They might also break or crack if heavy objects are dropped on them, which, if not replaced, can harbour dirt and become a trip hazard.
Impervious sheet and tile products such as vinyl have become a popular choice. The fewer the number of joints, the fewer the opportunities to collect dirt over time, making sheet material generally better than tiled for kitchens.
Where vinyl sheets are welded together along junctions there is limited opportunity for dirt to collect. Vinyl sheeting is also durable; however, the welded joints and perimeter seals tend to be first to fail and can allow food and dirt in to the joints and beneath the sheets - again being difficult to clean and compromising food safety over time if not replaced. Also, look out for cuts around the legs and brackets that fix furniture and equipment to the floor, particularly if the vinyl has been fitted after the equipment, if they have not been sealed they will also be very difficult to thoroughly clean.
Vinyl has good resistance to impact but is not suitable for vehicular traffic, only an issue in certain instances. Vinyl also comes in a variety of different surface textures to provide varying degrees of slip resistance depending upon usage. In environments where standing liquid, dropped food or spillages are an everyday issue the slip-resistance of the floor surface must be far greater to avoid being slippery underfoot.
Resin flooring is becoming increasingly popular and can be painted, poured or trowelled into place to create a seamless floor finish. Integral skirtings and upstands can also be formed to ensure there are no joints and junction for dirt to gather. Synthetic resin floor finishes can be hygienic and food safe because the finished surface does not support microbial growth. Heavy duty and very heavy duty grades are available that can meet the demands of even the most challenging environments.
There are many different types of resin floor finishes and it is important to select the right one for your specific requirements. Resin floor finishes range from sealers and paints at one end of the scale and very heavy duty resin screeds at the opposite end. An industry standard classification system defines 8 general types see here. Some are heat & thermal shock resistant, UV-resistant, chemically resistant and / or abrasion resistant. Others may not be able to withstand temperatures above a certain level or might need to be finished with a seal coat to be completely impervious. So it is important to check that the product you choose meets your specific requirements.
It is also important to remember that resin flooring can have different chemical compositions. For example there are polyurethane resins, acrylic resins, methacrylate resins, polyester resins, epoxy resins, polyaspartic resins etc. There are also water-based and solvent based products. Care must be taken when using solvent based resins because they are high Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), that are dangerous to health, and must only be used in well ventilated spaces where there are no food products. Solvented products are largely being phased out by water based equivalents.
If the floor is likely to be steam cleaned or mopped with very hot water a polyurethane or polyaspartic resin is likely to be the most appropriate product, but always check a product's technical data sheets for maximum exposure temperatures.
Resin paints or coatings give the thinest flooring and can be used in commercial kitchens but are likely to need recoating in the shortest amount of time compared to other resin products. Self-levellers, also called self-smoothers, are next. With resin screeds being the thickest and most durable (although there is some overlap with some flowable/pourable resin flooring and medium duty screeds).
To achieve slip-resistant finishes, resin floor paint and coatings tend to have aggregates broadcast on top or sandwich between coats - the size and material of the aggregate will govern the amount of slip-resistance. Some self-levellers and screeds have matt inherently slip-resistant surfaces, others can accommodate aggregate broadcast on top. Gloss finishes with no aggregate are unlikely to be appropriate for a commercal or industrial kitchen.