Cold Storage Room Finishing Guide

how to finish a cold storage room

Finishing a cold storage room is a great way to create a temperature-controlled space for storing perishable items, laboratory specimens, or materials that require specific temperature ranges to stay fresh. Cold storage rooms, also known as walk-in cold storage or root cellars, are commonly found in basements or under front porches, taking advantage of the natural insulation provided by the surrounding earth.

To finish a cold storage room, several key factors must be considered, including insulation, flooring, refrigeration systems, shelving, doors, and lighting. Proper insulation, such as polyurethane, polystyrene, or mineral wool, is essential to maintain the desired temperature and energy efficiency. Flooring should be designed to withstand low temperatures and moisture, often made from reinforced concrete for durability and ease of maintenance. A reliable refrigeration system is the heart of the cold storage room, providing consistent cooling to meet the required temperature range. Interior layout, including shelving and racking, should maximise storage capacity while allowing easy access to stored items. Doors need to be well-insulated, sealed, and sturdy, with options including sliding or hinged designs. Energy-efficient LED lighting is ideal, minimising heat generation while providing adequate visibility and safety.



When insulating your cold storage room, you should start with the ceiling, and then move on to the inside walls. It is recommended to insulate down the inside walls as far down as the soil extends on the outside. By leaving the bottom of the walls uninsulated, you can monitor the conditions and temperature of the room to determine if additional insulation is necessary.

For the insulation material, you can use rigid foam panels, which are more moisture-resistant than fibreglass. After installing the insulation, staple a plastic vapour barrier to the outside of the room. The vapour barrier should always be placed on the warm side of the structure.

Additionally, ensure that the door to your cold storage room is well-insulated and sealed. You can hang an exterior door with insulation in the frame and seal the base with weather stripping.

If your cold storage room is in a basement, you can take advantage of the natural insulation provided by the earth. Basements, especially those with concrete walls and floors, tend to stay cooler than the rest of the house. A corner in an unfinished basement is ideal as it provides two naturally cold outside walls. If one of those walls is a north-facing wall (for readers in the Northern Hemisphere), even better!

However, keep in mind that proper insulation is crucial not only for maintaining the desired temperature but also for preventing condensation and mould issues. Cold rooms that are not properly insulated can get too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, leading to condensation and mould problems.



Insulated Floor with Hexafloor Finish

This type of flooring is ideal for cold rooms and walk-in freezers that experience high foot traffic and have racking units for boxes. It is also suitable for cold storage areas attached to food shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants. Hexafloor flooring can effectively smooth and flatten uneven surfaces, allowing for the construction of a cold room over it. However, it is not recommended for areas that will be washed with strong chemicals as this can degrade the insulation and reduce performance.

Insulated Floor with Plywood and Overlay

Plywood overlaid insulated floors are similar to Hexafloor finishes in their ability to flatten uneven surfaces, making them a good option for constructing a new cold room. They are best suited for areas that are not regularly washed with chemicals or jet washing, such as abattoirs and meat freezers, and are typically swept or brushed to preserve the wooden outer lining. This type of flooring can be used for both small and large rooms, but additional support is needed for larger spaces.

Altro Flooring

Altro flooring is recommended for areas that require high levels of cleanliness, water resistance, and chemical resistance, such as farms, dairies, abattoirs, and butcher shops. It is also suitable for food storage and processing facilities. Altro flooring is seamless, covering both the walls and the floor without leaving gaps, which prevents bacteria growth and makes it easy to maintain hygiene. It is ideal for storing liquids, wet foods, and loose goods.

Epoxy Resin Flooring

Epoxy resin flooring is a good choice for cold rooms that need to be washed frequently. It integrates well with drainage systems, making it suitable for rooms with a water source or liquid produce. Epoxy resin is a robust and hygienic option, providing years of durable use with minimal maintenance. It is commonly used in areas with high foot traffic and hygiene requirements, such as butcher shops, test labs, kitchens, and food processing plants.

