The Ultimate Guide To Slip Resistant Flooring For Restaurants

Statistically speaking, restaurants are dangerous places.

In fact, 1 in 20 on-the-job injuries and illnesses that occur worldwide do so at eating and drinking establishments.  When the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen and dining room is combined with risky environmental conditions, slip and fall accidents are always a possibility.

Some common conditions which cause restaurant flooring to become dangerous, include:

  1. The constant wear and tear of the wait staff and customers walking in the same path day after day.
  2. Age – Most flooring becomes slippery with age.
  3. The heat caused by commercial ovens and other heat generating equipment.
  4. Water, grease and other food related and non-food related substances on the floor (i.e. napkins).

These conditions all add up to be a personal injury attorney’s best dream, which means a proven, effective slip-resistant flooring surface is a must if restaurant owners want to reduce their lawsuit exposure and remain in business in today’s litigious world.

Flooring Regulations

While safety regulations can differ from state to state, as a general rule, flooring should be impervious to moisture and easy to clean and maintain. Furthermore, OSHA requires that employees have a safe work place, which includes proper (i.e. slip-resistant) flooring.

To achieve these objectives, a quality slip resistant flooring should have the following attributes:

  • Texture. Restaurant flooring surfaces should be sufficiently textured to provide traction yet smooth enough that they can be properly cleaned.
  • Sanitation. The flooring must be easy-to-clean and hold up to harsh cleaning supplies. Meaning, the flooring materials should be durable and always look clean.
  • Antimicrobial. A hot, damp, and occasionally dirty floor is an ideal medium for germs that can cause slippery conditions. Flooring should be pre-treated with Environmental Protection Agency-registered or approved materials that limit bacteria, viruses, yeast, and other microbes from growing on the flooring surface.
  • Durability. Restaurant flooring needs to be like Cal Ripken, Jr.—it must withstand seasons of wear and abuse without taking a day off.  It should be made of a material that does not chip, peel or crack, because any fissure is a great hiding spot for germs and a sure citation from your friendly neighborhood health inspector.
  • Comfort. Your kitchen workers and wait staff are on their feet for almost their entire shift. Hard flooring surfaces with no give can cause discomfort and a number of musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Looks. Whether it’s in the front of the house or the back of the house, restaurant flooring has to look good and draw people in. It must complement your interior design scheme and support your branding.  Like they say, when you look good, you feel good.

Choosing the Right Floor for Your Restaurant Renovation

Restaurant flooring options are similar to residential flooring options but are typically a higher-grade product. Some of the most common restaurant flooring choices include ceramic tile, concrete, vinyl and rubber flooring.

Of course, the key here is to select flooring which is durable and slip resistant.

According to the flooring industry, slip resistance is based on three factors:

  1. The type of aggregate used
  2. The type of resin coating used
  3. The thickness of the lock coat sealant used

The Role of the Aggregate

 Aggregate is the grit that creates the friction that permits traction. Aggregates can be used separately or together and typically have hard, rough edges to give the flooring its slip-resistant qualities. Generally, the more slip resistant the surface is, the larger the aggregate particles.

Some common aggregates are:

  • Quartz
  • Sand
  • Aluminum oxide
  • Carbides
  • Walnut shells
  • Epoxy
  • Small pieces or bulbs of glass or plastic.

Flooring slip resistance is established through laboratory testing and is expressed in terms of its coefficient of friction (COF). Simply put, this is the ratio of attraction between foot and floor.

COF ratings are classified as “wet” or “dry.” In terms of safety code regulations, the COF requirements are based on the “wet” rating.  The higher the COF value, the less slippery the surface. To be classified as “slip resistant,” the surface of a material must have a wet value of 0.60 or greater. Any flooring meeting or exceeding this rating will meet all general safety and health regulations, ADA and OSHA requirements.

Flooring is “conditionally slip resistant” if its wet COF ranges between 0.50 and 0.59.

Restaurants must take special note of “wet and dry” slip-resistance. Most flooring surfaces are slip-resistant when dry; however, if you add any contaminate—water, dust, grease or chemical cleaning solvents—its non-slip effectiveness may be affected greatly.  As a COF general rule, the shinier a surface is, the slipperier it is, so many polishes that make restaurant flooring look nice are simultaneously making it more dangerous to walk on. Likewise, many surfaces, such as concrete, will become increasingly slippery with wear and age.

