What is the best flooring option for commercial kitchens?

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The best flooring for back-of-house, restaurant commercial kitchens are:

#1. Epoxy & quartz aggregate mixture #2. Sealed or painted concrete #3. Vinyl composite tile flooring #4. Quarry tile #5. Rubber sheet flooring #6. Natural stone tiles #7. Brick pavers

Commercial kitchens require an extremely durable flooring that can withstand everything from heavy, continuous traffic to chemical and heat exposure to moisture and bacteria growth while also providing anti-slip properties. Additionally, the major drivers for owners and managers are length of downtime, long-term maintenance, clean-ability, and price. In this article, we will break down these considerations by floor type.

 

Here are some Industrial kitchen flooring considerations by type:

#7 Brick Pavers

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Brick pavers add an aesthetic appeal to back-of-house floors. While they provide a durable and beautiful facade, they cannot provide many of the lasting desirable qualities managers and owners need for high-performance and sanitary flooring systems. 

Durability: very durable

Stain and moisture resistance: no, porous natural stone that is susceptible to stains

Thermal resistance: yes

Slip-resistance: not slippery; uneven texture could create trip hazard

Installation time: more than a day

Maintenance: low, must fix grout/mortar when failure occurs

Clean-ability: difficult; food debris, moisture, and bacteria can lodge in seams

Price: moderate

Weaknesses: porous, susceptible to unhygienic conditions from food debris and water; hard to clean; uneven texture could provide trip hazards

#6 Natural Stone

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Natural stone is typically used in open layout commercial kitchens for aesthetic appeal. Although they do look good for patrons, they are expensive and lack certain desirable back-of-house attributes like slip- and stain-resistance.

Durability: very durable

Stain and moisture resistance: some are more stain resistant than others; natural stone is porous meaning no moisture resistance; sealants possible

Thermal resistance: yes

Slip-resistance: dependent upon abrasiveness of stone

Installation time: more than a day

Maintenance: resealing required periodically

Clean-ability: moderate, seams and porosity create opportunity bacteria

Price: expensive

Weaknesses: price, porosity, seams, sealants require regular maintenance

#5 Rubber Sheet Goods

Rubber sheet flooring is renowned for its impact qualities. Employees can stand all day on these floors and never become fatigued. Yet rubber sheet goods under perform in other areas. 

Durability: moderately durable; good for impact; comfortable for standing employees for long periods of time

Stain and moisture resistance: not stain resistant but naturally water resistant

Thermal resistance: yes 

Slip-resistance: yes

Installation time: more than a day

Maintenance: moderate; when failure occurs whole floor is jeopardized

Clean-ability: moderate; use of specialized cleaners required

Price: moderate

Weaknesses: seams and floor failure result in systemic failure of the whole system (if water breaches the seams you will have bacteria, bad smells, mold) i.e. when rubber floors fail, they become a huge issue

#4 Quarry Tile

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Quarry tile is the most common and is made by grinding together various types of minerals then forming them into tiles followed by firing them at high temperatures. They are laid and connected together using grout. The tiles themselves are very durable yet can be jeopardized by a variety of conditions created by harsh back-of-house commercial kitchens.

Durability: good for heavy traffic; less so for impact resistance can break or crack creating weakness

Stain and moisture resistance: yes, if grout is intact

Thermal resistance: can withstand high or low temperatures yet cannot withstand  thermal shock (i.e. cleaning walk-in freezer with hot water causing cracks)

Slip-resistance: textured tiles available but will wear overtime, mats over tile is most common

Installation time: full shutdown, more than a day; multiple steps requiring many hours in between

Maintenance: at least yearly grout repair; cracked tiles can cause failure and should be repaired as soon as possible

Clean-ability: easy to clean, sweep and mop

Price: cheapest option per square foot

Weakness: grout failure can allow for water to seep around and under tiles resulting in floating or failed tiles, bacteria, mold, and mildew growth, bad smells and unsanitary conditions; uneven or failing subfloor can result in cracked tiles; requires regular maintenance and when failure occurs it can be major

#3 Vinyl composite tile flooring (VCT)

VCT

Vinyl flooring is common for industrial kitchen use as it tends to be easy to install and requires less maintenance than tile.

Durability: dependent on material used and how it is installed; impact or sharp objects can jeopardize sheet flooring

Stain and moisture resistant: react negatively with chemicals, discoloration from sunlight and contact with rubber mats/shoes are common

Thermal resistance: can withstand heat and flame

Slip-resistance: slip-resistant options yet most are smooth and can be hazardous when wet

Installation time: at least 2 days

Maintenance: no grout or resealing, when floor or seams fail, it can be a major issue; individual replacements or repair available

Clean-ability: easy to clean

Price: inexpensive

Weakness: subfloor must be perfect or rips and tears can occur, discoloration is common; Volatile Organic Compounds used in manufacturing; seams can fail, when they do more disruption than replacing failed quarry tile

#2 Sealed Concrete

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The use of concrete floors in commercial kitchens is common and is typically sealed or painted. It is popular as it is low maintenance, durable and cost-effective compared to tile yet does experience wear-and-tear particularly to the sealants or paints used.

Durability: extremely durable although can chip or scratch from impact

Stain and moisture resistance: when sealed, floor is stain and moisture resistant

Thermal resistance: yes

Slip-resistance: no, hazardous when wet

Installation time: more than a day; dependent upon size and condition of existing floor sometimes up to 7 days to fully cure new concrete

Maintenance: periodic resealing required (every 3 to 9 months)

Clean-ability: easy to clean

Price: cost to reseal is inexpensive; cost to install can be timely and expensive

Weakness: discomfort for employees who stand on it for long hours; slippery when wet and if falls occur it can hurt due to unforgiving nature of concrete; failure of seals means easily penetrated by moisture

#1 Epoxy & quartz aggregate floor systemapplying-flooring-450x250

This type of flooring is fairly bullet-proof. It is top-ranking because of its ability to out perform the others in several areas. Although there are variations on the market, some are superior and provide value by installing overnight in one application while delivering a product that is durable, seamless, watertight, and non-porous.

Durability: 3x more durable than concrete

Stain and moisture resistance: yes

Thermal resistance: yes, withstands everything from freezers to hotlines

Slip-resistance: yes, quartz aggregate creates textured slip-resistance that will not wear over time

Installation time: cures in 6-8 hours; can be installed overnight

Maintenance: regular cleaning only

Clean-ability: easy to clean; requires non-enzymatic cleaner and no mopping

Price: moderate (long-term cost is cheaper than initial cost + maintenance for quarry tile)

Weakness: UV rays cause epoxy to yellow (indoor use only), specialized cleaning technique (change from no-wash mopping to deck brush and squeegee), initial cost

When laid over concrete, epoxy and quartz can create the strongest, longest lasting solution to decades of flooring failures. Additionally, some blends are able to bond directly over existing wood or tile floors, saving time and money. 

There are flooring options that allow for overnight installations that are watertight and slip-resistant while maintaining durability and will ensure safe, hygienic conditions for employees and customers for years to come.