Granolithic Screed Floor

Granolithic screed floors are designed for larger cold storage areas that require forklift or pallet truck access. They are commonly found in the retail and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in units used by farmers and growers. This type of flooring can handle heavy product loads and provides a sturdy surface.

Polyurethane (PU) Concrete Flooring

Polyurethane concrete flooring is the most common type of flooring used in cold storage facilities due to its seamless nature, extreme durability, and thermal shock resistance. It can withstand heavy impacts, provide high chemical resistance, and tolerate sudden temperature changes without cracking or breaking. PU concrete flooring ensures that cold storage facilities meet the required health and safety standards.

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Refrigeration system

Cold rooms are essential for several industries, including food and medicine, as well as commercial and scientific applications. The refrigeration system for a cold storage room can vary depending on the specific requirements and specifications. Here are some common types of refrigeration systems for cold storage rooms:

Remote Refrigeration Systems

This type of system typically consists of a condenser unit and an evaporator unit, along with other components such as a site glass, dryer, expansion valve, and pump-down solenoid thermostat. The evaporator unit is installed inside the walk-in refrigerator or chiller, while the condenser unit is located outside the building or in a plant room to dissipate heat. These systems are designed to prevent additional heat generation inside the building and the cold room. They are ideal for industries that require a large cooling capacity and can be customised to meet specific needs.

Standard Top Mount Refrigeration Systems

Standard top mount refrigeration systems are commonly used in small to medium-sized restaurants and convenience stores. They are designed to maximise storage space within walk-in coolers or freezers and are highly optimised to maintain low temperatures for extended periods. In this system, the evaporator and condenser are combined into a single unit, and cool air is discharged vertically. This type of system is a good choice for businesses that require a simple, space-efficient, and reliable refrigeration solution.

Penthouse Refrigeration Systems

Penthouse refrigeration systems are ideal for small-space walk-in refrigeration as they maximise usable space for storage racks. The units are placed on the rooftop instead of inside the cold room, which frees up valuable floor space. Penthouse refrigeration systems feature highly insulated cabinets that house the cooling evaporators and fan systems on the rooftop. They also include a condensate evaporator to prevent liquid damage to the equipment. While these systems are more expensive upfront, they can be cost-effective in the long run due to increased storage space and easier maintenance.

Saddle Mount Refrigeration System

Saddle mount refrigeration systems are installed by hanging them over the wall before ceiling installation. They are placed on a panel with slots cut at the top, allowing the bracket to go through the wall. One advantage of this system is that it does not require the services of a licensed refrigeration technician for installation. Saddle mount refrigeration systems are custom-made and feature a condensate line to manage condensation effectively.

Clip-on Devices

Clip-on devices are suitable for small cold storage rooms with a volume of less than 30 cubic meters and only one temperature zone. They combine the compressor, evaporator, condenser, and expansion device in a single housing, which is typically installed on one of the cold storage room walls. This type of system is a compact and space-efficient solution for smaller cold storage applications.

Remote Condensing Units

Remote condensing units consist of a condensing unit connected to the evaporator by pipes. The evaporator is usually installed on the cold storage room ceiling and equipped with fans to circulate air. This type of system is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Remote condensing units are commonly used by major users such as supermarkets or central warehouses, which rely on centralised refrigeration systems with multiple compressors installed as a compressor rack.


Shelving and racking

There are several types of shelving and racking available for cold storage rooms, including:

  • Standard Shelving: This can be freestanding or fixed to the wall. Standard cold room shelving is typically made from strong, decorative anodised aluminium with plastic shelves that have excellent load capacity. The shelves are adjustable and can be easily extended, with a range of configuration options available. Standard shelving is suitable for a wide range of uses, including cold rooms, commercial kitchens, laundries, clean rooms, laboratories, and pharmacies.
  • Mobile Shelving: Mobile shelving units are installed on wheels that travel within specially installed tracks. They are ideal for large cold rooms, kitchens, warehouses, and facilities that require a lot of storage space, such as pharmaceuticals and event caterers. Mobile shelving can also be used to increase freezer storage capacity in medical research laboratories. This type of shelving offers enhanced mobility and ease of stock rotation, as well as improved productivity and organisation.
  • Lockable Trolleys: Lockable trolleys are suitable for restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and areas open to the general public. They provide a secure and hygienic way to store and transport items within a cold storage room.

