Kitchen floors have a lot to contend with, and when it’s a commercial kitchen the potential perils are compounded. That’s why you have to find a material that is durable, water- and stain-resistant, and easy to clean. When kitchens are visible to the public, the kitchen flooring also has to match or complement the front-of-house flooring and decor. But above all, commercial kitchen flooring must be sanitary and comply with local health and building code requirements.
Tile is one of the most common types of commercial kitchen flooring. It is a highly durable, stain-resistant, easy-to-clean flooring material that can be very cost-competitive. Made from clay and sediments fired at high temperatures in an industrial kiln, tiles are very hard and impact-resistant.
The primary type of tile used in commercial kitchens is quarry tile, an unglazed clay tile with a naturally slip-resistant texture. Quarry tile comes in a limited range of colors, from reddish brown to tan to gray, and usually has a standard square shape. It is not the most beautiful flooring option, but it is one of the most cost-effective and durable, and its slip-resistance makes it appropriate for any kitchen environment.
Glazed ceramic tile, similar to tile used in homes, is available in many more colors and styles than quarry tile, and it's glazed surface can be virtually impervious to water and many staining agents. However, glazed ceramic tile used in kitchens must be sufficiently slip-resistant to meet code standards.
Vinyl is a resilient material, which means that it is thin and will take on the physical properties of the subfloor it is laid on. If it is installed over something hard, like concrete, you get a floor that is hygienic and easy to clean but is only moderately durable and resistant to damage. In some cases, a padded underlayment layer can be laid under vinyl, adding some cushion to the floor for greater comfort and reduced fatigue. However, padding makes a flooring more vulnerable to damage and wear and therefore is not suitable for many kitchen applications.
Available in sheets or tiles, vinyl is one of the easiest flooring materials to install. Sheet vinyl has very few seams, making it less vulnerable to water damage and edge damage than vinyl tile.
Natural stone tile is used in some commercial kitchen environments, particularly when appearance is a top priority. Stone flooring is durable and hard, like quarry tile and ceramic tile, but it can be much more expensive and can be relatively high-maintenance. Unlike quarry and ceramic tile, all stone tile must be sealed to prevent stains and discoloration.
Stone tile must be chosen very carefully for use in a kitchen. It must be relatively smooth and flat and not have deep surface variations that can become trip hazards. Most importantly, stone tile floors must be slip-resistant even when wet. Polished stone is much too slippery for the kitchen environment.
Poured concrete is a classic option for both kitchen and front-of-house flooring. Concrete is incredibly durable and can be finished with a variety of surface textures and visual effects, including decorative colors and inlays. Concrete is hard, flat, and seamless and cannot be damaged by heat or most impacts. It's also surprisingly versatile and can work for a range of restaurant styles.
Concrete is porous and must be sealed periodically to resist stains and discoloration from food and oils. Like all types of tile, concrete is also hard underfoot, which is why many kitchens use rubber mats or tiles to soften concrete flooring in key work areas.
Epoxy flooring is made with epoxy resins, colorant, and additives for texture and slip-resistance. One common additive is marble chips. Because it is applied as a liquid that hardens, epoxy flooring is seamless and highly sanitary. It is commonly used to refinish old kitchen floors to create a new, completely sealed surface. Epoxy can even be continued several inches up the kitchen walls to create a coved base, a seamless transition that sheds water away from the corners to facilitate cleaning.