On the floor with the Liquor Industry

22 October 2020
By Goran

Whilst many industries have been hit hard by the Coronavirus and have experienced shutdowns or drops in demand, one industry which has been relatively buoyant, is the alcohol industry. Whether it has been changing focus to produce hand sanitiser, or in fact, just doing what they are good at and producing alcohol, the fact is, the alcohol industry has been enjoying robust activity especially as compared to other industries.

However, as a whole the industry has been doing “OK” for a while. In fact, micro-breweries and micro-distilleries have been popping up all over the place. In fact, Australian’s new love of craft beers, small batch gins, flavoured vodkas, and much more has seen a lot of new facilities open for the purposes of production. This has given rise to both new production facilities and accompanying warehouses required to house the products. We’ve been lucky enough to help a few of these new (and established) players and had some thoughts to share.

The challenges faced by alcohol production facilities

Similar to the building and construction of a food facility, breweries and distilleries experience multiple challenges which include, among others, choosing the right floor coating. This is especially because liquor facilities have intensive production processes that involve moisture, chemicals, weight and water.

In fact, a primary issue is the where the brewing process takes place. The brewing process alone is subject to constant wear and tear and spills. This is driven by steam and boiling water creating a large variance in temperature within the space and which flows to the floor. Another area of concern is the yeast room.
The particular difficulty is the yeast itself, which tends to get beneath the surface of ill-prepared or worn floors and, which by its activity (fermentation) will, actually, lift cemented tiles from their base. And yet another section of the facility which sees its fair share of issues is the acid-wash room, that room where parts of the plant are cleaned and scoured. Whilst usually built for purpose, because acid is used, should a section of the floor not be up to par, the acid – even diluted acid – can get into the concrete where it will react and cause ongoing issues. A simple warehouse floor paint will not suffice as the acid will penetrate through quickly and cause damage almost instantly to the concrete.

A third area of concern are the cold rooms. If properly prepared, an insulation layer will be installed beneath the cool room, so it sits above the substrate itself. If it is not installed, the cool temperature of the space above will be at odds to the slab around it which may be warmer. Where there are differences in slab temperature cracks can begin to form and where these form and permit water penetration, the flooring will become saturated and the insulation layer installed will no longer be of value, whilst also acting as a breeding ground for bacteria.

A final trouble spot we see time and time again is the loading dock. Notwithstanding the fact that there may be spills and cleaning chemicals on the deck which have the potential to cause damage to the surface or act as a slip-hazard, the loading dock is subject to intense loads. We are talking delivery trucks, raw material pallets, racking, forklifts, and pallet jacks.
This constant traffic movement, the intense loads and time itself can cause the floor to crack and peel which result in dangerous trip hazards.
Our recommendation to assist with all of the above is the application of a seamless, heavy-duty, non-slip warehouse epoxy floor coating, or for certain sections, perhaps a MMA or Dychem floor.

What are the requirements a distillery must meet?

Now you know that there are a few options to protect your floors, the question is which may be right and what do you need to consider for your facility. Here is a starting guide which may be of use.

  • The floor should be designed as non-porous, and where possible, seamless (no crack or gaps). Gaps are just breeding grounds for bacteria and hard to clean.
  • Given a production facility floor is subject to weights, chemicals and general wear and tear, you need a warehouse floor coating that is hard-wearing, almost impenetrable, easy to clean, not be slippery and able to withstand the test of time.
  • Your chosen warehouse floor surface must be moisture and chemical resistant and not delaminate when put under stress. It should protect the underlying concrete from as all you would throw at it in a general year – everything, including, oil, gasoline, bleach, cleaners, and more. It should remain impervious to most spills without any negative effects on the coating.
  • Where required, the floor should have anti-microbial properties to prevent the collection of bacteria and other harmful organisms, thus meeting HACCP Compliance. By inference, it should be easy to clean and sanitize.
  • Floor coating must work well with both wet and dry conditions. Furthermore, given a lot of the facilities we visit are in rural locations where wide temperature fluctuations occur, the coating should be suitable for both conditions and resistant to temperature change.
  • Resistance to chemicals and foodstuffs. After all, foods especially sugars are highly caustic and cause more damage than you may be aware.
  • Flooring should be non-slip. Breweries and distilleries all have the responsibility to install flooring that keeps employees. Whether it is in the application of different coloured surfaces which outline areas where personnel cannot go, or the building in of bunds to contain spills from walkways, the floor should prioritise safety.
    Similarly, the floor should be relatively easy to clean. Whilst it cannot be smooth (it needs an appropriate R-rating) finding the balance between the amount of aggregate to use and allowing simple easy to sweep/mop floors is key.

Balancing cost with function and longevity

As with everything, there is a balancing act as well – how much do you pay today for a suitable floor, and how much will it cost you into the future if you don’t spend what is necessary right now. The need to balance the cost with function and longevity in selecting the best floor coating for breweries and distilleries cannot be understated.

It can be tough to find a floor solution that stands the test of time because almost every type of flooring has some disadvantages. When researching the best solution, don’t just look at the bottom line or the speed of installation. Consider what is right for your facility, and what the implications of doing it incorrectly the first time are (we are talking shutdowns, health breach orders etc)
An excellent choice for a variety of needs is epoxy flooring. Epoxy floors are generally affordable, attractive and very resilient.

Besides withstanding spills and chemical cleaners, epoxy paint for a warehouse floor has excellent heat and water resistance. Most importantly, it lasts longer than many types of flooring when installed properly. In fact, it can last for several decades without need for major repair or replacement making it popular for commercial and industrial use.

We’ll Drink to That

There are many challenges to be aware of when installing brewery and distillery floors. Identifying these problems is an essential part than many building owners tend to overlook in focusing on the distillation process itself. So, you do not get caught out, consult the Remedial team for your industrial flooring needs.