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Understanding Your Restaurant Kitchen's Plumbing System

Most restaurant owners and managers seldom think about their kitchen plumbing—until there is a problem. Unfortunately, when a commercial kitchen has a plumbing problem, it's usually not a small problem. When you factor in that an issue could potentially shut you down and cost you revenue, you can see that it's important to pay attention to your plumbing.

The Plumbing System Basics

Every building will have at least two water supplies, one for hot water and one for cold water. There may also be a recirculating cold-water supply for your air-conditioning system and a recirculating hot-water supply for heating. Ground-temperature water will enter at the main supply, pass through the meter, and then divert to the different fixtures or appliances as well as the hot-water heater. There is one main shut-off valve, and each fixture will also have an emergency shut-off valve to quickly cut the water supply if needed. Each fixture will also require at least one floor drain to remove condensation and to prevent water from accumulating on your floor. When designing a new commercial kitchen space, it is best to consult with a professional commercial plumber. They can offer invaluable input on your layout and placement of fixtures and appliances from a plumbing perspective. The goal is to devise a space that makes sense both from a culinary perspective as well as from a plumbing and HVAC perspective.

The Most Common Commercial-Kitchen Issues

By the far the most common issue in restaurant plumbing is controlling grease, fats, oils, and kitchen clogs. Most building codes for commercial kitchens require the facility have a grease trap installed. A grease trap is a large, sealed metal box that typically sits on the floor hidden under the sink in sitting next to it. The drain lines from your pot sinks, three-compartment sink, dishwasher, prep sinks, and any other fixture that generates oily wastewater must first pass through this metal box. Inside the box are baffles that trap the grease and keep it from going down the drain. It is imperative that a plumber determines the best location for the grease trap; it can't be too far from some fixtures, but some, like the dishwasher or pasta sink, can't be too close, as the water needs to cool some before entering the system. Clogged drains are common, even with a grease trap in place. Instruct your employees to strain solid waste or throw it in the garbage rather than just forcing it down the drain. This will cause a clog eventually. If the grease trap is not cleaned regularly, it can also become clogged when it can no longer filter any more grease out. The grease trap should be faithfully cleaned every few months. Anyone who has ever cleaned a grease trap knows that this is a horrible, filthy, stinky job, so talk with a plumbing company that provides commercial plumbing repair about hiring a professional to take care of this for you.