The floors in my walk-ins are pretty well trashed. One is a cement floor that is slanted the wrong way (water builds up under shelving units). The other is linoleum tile that is broken and warped. How can I fix it and appease the Health Department?
– Operator, Chicago, Ill.
First, let’s look at the health code for Chicago specific to restaurant flooring. It’s pretty general and typical of regulations throughout the country:
"The floors of…rooms in which food or drink is stored or prepared, or in which utensils are washed, shall be smooth and have such construction as to be easily cleaned, and shall be kept clean and in good repair. If floor drains are used, the floor shall be graded to the drain, and such drain shall be provided with proper traps so constructed as to minimize clogging…."
Your walk-in floors, as you describe them, are not up to code.
In terms of specific materials that would meet this criteria, I turn to commercial kitchen designer James Feustel.
"If the walk-in has a pre-fabricated floor—which seems like it is not the case here—the panels could be replaced by the manufacturer or a local refrigeration service company that specializes in this kind of work. The second option in this case would be to lay diamond treadplate steel over the walk-in panel floor and seal the seams with silicone. This creates a ‘new’ floor inside the walk-in, but has one significant potential drawback:
If the seals aren’t tight fitting or if the installation of the diamond treadplate leaves any sort of air pockets underneath, condensate will form below the diamond treadplate and spill out between the seams or leak into the panels below.
"Since this particular operator has cement or tile, I would recommend something like First Choice Safety Flooring for refitting. FCSF is a recycled PVC product that is installed like vinyl sheet flooring and welded at the seams. One of the nice advantages of this floor is that it can be laid directly over the existing floor and coved up the walls to meet health department requirements for sanitary coves. A licensed installer of this product should be able to even out any floor pitch issues and unevenness. A properly re-fitted floor completed by a licensed installer could have a 10-year warranty on it—usually only something you get on brand new walk-in panels."
Finally, remember that the health department need not have an adversarial role since you are being proactive to make your facility compliant. Show them the plans of your walk-ins, the material you are considering and ask them if they find that acceptable before you make any decisions. Asking them to be an ally now may help you avoid problems later.