This can be particularly problematic when it comes to restaurant bathrooms. Because liquids of various sources fall on the floor, it’s vital to maintain slip-resistance in all areas of the restroom.

The Role of Resin and Lock Coating

All aggregates must be combined with a foundational base—typically a resin that can preserve the gritty qualities while making the floor smooth so it’s durable and easy to clean. Slip-resistance requires roughness of aggregates to achieve friction and traction, but it also needs lock coat sealants such as polyurethane to make the surface more durable and easier to clean. However, the ratio to grit and smooth is a balancing act. If the lock coat is too thick, the abrasive qualities of the aggregate material will be sealed as well and slip resistance is compromised greatly. Too thin and it’s going to be really hard to clean to health and safety code standards.

Slip resistant resinous flooring is commonly used in restaurants because of its durability and hygienic qualities. There are three core categories, each with potential benefits and drawbacks.

  • PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) is a synthetic resin better known as “acrylic” or “acrylic glass.” It is a thermoplastic resin—malleable when heated and hardening when it cools. When aggregates are introduced in this process, the material becomes slip resistant.

PMMA resin flooring can be installed quickly, even in sub-freezing temperatures if necessary. It is easy to repair because partial upgrades can be done as needed without requiring a full flooring replacement. PMMA resin floors are typically more expensive than other resin flooring options; however, they usually last longer and require less maintenance.

  • Polyurethane (PU) is a type of thermoset resin It’s made by fusing resin with polyester and urethane fibers. When aggregates are added to the mix, material becomes slip resistant. PU resin flooring is highly-resistant to high temperature and direct heat so it holds up well near kitchen ovens.

PU resin floors take significantly longer to install than PMMA resin floors, which means more operational downtime during installation and repair.

  • Epoxy resin is another thermoset material that offers performance and durability. Epoxy resin flooring bonds fully to concrete so there is no cracking or chipping. When aggregates are added, it becomes a long-lasting, slip resistant surface that repels water, grease and a wide range of chemicals. This makes it perfect for “wet” areas of the restaurant, like kitchens and bathrooms, which experience near-constant dampness.

Newer types of slip-resistant resurfacing flooring have been introduced, such as polyavastic, polyaspartic, urethane and hybrid flooring, and each offers a benefit for specific uses. Bottom line: there are a number of quality options that offer specific benefits and have specific drawbacks.  It’s important to consult with your contractor or a flooring expert and choose a resin flooring based on the unique needs and requirements of the flooring surface, rather than simply the cost.

Types of Slip-Resistant Flooring for Restaurants

There are four primary floor types of slip-resistant flooring currently being used in restaurants.

  1. Vinyl Commercial Flooring
  2. Ceramic Tile Flooring
  3. Concrete Flooring
  4. Rubber Flooring

Choosing the right one requires knowledge of what each one can deliver, as well as receiving expert advice from your contractor or flooring specialist.

Slip-Resistant Vinyl Commercial flooring

Also known as resilient flooring, slip-resistant vinyl commercial flooring is one of the most common types of restaurant flooring.

Commercial vinyl flooring is made from a mix of natural and synthetic polymers structured to create maximum durability. There are three types of vinyl flooring: vinyl composition tile (VCT), luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and sheet flooring. For restaurants, sheets are more popular because they eliminate most seams and crevices. Modern vinyl flooring products are heat-resistant and will repel water.

  • VCT is a mix of limestone, resin, aggregates and color pigments made in sheets then cut into tiles. It’s not the best option for restaurant flooring because it requires layers of polish to protect its surface and requires frequent upkeep and maintenance.
  • LVT and sheet flooring are better commercial options. They are limestone-based as well, but have a sealed, outer coating on top. These types of floors are flexible, durable, water and heat resistant, easy to clean and have a wide range of design possibilities.

