Epoxy floor coverings are an increasingly common choice for commercial kitchens and bars. Epoxy is a chemically bonded material that is applied like a thick paint. It is durable, impact resistant, flame resistant and water resistant. Epoxy is most suitable for applying over a concrete surface, and slip resistant epoxy coatings that include granular or rubberised particles can produce a floor surface that’s non-slip as well as durable and easy to keep clean.
The only drawbacks? An epoxy coating must be applied to a clean and even surface, and it has to be renewed every so often. High quality epoxy, well applied, lasts for approximately ten years and then needs to be reapplied. Epoxy is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with as well as being practical and fairly durable, so it’s no wonder that it has become so popular with businesses. An epoxy coating can be applied and fully cured in as little as a couple of hours, depending on product used.
Why, then, is epoxy flooring worthy of a blog post? There are two interesting angles. First, there’s the difference between waterproofing requirements under the BCA – the Building Code of Australia – and under the Food Act. Then, there are the specific legal requirements for junctions and detailing. These requirements add complexity to something that you’d expect to be very simple and straightforward.
Food Service Area Requirements Under the Food Act
As I mentioned in a previous post on solid cool room walls for food service areas, food preparation premises, including bars, are required to comply with the Food Act 2003, Food Regulation 2004 and AS 4674-2004. Epoxy-coated concrete floors are considered to be acceptable under the Food Act and related regulations. However, the surface must be well prepared and well finished. For example, any cracks in the concrete floor need to be patched before epoxy is applied, and coving must be attached and fully sealed at the junction between the floor and the surrounding walls, creating a seamless transition and a waterproof surface to a height of around 70mm. This makes the floor easier to keep clean and the wall less accessible to pests.
Building Code of Australia (BCA)
While the extra preparation and careful detailing required under the food service standards certainly makes sense for commercial food and beverage handling areas, those aren’t the only rules that affect the floors of commercial kitchens and bars. The Building Code of Australia, or BCA, has a say in how they’re built, too.
The issue that the BCA people are concerned with is epoxy’s lack of elasticity. It forms a strong chemical bind with concrete, and it is not a flexible material. If the concrete cracks, the epoxy cracks. If the epoxy is damaged then its water resistance is lost in the damaged area. That’s why, in some applications, a second, more elastic waterproof layer is required under the epoxy. Unfortunately, adding a second layer of protection increases the cost of the job and the time it takes to complete it.
If you have a commercial kitchen, a bar area or in fact any food service or wet area that you need to choose a floor finish for, then epoxy is a good option.