Failing tile or epoxy floor?
by Danny Zimboski, Regional Business Manager for JetRock and RocketResins
This question is the first asked in many conversations I have with customers about the current condition of their failing epoxy or tile floor. Sometimes the response is an obvious one, “Well, you installed this floor 10 years ago and have done nothing to maintain it.” But, other times, it seems that the kitchen staff have done all the “right” things to keep the floor clean and maintained and it still fails. I’m pointing directly at you, quarry tile floors. It seems like these floors are designed for kitchens, but typically fail in kitchens. It is a reasonable answer for a customer to ask: “Why?”
In between scheduling, ordering, providing structure, cleaning, planning menus, realizing that the order arrived short several items, shifting staff around to cover the three call-outs for today, changing the menu, wondering why the dish washer(s) can’t seem to be located…Oh! and cooking, it’s no wonder that chefs and managers don’t have time to sit and contemplate their kitchen floor. Luckily for them, I do. In fact, I get paid to do it.
The perfect storm
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? It may be a little overstated, but that’s what came to mind when I sat to write this piece. You see, to understand why your quarry tile floor is failing, you need to start with the floor system itself. Quarry tile in some instances. For example, it can take just about any heat you could apply. This makes it great for kitchens, right? Well, sort of. To make tile that resilient to heat, it’s necessary to fire it which makes it far less porous, nearly non-porous which reduces it’s slip resistance. But slip resistance isn’t really that important if you keep it really, really clean right? Well, therein lies the terrible part about tile. Too many kitchens don’t have the time, energy, staff, know-how, etc to clean the tile and grout properly every single day and throughout the shift. What ends up happening is the tile and grout are cleaned with abrasive cleaners or worse: water. That’s right. Water is what’s destroying your floor. Even in the most non-porous tiles have some very porous grout between them. Water, scrubbing, cleaners, etc (all the things you do to keep your floor clean) are the enemy of your grout. Once water begins to penetrate the grout, the mortar bed isn’t far behind and it’s susceptible to water damage and erosion as well. This is how you lose tiles and end up with empty spaces that collect…well, all those things they collect.
In the case of typical epoxy floor systems, three or more layers of product are applied. So long as that top coat is maintained (you should have your flooring installer there every 6 months), all is well. However, once that top coat isn’t maintained regularly or is exposed to a chemical that it doesn’t like, a hole will appear. It will start very small, almost invisible to someone standing and looking down on the floor. But before long, water and chemicals enter the hole and are damaging the layers that are supposed to be protected by that all important top coat. It looks like craters that just get bigger and bigger until the health department notices.
Well, in many cases, the restaurant will call in a tile guy. The tile guy will install new tiles and/or re-grout. If he does it correctly, that area of your kitchen is unusable for three days in most situations. Day one would be resetting the tile, day two would be re-grouting and 8 hours or so later, sealing so that the third day, your equipment and crew can use the area. This isn’t what normally happens, though. What normally happens is the tile guy shows up at the end of business one day, and somehow when you open, there is tile there. Then, 6 months later, owners, managers, and chefs are wondering why they already need to replace the grout and/or tiles again. Every time this happens, water penetrates and damages more and more area(s).
If you have a failing epoxy floor, the obvious thing to do would be to reinstall the epoxy in the affected area. But, again, cure times make it nearly impossible to do properly without shutting down. Most manufacturers will proudly announce a cure time of only a few hours, but fail to mention that EACH layer has it’s own cure time and that you will have to close the kitchen due to vapors and smells that you wouldn’t want customers and staff to experience.
“So why would you tell me all this if you’re not going to fix my problem, Danny?” I wouldn’t do that to you. JetRock was designed specifically for commercial kitchen floors. It was designed to be installed over tile, concrete or wood. It is a single application that cures in 6 hours. In most cases, this means that with proper project planning, the restaurant experiences no down time. This means no lost revenue due to being shut down. Also, there is no noticeable odor at all. This means no lost revenue due to customers not wanting to eat somewhere that smells like chemicals. JetRock is installed by hand troweling a single product from the cove to the drains and creates a truly seamless floor that resists food, fats, grease, etc and cleans with gentle non-enzymatic cleaners, water, and a weighted deck brush. That’s it. It couldn’t get any easier. Reach out to either RocketResins or JetRock directly at www.jetrockinc.com for more information or to schedule a site visit.