Vinyl flooring is less expensive than other types of restaurant flooring and can be treated with aggregates and antimicrobial agents to reduce germs and promote hygiene.  Vinyl flooring is softer than concrete or tiles and conforms to its subfloor, so it will be more comfortable for restaurant workers, especially if it is installed over a padded foundation.

Slip-Resistant Ceramic Tile Flooring

Ceramic tile flooring is another popular product for restaurant kitchens because it looks nice, wears well, and is easy to maintain.

Ceramic tile is a clay-base mixture that is shaped and baked in a kiln. Because untreated ceramic is porous, when used in commercial kitchen settings, a melted glass glaze is added to make the surface stronger and water repellent. While restaurants need the glaze to assure compliance to health and safety codes, the glaze, if too thick, can reduce slip resistance. Remember slip resistance is achieved by adding aggregates which increase friction between feet and surface. The thicker the protective coating, the less surface aggregate there is—so the floor will be more slippery, especially when wet.

The separate tiles are affixed to the flooring by a grouting compound. Grout is porous, too, so it must be sealed with the tiles when used in the restaurant. Once sealed, the floor is durable and easy to clean.

Ceramic tiles are durable because they are very hard. This means they can be very hard on kitchen workers and wait staff as well.  Rubber mats on top of the ceramic tile floors are often necessary.  Likewise, ceramic tiles can be tricky to work with and may require professional installation. Once installed, maintenance is generally easy. If one tile cracks or breaks, just the defective tile is replaced and not the entire floor. Also, ceramic tile is more ecofriendly than other options because it is made without petroleum products.

Concrete Restaurant Flooring

Concrete flooring, reinforced with aggregates and sealed with a lock coat, is another popular option for restaurants. Untreated concrete is porous, but once sealed, it is very durable and can be customized to accommodate many design schemes. Concrete floors will require more maintenance than some other flooring choices, because they must be re-sealed often to assure slip resistance and protection against water, grease, food and other common food industry contaminates. Over time, concrete surfaces may crack and stain. Also, after taking on some wear, wet concrete will become increasingly less slip resistant.

Like ceramic tiles, concrete flooring is very hard, so rubber flooring mats over top of the concrete floors may be necessary for the comfort and safety of workers.

Rubber Restaurant Kitchen Flooring

Special rubber aggregates in combination with a flexible epoxy resin coating make rubber floors. The material is slip resistant and has a cushioning effect, which provides additional comfort when workers are on their feet all day. In fact, rubber kitchen flooring offers the most comfort. It also reduces some kitchen and dining room noise by absorbing the sound waves rather than reflecting them. Rubber materials are naturally slip resistant, water repellent, and easy to clean, which make them a good option for bathrooms. Rubber flooring can compose the entire floor or be added in specific areas. Rubber flooring is also available in tiles, making it easy to install and to replace any damaged tiles with minimal inconvenience.

The main drawback is that commercial rubber flooring is one of the most expensive flooring choices. Additionally, some contaminates like grease can cause permanent damage, so it’s not the best choice for commercial kitchens.

There are several other types of restaurant flooring such as natural stone tiles or bricks. These surfaces can be very attractive, but the same considerations exist with stone and brick as other hard surfaces like concrete and ceramic. They must be sealed with a slip-resistant coating to prevent accidents, rubber mats may be necessary to reduce impact, and regular maintenance is necessary.

Anti-Slip Mats and Tiles 

In addition to the actual flooring, there are several applications or additions that promote safety and slip resistance. Anti-slip mats and tiles are two of the most common.

Anti-Slip Mats

Anti-slip mats can be placed on top of slip resistant flooring and are good in areas where workers stand in one place for an extended period of time. Mats are recommended in areas that are often wet because they elevate the worker or the patron off the wet, slippery surface and allow spilled fluids to drain and pool through its holes. To reduce the risk of tripping, mats often have edges that incline gradually to the floor.

Cleaning is difficult because of the drainage holes. In the kitchen and dining room, grease, dirt, and food residue can accumulate in slip-resistant mats; in bathrooms, grime and urine can make for an ugly appearance (and unpleasant odor). To clean thoroughly, these mats must be taken out of the restaurant, hosed down and scrubbed with a strong cleaner, and dried completely to eliminate bacteria or moisture that may contaminate food or smell bad.

