Which wall covering for a hygienic workspace?
Comparison between 4 materials
Key words: professional wall covering, PVC panels, polyester panels, tiling, glazed tiles, sandwich panels, hygiene, asepsis, professional environment, professional sector, material
Which wall covering materials are best suited for the agro-food, medical and catering industries, industrial kitchens, etc.? Not all solutions available on the market are suitable in terms of health and safety, cleanability, installation and durability. A comparison between PVC panels, polyester panels, glazed tiles and sandwich panels.
In environments where asepsis is essential, it is more important than ever to opt for safe materials that comply with the highest hygiene standards. From choosing a surface to its installation and maintenance, nothing can be left to chance. Otherwise, you risk your walls becoming a source of contamination.
Not sure whether to choose PVC panels, polyester panels, glazed tiles or sandwich panels? We have analysed these different materials on the basis of several criteria. This comparison weighs up the pros and cons of each material. You will notice that we have deliberately excluded painting and solid laminates (HPL or compressed cardboard) as these materials are less suited for the professional sectors in question.
1. PVC panels
With a smooth appearance, PVC panels are often installed in the agro-food industry for the construction and renovation of abattoirs, workshops, cold-storage rooms, fish shops, milking parlours, etc.Available in different colours and finishes, PVC panels can be installed on curved surfaces and in environments that require a wall covering of limited thickness. They can be installed quickly at an affordable price per m2.
PVC is not suitable for the catering industry and industrial kitchens due to its fragility and low resistance to impacts and heat .PVC is a brittle material which cracks in case of impacts. In case it burns, PVC melts and produces hot droplets. In addition, its considerable roughness increases it porosity and makes cleaning much more difficult. This results in the appearance of stains, rings and traces, which in turn has a significant impact on the degree of asepsis. Although the product is inexpensive, it must be replaced every 3 or 4 years. In the end, taking into account the labour and product costs, PVC is not that economical.
2. Polyester panels
The advantages of polyester panels outweigh their higher price per m2 compared to PVC panels. Like PVC, polyester is suitable for curved surfaces thanks to its limited thickness, and can be installed behind ducts and pipes. Polyester panels are best suited for environments that require the highest level of hygiene. This material is resistant to staining, moisture and certain acids. If the panels are smooth and non-embossed, they are easy to maintain and clean.
The problem with this type of material is that such panels are often of poor quality, fragile and not fire-resistant. If you opt for matt polyester panels, this finish will facilitate bacterial growth and will make micro-scratches more visible. In case of embossed panels, cleaning with a squeegee is not possible, which affects the hygiene of the professional environment.
3. Thermal insulating panels or sandwich panels
Less expensive than PVC and polyester, sandwich panels are very affordable. However, their low price comes with a few disadvantages. In case of impacts, the panels degrade in efficiency. The internal polyurethane foam absorbs and traps moisture, which results in rapid development of bacteria once the outer layer is pierced. Then the entire panel must be replaced, and not just the damaged part. Its roughness also makes cleaning more difficult. It is not resistant to certain cleaning agents or the abrasiveness of duck meat, for example.
4. Tiling and glazed tiles
Tiling and glazed tiles seem to be the ideal materials for the installation of a professional kitchen or a butcher’s shop, bakery, etc. as this traditional, time-honoured solution meets numerous criteria. Its smooth surface results in a certain degree of solidity, impermeability to fat and water and ease of maintenance. Available in numerous colours, motifs and sizes, tiles can be adapted to different configurations by cutting them precisely. New tiles can be purchased and installed at an affordable price per m2 and comply with the basic hygiene standards.
Tiles are frequently used and popular, but they also come with some negative aspects. They are sensitive to impacts and can easily crack and break, letting in bacteria. The joints also present many disadvantages. As they are porous, they facilitate the adherence of germs and bacteria to the surface. They are highly susceptible to staining and difficult to clean. They often require specific maintenance and treatment against moisture and dirt, which increases the cleaning time for your staff or cleaning company. In terms of installation, tiles require more complex preparation (removal, smoothening of the wall, etc.) in various stages, resulting in a relatively long downtime.
In environments where health risks have to be managed, it is absolutely not advisable to cut corners when it comes to the wall covering’s quality. The material must deliver high performances in terms of health and safety, cleanability, durability, ease of installation, production downtime, adaptability, etc. These criteria have to be taken into account when choosing the product that best suits your needs. Don’t hesitate to ask a professional to help you analyse your requirements and propose the most cost-effective solution.
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