Choosing a Floor for Your Walk-In Refrigerator

Walk-in coolers are used for many purposes, from holding fresh ingredients in cafes and restaurants to storing heavy beer kegs in bars and breweries. It's important to ensure your walk-in is correctly sized and installed, but another critical factor that can be easy to overlook is the type of floor your walk-in ships with, if it comes with one at all. Here we'll help you understand if you need a walk-in floor and explain the most common options to help you choose the best one.

Do You Need a Walk-In Cooler Floor?

Depending on how you'll use your walk-in cooler and where it's installed, you may not need a floor at all. If your walk-in refrigerator is installed on a concrete floor that makes contact with the ground, and if it is only accessed by foot traffic, then you can likely get by without a walk-in floor. Coolers installed on wood floors and floors that aren't on grade require their own floor because the condensation they produce can damage the materials underneath. If you'll use carts or pallet jacks in your walk-in or if you'll store heavy items like beer kegs, then you'll definitely need a floor. Walk-in freezers always require a floor, no matter how it's being used.

However, an insulated floor will make the walk-in more energy efficient. For this reason, it is often recommended that pre-fabricated insulated walk-in cooler flooring be used. In the case of new construction, thermal breaks and slab insulation can be installed when pouring the concrete floor. This will keep condensation from forming within and on top of the concrete.

Please be aware that models without floors require sealers, often called screeds, that join the walls of the equipment to the existing floor underneath to keep air and moisture from passing through.

Walk-in Floor Types

Manufacturers typically provide several flooring options when you specify a custom-built walk-in refrigerator. Choosing the right one for your operation will depend on how you'll use the equipment, which comes down to what you'll store in it and how it will be accessed. We'll go over the three most common types and discuss the benefits of each.

Foot Traffic

The standard floors supplied in a walk-in refrigerator are made with more or less the same materials as the equipment's walls, which are typically aluminum panels with a few inches of foamed-in-place insulation between. These basic floors can handle loads of 500-800 pounds per square foot, meaning they're only strong enough to support foot traffic.

Rolling Traffic - Hand Carts, Pan Racks

If you intend to bring light rolling traffic such as hand carts and pan racks in and out of your walk-in cooler, you'll need a floor with a plywood underlay that will support around 1,000 pounds per square foot. These floors can support four-wheeled utility carts, pan racks, and hand carts filled with evenly distributed loads.

Heavy Stationary Loads and Manual Pallet Jacks

Heavy-duty walk-in floors are built with plywood underlays and metal grid or tubular supports placed throughout the foam insulation. These reinforced floors can typically support mobile loads as heavy as 5,000 pounds per square foot, making them suitable for heavily loaded hand carts and manually operated pallet jacks. For stationary loads the limit is even higher, making this type of floor suitable for holding heavy beer kegs and similarly dense items.

Additional Walk-in Floor Options

In addition to the choice between the three types of walk-in refrigerator and walk-in freezer flooring discussed above, manufacturers often offer additional options for customizing their walk-in floors.

  • Optional finishes: Some manufacturers allow their walk-in floors to be customized with a number of finishes beyond the standard smooth aluminum. This may include diamond tread plate to supply additional traction and galvanized stainless steel to give the floor superior resistance to damage.
  • Overlays: An overlay can be an economical way to increase the strength and durability of your existing walk-in floor. These are often available in the same finishes as the floors themselves and are used to increase the maximum weights the floors can support. Keep in mind that walk-ins with overlay floors are usually not NSF listed for holding open food; they can be used to hold food in its original, unopened package only. That's because the overlays are typically secured to the floors with screws, creating openings that are unsealed.
  • Matching Ramps: If your walk-in refrigerator must be accessed by a ramp, you'll likely want the ramp to match the finish and load capacity of the floor inside the walk-in. Be sure to specify these ramp characteristics when you place your order for a walk-in or floor.