Understanding why tiles are not a suitable commercial kitchen flooring solution

1 March 2021
By Goran


In the last week, the NSW government eased COVID-19 restrictions again, making it easier for larger groups of people to get out. This in turn will mean cafes and restaurants can welcome more diners back. Delicatessens and other purveyors of food also stand to benefit from the easing in restrictions. If this sounds like your business and you are about to go back to work in an increased capacity, the question must be asked, are your floors up to scratch, because the demands of a commercial kitchen floor are very specific and getting it wrong can be costly.

First of all, Commercial kitchen floors need to withstand arduous punishment from chemicals, wear and tear, foods and more. Over time, the significant to-and-froing traffic of staff can cause significant damage. Consequently, commercial kitchen floor solutions need to be hard-wearing, easy to clean and non-slip.

Having said this however, when it comes to introducing commercial kitchen flooring options, there are a few other significant, high-level elements to consider:

  • Hygiene and cleanliness
  • Safety and security
  • Durability
  • Compliance and consistency with guidelines and regulations set forth by the different agencies that monitor food facilities.

Getting these aspects right is vital as – you will be well aware – commercial kitchens are closely checked and monitored by health authorities and infringements can be very costly. .

Any issues in any of these basic administrative and regulatory areas can be reason for an inspector to impose a fine or even order for a facility to shut down until such time as the necessary repairs/rectification have been attended to. The outcome can be a possible loss of income, with the burden and cost of unexpected and mandated fixes and repairs notwithstanding.

While commercial kitchen flooring remains the overarching loci of focus, in this article we’ll examine the disadvantages of tiled surfaces in commercial kitchens and other food preparation areas such as delicatessens.

The issue with Tiled Floors in restaurant kitchens.

Tiles are far from new inventions. Used in great ancient cities such as Pompeii, tiles are characterised by their ceramic compositions which can be coloured and glazed, giving rise to all matter of design options. Relatively cheap to manufacture, tiles became the go-to option for houses and commercial settings alike, because of the design options available, the ease with which one tile can be replaced, their ability to repel water and the low cost of installation. However, while they have advantages, there are numerous drawbacks to their use especially for commercial kitchen settings.

Ceramic tile is very hard underfoot

Ceramic tiles are designed to be exceptionally hard. This is great for longevity under normal circumstances, but can be extremely troublesome on your back and legs over prolonged periods of time. Whilst many people turn to rubber matting to alleviate these symptoms, these added floor coverings do come with their drawbacks too, including the fact that they make the floor different heights ,food and liquids can be trapped underneath and it may be a slip hazard if the mat slips.

Ceramic tiles do not contain heat well

Ceramic tiles do not retain heat, meaning if can get quite cold. This characteristic can cause a lot of uneasiness and discomfort for staff where a commercial kitchen tile floor kitchen is set up especially in places with harsh winters.

Difficult and time-consuming to install and maintain

One of the fundamental drawbacks of ceramic tile floors is the troublesome and time-consuming process it takes to install. Sure the materials are cheap, but ceramic floor installation requires numerous tools, days of installation and – most significantly the gaps are sealed with porous grout.

Whilst tiles may look good, over time, they can become hazardous; they can chip, become slippery and as the grout breaks up, become breeding grounds for bacteria and germs – two things you do not want around food. Washing the tiles more to “keep them clean” is not always the solution either, as the harsh chemicals needed to clean will actually erode the grout even more, creating a catch 22 scenario.

Further, the water can get under the tiles and become richer areas for bacteria. The number of times we have pulled up tiles and had our noses assaulted by the smell is way too often (Take a look at some of our flooring case studies to learn more).

Slip hazard

Truth be told, slipping and tripping is the second-most regular working environment mishap. With the combination of the fast-paced environment of a busy kitchen and wet working areas, the risk of accidents increases. Slips and falls from slippery flooring are by far the greatest occurrence. The most well-known reasons tiled floors get and stay slippery in commercial kitchens are:

  • Wear and Tear: The effect of staff walking along the same path for a long time creates smooth worn spots on the floor that are slippery when wet.
  • Age: As ceramic floors age, their characteristic surfaces are worn out making them less slip-resistant.
  • Heat: Ceramic floor traction can be damaged by heat from commercial ovens, stoves and other equipment.
  • Water, grease, and more: There can be an increased slip-risk on ceramic floors especially with food and non-food related substances on the floor.

As previously mentioned, ceramic tile is a clay-base blend that is shaped and baked in a furnace. Since untreated ceramic is permeable, a liquefied glass-glaze coat is added to make the surface stronger and water repellent. While restaurants need the coating to guarantee compliance to health and safety codes, if it is applied too thickly, it can reduce slip-resistance. Slip-resistance is accomplished by adding aggregates that increase the friction between feet and surface. The thicker the coating, the less surface aggregate there is—and the more slippery the floor can turn out to be, particularly when wet.

Ceramic tiles are not self-leveling

It is also important to note that ceramic tiles are not self-leveling. Consequently, you must create a smooth surface beforehand in preparation to install the ceramic tiles. This can be a long and messy process, especially when you must remove the previous floor covering prior to installing the new surface. Where the floors are not level, and the falls to drains not adequate, water will collect, increasing the risk of slips, bacteria and hygiene issues as identified above.

In essence, what we are saying is this: there are other flooring solutions out there that are ideal for commercial kitchen use which make the need for using tiles one you should reconsider. If you need professional guidance on a better flooring surface, or are looking to upgrade your floors, let’s have a chat about the right one to suit your needs. .

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