Slip Resistant Tiles

Also known as modular flooring, slip-resistant tiles are interlocked during installation to form a continuous surface. These products are commonly made of rubber, PVC or polyurethane and combined with an aggregate to make it slip resistant. Friction may be enhanced further by knobbed, ribbed or corrugated surface finishes. This is beneficial in high traffic or consistently wet locations, like bathrooms or the dishwashing area or areas with a high degree of grease output like the space in front of a deep fryer. Slip resistant tiles are raised surfaces and have edges—so, unless it covers the entire flooring surface, tripping may be more of a risk than slipping. This risk may be mitigated by adding a beveled edging option.

Anti-Slip Floor and Step Coverings, Coatings, Treatments and Tapes

These surfaces combine a range of aggregate materials and work simply by increasing the roughness of the flooring surface. They are used more in industrial settings than restaurants.  Anti-slip tapes are not good options for restaurants because they’re not conducive to thorough cleaning. The main advantage of anti-slip tapes is they can be installed over irregular surfaces or reinforce high risk or badly worn surfaces until proper repairs can be made.

Other Flooring Considerations

Selecting the right type of slip-resistant materials for your restaurant is critical, but even the best materials will be greatly compromised without precise (if not professional) installation. All types of slip-resistant flooring come with prescribed recommendations from the manufacturer because laying these high-performance floors is not easy. Your beautiful new ceramic tiles will crack or break if there is just a tiny air pocket beneath it. Also, some types of flooring require specialized installation by trained professionals; if the instructions are not explicitly followed, the product warranty will be rendered null and void.

It’s also vitally important to consider what the new flooring is going over–the floor’s foundation or substructure. The wrong base will reduce performance and can cancel warranty coverage. There are also other concerns. For instance, before adding flooring to a concrete surface, the underlying material must be tested for the presence of moisture. If not treated, this faulty base will damage your new floor and greatly affect its longevity.

There are some restaurant jobs that can be done by mostly anyone. Chopping onions, sure. Adding a garnish, okay. Installing specialized, slip-resistant flooring is not one of them. Working with a trusted contractor will save you time and money and prevent a lot of immediate and future headaches. It just makes sense:

  • Your contractor can purchase flooring directly from manufacturers—eliminating middleman markup. You might be able to do that, but your contractor can definitely negotiate a better deal.
  • Your contractor can recommend cost-effective solutions that still align with product warranty specifications so if a problem arises during the warranty period, you have the peace of mind of knowing you’ll be covered.
  • Your contractor will make sure extra materials are retained and available (while adhering to replacement and maintenance guidelines) when small repairs become necessary.

What Should You Do? 

The flooring itself should be an important part—but still only a part—of a comprehensive approach to the safety and well-being of restaurant workers and patrons. Preventing accidents and incidents requires:

  1. Proactivity
  2. Awareness
  3. Common sense

This can be as simple as workers wearing the right shoes and the cleaning crew being diligent in their efforts.

But there’s more.

  • Observe all health codes and safety regulations. When it comes to flooring, restaurant owners or kitchen managers must also pay close attention to all applicable health and safety codes. There isn’t one standard; it varies greatly depending on where the property is located. For example, some codes stipulate the minimum thickness of epoxy finishes on concrete flooring must be 3/16th of an inch. Some expensive finishes, like specially treated slip resistant flooring treatments, will never come close to that thickness. Other codes are much broader, with general guidelines that are open to interpretation, such as “the floor must be clean and in good repair.” Before any work is done, you must make sure it meets all applicable codes, or you’re just throwing away money.
  • Review customer ratings for all flooring products. Every product will try to convince you it is the best on the market, so customer ratings are your best resource to find objective reviews. When conducting this research, try to find properties and functions that are most similar to your work. You need a hygienic, durable, safe, and attractive final product. Many options exist, but the selections are definitely not one-size-fits-all.

While there are no easy answers for the type of slip-resistant restaurant flooring you should be using in your eatery, there are certainly no shortage of options. Hopefully, this guide can help you find the solution that best fits your needs.

If you’re planning on renovating your restaurant, and still have questions about your flooring options, contact us today to get started.

 
 

 

 
 

 

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