With their typical bland colors and limited materials palette, one would assume that not much thought is given to selecting the workman-like coverings for walls and ceilings in restaurant kitchens— and it’s easy to see why it might appear that way: If no one is going to see it, does it really matter what goes on them? “Kitchen walls, even though they’re out of the public eye,” says Robert Doland of Jacobs Doland Foodservice Consultants, “still need to perform to a high functional standard. Durability, cleanability, and low-maintenance are the driving decision makers.”
Standard wall construction for restaurant kitchens should be water-resistant gypsum board (commonly called “green board” for the color) over a metal stud wall. Green board is the material of choice because of the moisture protection it offers in wet environments, like kitchen prep areas. For areas with even higher exposure to moisture, consider using cement board, which is heavier and more expensive than green board but offers better protection for wet areas. Both green board and cement board are excellent substrate for wall finishes such as tile or FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Panels.) Albert Penna, of DNA Architects, says that, “Properly installed tile or FRP helps protect walls from the elements (grease, water, pests) throughout the operation of a commercial kitchen.” In addition, says Penna, “All walls need to meet health department requirements—a hard, light-colored, easily cleanable surface,” which both tile and FRP provide.