Resin Flooring Options for Food and Beverage Processing Plants
Updated: Feb 7
Food and beverage processing facilities present a unique set of flooring challenges due to the extreme environments they operate in and particular sensitivity to the consumer’s welfare.
The floors must be able to endure extreme temperatures, thermal shock, animal fats, hot oils, caustic cleaners, and strong acids. The key to preventing a premature floor failure is to select the proper flooring system and effective method of surface preparation (to learn more about methods of surface preparation please read our Epoxy Guide).
So what resinous floor is right for your food or beverage processing facility? This is a big question asked by industrial facilities managers and plant operators.
Resin flooring systems are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes and have been designed to best meet the different working areas within a food or beverage plant – all of which are subjected to different operating conditions.
There are a lot of different products to choose from but for this blog post we will be going over the main three categories of resinous flooring options: Urethane Cement, Methyl Methacrylate (MMA), and Epoxy.
Urethane cement products are a very popular choice in the food industry as they offer a number of beneficial properties. Urethane floors offer desirable properties such as chemical, thermal shock, heat, and impact resistance.
In particular their thermal shock, heat, and impact resistance are unique to their chemistry. The thermal coefficient of expansion of urethane resin systems is very similar to that of concrete which prevents the material from cracking when subject to large temperature swings.
Also, cementitious urethane resin flooring solutions are non-porous, preventing bacteria and mold spores, as well as low odor and non-toxic. In addition, urethane resin flooring can be made to be slip resistant for worker safety.
The drawbacks of cementitious urethane products are all about the installation process. A benefit and drawback of installation is its fast cure rate, which is typically around 6 hours as opposed to an epoxy which can be 24-48 hours.
While that has the benefit of low production downtime, it makes it more difficult to install due to its exceptionally short pot life. A typical installation requires highly skilled labor who are capable of more complex surface preparation.
However, these drawbacks can be overcome by a knowledgeable, experienced resinous flooring expert.
Methyl Methacrylate (MMA)
Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) systems offer certain performance advantages to the food and beverage industry when compared to other resin flooring materials.
MMA resin’s main benefit lies in its curing speed and ability to be installed at extremely low temperatures. MMA greatly reduces production downtime as it fully cures in just one to two hours. MMA also has the added benefits of high levels of resistance to most acids and alkalis.
This product is can include attractive flakes or aggregates that are aesthetically pleasing and slip resistant. MMA systems are ideal for non-processing areas.
The major drawbacks to MMA systems are that they are highly flammable, have a very strong odor, and can be difficult to install because it cures so quickly.
While the odor is quite strong it is harmless and can be minimized during installation with proper ventilation. MMA should not be used in environments exposed to high heat or live steam.
These factors make MMA systems a specialty product installation that require specialized contractor training.
An excellent case study of an MMA floor installation can be found here MMA Restaurant Flooring | South Plainfield, New Jersey.
Epoxy systems greatest advantage lies in its affordability. Its per-square foot material and installation costs are very hard to best. Epoxies offer attractive, chemical resistant, and slip resistant flooring options. Epoxies typically are broadcast to deliver a slip-resistant finish.
There are many downsides to using epoxies in a food or beverage plant including a limited resistance to organic acids, which are found in a large quantity of natural foodstuffs.
They also offer no resistance to thermal shock making them not suitable to rigorous food and beverage environments. Many epoxy systems are marketed for their high compressive strength to food and beverage processing facilities and while this is true it has little relevance in this setting.
For most food and beverage manufacturing facilities epoxy is only suitable for non-processing zones such as packaging and staff break areas, which are not subject to the same high protection demands.