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BACK STORY: Buckling Under Pressure

Crews from Appliance Installation & Service, based in Victor, N.Y., had installed a walk-in freezer at a food-production facility only three days earlier when they received a service call from the building manager. 

“We arrived at the facility, and the floor of this $60,000 walk-in freezer was completely destroyed; the floor panels were warped and popping up along seams,” says Wayne Stoutner, AIS President and Treasurer of the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association.

While the building manager didn’t admit it, most likely because of warranty concerns, Stoutner suspected employees were driving pallet-laden forklifts right into the walk-in freezer. (One clue: He watched as a staffer posted large signs requesting employees not drive forklifts inside the unit.)

“Per the manager’s request, we originally installed a heavy-duty floor rated for pallet jacks that weighed up to 2,500 lb.,” Stoutner explains. “Unfortunately, the client didn’t clearly communicate to us that he needed a floor rated for forklifts, because that’s what our techs would have installed. Sadly, the right floor would have cost only 10% more.”

Stoutner wonders if there was a lack of internal communication, as well. “I just don’t think employees were told that the floor wasn’t designed to handle the weight of a forklift,” he adds.

To repair the walk-in freezer’s floor, the AIS techs flattened out the warped panels as much as possible by screwing them down into the subfloor. Then they laid down a 3/16 -in.-thick aluminum diamond-tread plate overlay on top of the existing floor and secured it with construction adhesive and stainless rivets; the repair took half a day.

“It looks like a new floor, and it cost the client considerably less money [about $10/sq. ft.] than a new walk-in freezer would have cost,” Stoutner says, adding that the manufacturer paid for a portion of the repairs.

Aluminum or steel diamond-tread plate overlays are a practical option for operators with aging walk-in freezers or refrigerators. Stoutner expects the floor overlay to last up to 30 years.

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