professional kitchen with a red floor

The 5 Best Flooring Options for Commercial Kitchens

A commercial kitchen is a place of intense, fast-paced activity, and one that is prone to all sorts of mishaps including drops and spills. As a result, the flooring for such a space must be carefully considered and chosen, bearing in mind a number of important factors, including durability, resistance to water, mildew, slipping, and adherence to local building standards.

In the United States, the safety of commercial kitchen workers is enforced by guidelines set out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Labor, and individual state laws. This means that when designing a commercial kitchen, the owner, designer, and builder must work together to ensure that the materials used will conform to the national and local regulations.

When choosing a flooring material for your new commercial kitchen, you will want to choose something that is attractive and fits in with your general theme. However, you will also want to make sure that the material is slip-resistant, water and stain-resistant, durable, and easy to clean.

What Makes Flooring Commercial-Grade?

Commercial grade flooring is made from the strongest and most durable materials available and is built to endure the everyday occurrences that are commonplace in commercial settings. A commercial kitchen is a place that takes these occurrences to the extreme, with regular spills of water and hot oil, as well as the possibility of heavy items being dropped on the floor.

Regular flooring types, like the ones used in residential kitchens, simply don’t have the durability, stain resistance, and sanitary qualities of commercial flooring types, which are also resistant to scratches and dents, ensuring that your flooring will look good for a reasonable length of time.

How To Choose Flooring for a Commercial Kitchen?

There are many features of commercial flooring that are both useful and necessary in a commercial kitchen. Here are the most important ones:

  • Water resistance – a water-resistant floor will not be easily damaged by spills, though they should be mopped up quickly to ensure the longevity of the flooring. Waterproof flooring is completely impervious to liquid spills and will be very easy to keep clean.
  • Easy maintenance – flooring types that are easy to maintain are not only easy to clean, withstanding commercial cleaning solutions, but also require very little maintenance over time, such as re-application of anti-slip or anti-microbial treatments, for example.
  • Antimicrobial surface – ensuring that your kitchen space is kept clean and sanitary is essential to a healthy working environment, as well as legally necessary. Some commercial flooring types can be treated with anti-microbial finishes to ensure you do not get mildew growing in the unreachable corners.
  • Slip resistance – one of the biggest risks of choosing a highly water-resistant flooring type is that they are often very slippery. It is important to choose a non-slip material or to have your chosen flooring treated with a non-slip finish. Slippery floors are a common cause of workplace accidents in commercial kitchens.

The 5 Best Kitchen Flooring Options

When choosing a flooring material for your commercial kitchen, you will have 5 common options to choose from, namely tile, vinyl, natural stone, concrete, and epoxy. However, you can’t go out and buy just any version of these – you must find a commercially viable option that will fit all the criteria you need in a commercial kitchen. Here are the details for each type of flooring.

Tile

ceramic tile floor

Tiling is a very durable and sanitary type of flooring material and is one of the most popular choices for commercial kitchens. Tiles are resistant to stains, spills, and certain types of impacts, and are very easy to keep clean. They are also generally competitively priced, making them one of the more affordable options for a commercial kitchen.

Tiles used in commercial kitchens are often of the unglazed quarry tile type, due to their non-slip natural texture. These tiles are very rustic compared to glazed tiles and don’t come in a large variety of shapes, sizes, or colors. Unglazed tiles are a great choice for a commercial kitchen because of their natural color, which is usually between gray and reddish-brown, and their rough texture, which makes them slip-resistant.

Glazed ceramic tiles are available in an unlimited range of colors, shapes, and sizes, and are usually 100% waterproof, easily preventing mold and stains from taking hold. The downside to these tiles is that they are usually extremely slippery when wet, which is a dangerous hazard in a busy workplace. Glazed ceramic tiles must be properly treated with a slip-resistant coating to prevent such accidents from occurring.

Vinyl

vinyl floor

Commercial vinyl flooring is easy to clean, and therefore a sanitary and hygienic option for a commercial kitchen. Also known as resilient flooring, vinyl can be installed over a number of different subflooring types, but since it is very thin, and adheres closely to the lower layer, taking on the appearance of any gouges or dents, it is best to have a good, solid type of subflooring to lay it onto.

Vinyl is not as durable as tiling, as it can be gauged quite easily, especially when applied to a softer surface.

Vinyl comes in two formats, both of which are easy and cheap to install – the tile format is the easier of the two to install, but leaves many seams between the tiles, all of which are places that water and dust can get in under the flooring, limiting the lifespan of the floor. The sheet format is the better choice, as there will be far fewer seams, and the flooring is likely to last much longer, but it is a bit more complicated to install.

Natural Stone

natural stone floor

Natural stone is a very durable and attractive option for a commercial kitchen, but it is a very expensive, high maintenance choice, and would likely only be used in situations where the kitchen will be visible to the public, and must be attractively designed. Due to its porous nature, stone tiling must be regularly treated with a sealant to prevent staining and water damage.

Stone tiling used in a commercial kitchen environment must be slip-resistant, and therefore not glossy, but must also not have extreme textures that could be easily tripped over. A matt, slightly textured stone would be the best option for this application.

Concrete

A very durable, inexpensive, and aesthetically diverse flooring option, concrete is hard and impervious to heat and blunt force. The variety of ways in which concrete can be finished is one of its most attractive options, as it means that your flooring can be made to look any way you like, while you still enjoy the advantages of a concrete floor.

Choose a texture that is safe and non-slip, a finish that is waterproof and stain-resistant, an anti-microbial coating, and a look that suits your overall design, and you have the best of all worlds. This seamless, versatile flooring option is porous, so ensure that you include maintenance into your plans when choosing this flooring type – a waterproof coating will need to be applied at installation, and reapplied at regular intervals afterward.

Concrete is also very hard, and therefore not a comfortable surface to stand on for long periods of time, so fill the busiest areas of your kitchen with rubber mats, to ensure the comfort and joint health of your workers.

Epoxy

epoxy floor

Epoxy is applied to a floor as a liquid, which then hardens into a perfectly flat, seamless surface. Colors and textures can be added to the liquid before application to ensure you are getting the look and feel that you want, as well as the safety of a textured, slip-resistant floor.

Another advantage of this seamless, waterproof flooring type is that it is very easy to keep clean, and very hygienic, as there are no cracks for water to get into, spurring the growth of mold and bacteria. You can even have it installed to run a short distance up to your walls in a curve, to ensure that any water runs away from the corners and can easily be cleaned up. Epoxy can be applied over old flooring surfaces to create a new, smooth surface without needing to tear up the old floor, saving you time and money.

Tips for Buying and Installing Your Commercial Flooring Solution

  • Don’t rush off to your nearest flooring solutions manufacturer and purchase the flooring type you want on a whim. Discuss your desires with the contractor who will be installing your floors, and see if they have any suggestions or ideas as to how you could get it cheaper. Your contractor may have a relationship with a supplier or know of a cheaper supplier you can use.
  • Be sure to have your sub-flooring checked before installing your new flooring solution. If there are any issues with moisture, you could end up with your expensive new flooring coming loose or getting damaged, and you could lose your warranty.
  • Be sure to check the manufacturer recommendations and guidelines, and have your flooring installed as instructed, and by a professional. Do not risk cheap, uncertified contractors.
  • If you have chosen a specialty flooring type, ensure that your contractor follows all installation guidelines, or allow the manufacturer to send a trained installation team to ensure that the job is done correctly. This will prevent unnecessary damage to the floor while making sure your warranty stays intact.
  • If you have chosen ceramic, vinyl, or stone tiles, be sure to buy a few extras in case of breakages.