When choosing shelving and racking for your cold storage room, it is important to consider the specific needs of your business or industry. For example, industries such as pharmaceuticals, food distribution, and police evidence departments have strict temperature and hygiene requirements that must be met. Additionally, the size and shape of the items you wish to store will dictate the type of shelving or racking that is most suitable.

By selecting the right type of shelving and racking for your cold storage room, you can maximise space, improve efficiency, and ensure that your stored items are maintained at the optimal temperature to prolong their lifetime.

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Door Types and Materials

  • Sliding or hinged doors: The type of door you choose depends on the available space. Sliding doors can save space in smaller rooms, while hinged doors offer a more traditional option.
  • Insulation: Ensure the door is well-insulated to maintain the cold temperature. You can use materials such as polyurethane, polystyrene, or mineral wool for effective insulation.
  • Seals: Equip the door with seals to prevent temperature fluctuations and maintain the desired temperature inside the cold storage room.
  • Sturdiness and Ease of Use: Select a door that is sturdy and easy to open and close. This ensures durability and convenience when accessing the room.

Installation and Maintenance

  • Size and Fit: Choose a door that fits the frame snugly to prevent air leaks.
  • Weatherstripping: Install weatherstripping at the base of the door to seal any gaps and prevent cold air from escaping.
  • Lighting: Consider installing LED lights above the door or in the door frame for illumination. LED lights are energy-efficient and operate well at low temperatures.
  • Regular Maintenance: Inspect and maintain the door seals regularly to ensure they remain airtight. Replace them as needed to maintain the desired temperature in the cold storage room.

By following these guidelines and selecting the appropriate materials, you can effectively install and maintain doors for your cold storage room, ensuring optimal temperature control and energy efficiency.

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Frequently asked questions

A cold storage room, also known as a cold room or walk-in cold storage, is a purpose-built, insulated room designed to maintain a controlled temperature, typically between 0°C and 5°C. These rooms are used to store perishable items, laboratory specimens, or materials that require specific temperature ranges.

Cold storage rooms offer several advantages, including:

- Food storage: Extending the shelf life of perishable food items and preventing spoilage.

- Pharmaceuticals: Storing temperature-sensitive medications and vaccines, ensuring their efficacy and safety.

- Laboratory use: Providing controlled conditions for experiments and specimen storage.

- Energy efficiency: Well-designed cold rooms can reduce operational costs over time.

- Space utilisation: Maximising space through shelving and racking systems, allowing for efficient storage.

- Temperature control: Maintaining precise temperature control to ensure product quality and safety.

When designing and installing a cold storage room, consider the following key components:

- Insulation: Use materials such as polyurethane, polystyrene, or mineral wool to maintain the desired temperature and minimise energy costs.

- Flooring: Choose flooring that can withstand low temperatures and moisture, such as reinforced concrete for ease of cleaning and maintenance.

- Refrigeration system: Select an energy-efficient and reliable refrigeration system that meets the required temperature range and provides consistent cooling.

- Shelving and racking: Design the interior layout to maximise storage capacity while allowing efficient access to stored items.

- Doors: Ensure doors are well-insulated, equipped with seals, and easy to operate. Consider sliding or hinged doors based on available space.

- Lighting: Opt for energy-efficient LED lights that minimise heat generation while providing adequate visibility and safety.

Written by
  • Lara Beck
  • Lara Beck
    Author Home Renovation Professional
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