Brewery Flooring

Besides the brewhouse and how you decide to heat it, the one other big decision to make is the choice of flooring. It is also one of the decisions many people get very wrong when setting up a brewery.

Why do people get this wrong?

It really comes down to lack of experience. To be clear I am not criticizing anyone here as I have also made this mistake myself. The cost of a properly designed and installed hygienic floor is eye watering. Several tens of thousands of pounds is what it takes and you don’t even get a lot of floor area for that! This is particularly difficult for a new brewery to swallow when all the other start-up costs involved are also eye watering. It is all too tempting to say “I can get away without a proper floor, at least for now anyway” to try and save some money. However, once you have committed to this decision you quickly realise it wasn’t a good saving at all. Ask any brewery who did this and I am certain they will agree.

Flooring finish options

Pictures of the Azvex flooring installation

There are a few options but the most common ones are polyurethane resin, ceramic tiles or skipping this altogether and going with straight up concrete.

The resin and ceramic tile options are (very) expensive but offer great chemical and thermal resistance which is needed in the brewery. To do the job properly you screed the floor to create falls into a drainage channel. This allows any liquid on the surface to naturally find its way into the drain. This is another step that is often skipped to save money but if you don’t create the falls then you end up with pooling which is unhygienic and results in loads of manual labour to squeegee it all into the drains. Most brewers know this fun task all too well… With resin or tiles you also have various options to make it non-slip. As the floor is pretty much always wet this is important for the safety of the team.

In the brewery you use a wide range of chemicals throughout the day and of course lots of water. You are constantly dumping liquids onto the floor and spraying down or cleaning the floor. If you don’t opt for a proper finish and stick with bare concrete then all these chemicals eats into it. This is a problem because the concrete starts to pit and crack where it then becomes impossible to clean and nasty bacteria and moulds can start to grow there. Once it starts it accelerates pretty rapidly until the floor becomes a real problem. With a proper finish it is much easier to clean and harder for these nasties to grow. At some point, for cleaning or otherwise you will spray your floor. This water splashes up and it goes everywhere. If you have bare concrete or a floor that harbours bacteria this bacteria also goes everywhere, including the connections of your tanks and hoses. No one wants that.

Drainage options

You can have channels or point drains or anything in between but the key things are: fluid must flow to the outlet and the construction materials must be able to survive the harsh environment of the brewery. For it to be hygienic then you really need to go with stainless as it’s very easy to clean. But like everything in brewing it is very expensive so this is another area that corners are often cut (again I have been as guilty of this as anyone). Many people end up going with the polymer concrete or polypropylene channels as they are a fraction of the price. While they can work they are far from ideal. I have seen many breweries where the channel has been damaged in some way which leads to cracking, leaks and all the issues that come as a result. This damage can be from the chemicals we use in brewing, from things being dropped or forklift trucks constantly running over them. These cheaper channels link together with seals which usually don’t hold up well against the cleaning chemicals used so quickly fail and then you have problems. It’s not easy to fix a channel concreted into the floor. With stainless it can be fully welded so there is no real risk of leaks. One other problem that I have experienced with the cheaper channels is they often come with galvanised steel gratings which corrode and last all of 5 minutes in the brewery environment so you either have to replace them or remove them which then ends up as a trip hazard.

To get the liquid into the sewer the best option is to cut a channel into the floor and go straight to the manhole using gravity to drain into it. However, the foul manhole is often nowhere near where you want the floor to be and you guessed it, it is not a cheap job to connect it. To get around this many people go with a sump pump solution where you dig a pit (like a manhole) then use a submerged pump with a float switch to pump it out and over to the waste outlet of the building. This is the solution that I went with last time and I won’t be doing it again. These pumps will have moved thousands of litres of liquid mixed with harsh chemicals at a wide range of temperatures early into their operational life. They often fail, trip out or become disconnected to the outlet line all of which ends up with lots of horrible waste all over the floor that you then need to clean up. I have done this myself more times that I would like. The other issue with this sump pit solution is they are very difficult to keep clean. You have horrible stagnant water sitting at the bottom all the time and this attracts flies. Breweries attract flies anyway so this amplifies the problem. If you designed it properly with a sealed chamber and redundant pumps etc. I am sure it could work well but if you ask me – go direct to the manhole.

In summary

Flooring isn’t the most exciting topic but it is incredibly important. It costs a huge amount of money which might not seem worth it at first glance but it pays dividends over time. Think of it like a bit of key equipment that is used all day every day or how many hours labour can be saved over 5 years by not having to deal with problems, clean up mess or squeegee water all the time.

If you have been following my blogs and you take only a single piece of advice from me then make sure it is this – Don’t skimp on the floor, you will regret it.

The tanks will be here in just a few weeks which means beer will follow soon after. Signup now and don’t miss out!

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.