Tile and Grout Challenges
Tile and grout challenges are the norm in high-traffic, abrasive environments of commercial kitchens. Most facilities professionals have a love/hate relationship with quarry tile flooring...and for good reason. Quarry tile is the product of choice in commercial kitchens for its durability and quality, but often times environmental factors wage air assault on even the most expertly laid tile. Grout presents its own set of challenges. Receding grout lines can look decent upon one quarterly exam, but rapidly deteriorate the next. Every time a cook flings a basket out of the fryer, a janitorial crew sprays cleaning detergent, or a bartender spills alcohol at the bar, the grout takes a beating. The truth of the matter is that traditional flooring materials and grout products which are not engineered for high-performance commercial environments will fall dismally short of their advertised life span.
As general contractors, we witness this at job sites around the country. For the last several decades, traditional sanded and latex grout products, and light weight epoxy products have failed to withstand the constant abuse of restaurant kitchens. Animal fats, detergents, and cleaning chemicals wreak havoc on grout and the integrity of quarry tile. The foot traffic of operations staff tramples on these residues as they permeate grout surfaces. Over time grout lines recede and chunks of grout start to pop out of the floor; exposing crevasses for pest breeding, food particles, and water accumulation along walls. Grout recession and disrepair can lead to health department violations for sanitary issues and operational safety concerns such as slip and falls. Tile and grout issues are of a particular concern to FMs because of the frequency with which these problems occur.
If you’re interested in leaving behind short-term fixes for long-term solutions, it’s time for an aggressive strategy for tile and grout challenges. Ready for an expert recommendation? Make a long-term investment in your assets by transitioning to industrial strength epoxy grout across all your kitchen environments. Latex/sanded grouts and lightweight epoxy grouts simply cannot stand up to the demands of commercial kitchens. While those products are certainly cheaper and easier to install, they must be replaced more frequently. You may not be accustomed to thinking of your floors as a valuable asset- but they are. When they are properly maintained by facilities professionals, and the right products are utilized, time and resources can be saved.
There are several important considerations to keep in mind if you are considering a transition to industrial epoxy grout products. The installation of industrial epoxy grout requires specific training and tools by an experienced contractor. It is important to work with a contractor who has installed industrial epoxy grout before or who is willing to take the time to learn how to do it properly. Technical specification for industrial epoxy grout must be provided to contractors during the bidding process as a prerequisite to ensure the contractor is equipped with the information to install this type of grout correctly. Make sure to take special notice of the grout profile in order to adhere to industry standards. When installed properly, industrial epoxy grout will last for 5-7 years on even the toughest commercial kitchen floor. From an operations standpoint, make sure you have communicated with all stakeholders in advance to ensure a smooth installation. Communication with operations staff, cleaning crews, security, and landlords is essential to make sure everyone is informed of the installation plan and understands their role.
Lastly, many multi-unit locations have capitalized their grout program. By booking the new floor across all the locations being improved, as an asset instead of an expense, the cost can be depreciated across the projected life cycle (in this case 7 years). This accounting practice allows the cost of installing a high quality epoxy grout with new quarry tile to be spread across 84 months, versus having it hit the facility’s P&L the month it was installed.