///General Construction Requirements for Food Establishments FAQ

General Construction Requirements for Food Establishments FAQ

Equipment used in a permitted food establishment shall meet or exceed the standards for sanitation established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Baking Industry Sanitation Standards Committee (BISSC) and/or the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). When purchasing equipment, look symbols such as what is pictured below. In particular, notice that many symbols include the word “Sanitation.”

If the equipment falls into a category for which 3rd party sanitation standards exist, but has no marking or documentation, it must be examined at the expense of the applicant by an ANSI accredited 3rd party testing service. This is called a field certification.

If the equipment does not fall into a category for which 3rd party sanitation standards exist, the Health Authority will verify that it complies with all general design and construction criteria specified in the REGULATIONS and may ask for additional information such as field testing, approval from other governmental agencies, or may give specific use limitations based on risk.

  1. Three-compartment Sink: A three-compartment sink is required in food establishments that have open food if ware washing and sanitizing of utensils is required. Additional three-compartment sinks may be required in specialty areas such as where raw animal product is prepared as ready to eat food.
  2. Handwashing Sinks: Handwashing sinks are required in each area where open food is handled.
  3. Utility/Service Sinks: At least one service sink, or one curbed cleaning sink equipped with a floor drain, directly connected to the sewer shall be provided and conveniently located for cleaning of mops or similar wet floor cleaning tools, and for the disposal of mop water and similar liquid waste. The faucets at this sink shall be protected by a backflow prevention device. This sink shall not be used for food preparation, food handling, or for hand washing. Toilets and urinals may not be used as a service sink for the disposal of mop water and similar liquid waste.
  4. Other Sinks: A one or two-compartment sink may be recommended for food preparation (examples: thawing, cooling, produce), blender rinse stations, or dump sinks in beverage service areas.

Note:  All sinks, except for hand sinks and utility/service sinks must be indirectly connected to a floor sink with an airgap. All sinks must be serviced with hot and cold running water under adequate pressure. All sinks except for utility/service sinks must be NSF-certified or equivalent.

Hand wash sinks shall be:

  1. Conveniently located, easily accessible, and available to employees without opening doors or moving barriers.
  2. Located in each area used to prepare food and wash utensils.
  3. Located in or immediately adjacent to rooms with toilets.
  4. Located in areas where raw animal product is prepared as ready-to-eat


  • Do not install a hand sink where it is not easily visible or recognizable to your employees (example: between large pieces of equipment or around corners). Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Do install enough hand sinks to account for the number of employees that you will have on each shift. Will your employees have time to wait in line to wash their hands when they are busy getting orders out?
  • Do install enough hand sinks to cover high production, high risk food handling areas such as a cookline. Hand washing violations can be prevented with proper hand sink placement.

Wood which has a smooth finish and is resistant to damage by spills may be used for non-structural  cosmetic purposes in non-FOOD ZONEs of customer interface areas and for shelving in separate dry storage areas, so long as it is not located in a splash zone where it is subject to moisture.

Wood, wood laminates, particle board, medium-density fiber (MDF), or other wood-based products may not be used as structural support for EQUIPMENT unless in areas including but not limited to: back bars, and customer self-service areas provided that such wood-based support structure is fully encapsulated with stainless steel, FRP, or other material APPROVED by the HEALTH AUTHORITY. Seams shall be sealed and have radiused internal angle treatments, and wood or wood-base structural support shall not be compromised with penetrations for plumbing, drainage, pipe chases, or electrical service.

Wood and wood wicker shall not be used as a FOOD-CONTACT SURFACE of EQUIPMENT except that:

  • Hard maple, or an equivalently hard close-grained wood, maintained SMOOTH and easily cleanable, may be used for:
    • Cutting blocks and bakers’ tables.
    • Large spatulas for use at a bakery oven or pizza oven.
    • Wooden paddles used in confectionery operations for pressure scraping kettles when manually preparing confections at a temperature of 230°F±2°, or above.
    • Bamboo steamer baskets used for cooking shall be SMOOTH and easily cleanable and maintained clean. Single service liners shall be placed between the basket and FOOD.
    • Traditional ethnic UTENSILs including but not limited to sushi mixing bowls and tortilla presses, which are maintained and used as specified by manufacturer instructions. Round soft wood or coated wood cutting blocks are prohibited.

Floors, walls, and ceilings shall be designed, constructed, and installed so they are smooth, durable, and easily cleanable. Areas subject to moisture, including food preparation areas, must have floors, walls, and ceilings which are made of non-absorbent materials (examples: stainless steel, fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP), tile, sealed concrete, etc.).

The walls of all food preparation, ware washing, and hand washing rooms or areas, shall be lightly colored and made of water impervious materials which are washable at least up to the highest level reached by splash or spray, up to 8 feet or ceiling height, whichever is less.

Floor and wall junctures shall be coved and sealed with gaps no wider than 1/32”. Common coving options include: Plastic/Vinyl coved base molding, coved tile (flush with floor, not top set), coved aluminum tile edge trim, or grout with epoxy, silicone, or polyurethane additive if properly installed and maintained (most sealants require reapplication every 6 months).

Lighting may be measured using a light meter. At least 50-foot candles of light are required at a surface where food handlers are working with FOOD, ware washing, utensils, or equipment including but not limited to knives, slicers, grinders, or saws where employee safety is a factor. At least 20 foot-candles of light are required in all other areas, including dining areas during cleaning operations, equipment storage areas, dry food storage areas, sales areas, toilet rooms, all types of refrigerators, and all other non-food preparation areas.

Light bulbs in the food preparation areas must be shielded or shatterproof. Special attention should be given to the lighting of areas that may have light from overhead fixtures blocked from working surfaces (e.g., under a canopy hood).

A licensed engineer can provide you with a calculation for hot water heater sizing specific to your facility. Many factors are involved in obtaining an accurate calculation. For example, a small ice cream shop may require a 40-gallon water heater, but 40 gallons may not be adequate for a food establishment that has more warewashing needs, more customers or more employees. The recovery rate of a water heater is also an important factor to discuss with your engineer.

Food Shields shall be mounted to intercept a direct line between the customer’s mouth and the food display area at the customer “use” position. Food shields, as installed, must comply with the construction, materials, finishes, and formula requirements established by ANSI/NSFI Standard 2.

  1. A vertical food shield shall be deemed “adequate” when it measures 5 feet from the top of the shield to the floor. A lesser vertical height may be considered when an adequate horizontal piece is added to the top of the shield.
  2. Food shields must have end caps if the end of the unit is subject to access by customers.

Special Note: Metals such as brass and copper, even on properly finished and approved equipment, may be subject to corrosion and the production of toxic oxides when used for food service equipment such as food shields in the presence of excessive heat and moisture. Special care may be required to prevent oxidation from occurring and causing corrosion to build up on metal surfaces. The presence of these toxic compounds on a food shield will result in a critical violation during operational inspections and may result in replacement or refurbishment of the food shield.

Ventilation hoods with adequate mechanical exhaust shall be required above all cooking equipment such as ranges, griddles, broilers, hot top ranges, deep fat fryers, barbecues, rotisseries, soup kettles, hot water sanitizing dishwashers, etc. to effectively remove cooking odors, smoke, grease and steam. All exhaust hoods shall be certified to meet ANSI/NSFI standards and must comply with current building department and fire codes.

Open food operations can produce fats, oils, grease, and grit (FOGG) which may enter the sewer system. Even if your establishment does not produce a lot of grease, the sewer agency of jurisdiction may require the installation of a grease interceptor to help prevent the FOGG from entering and clogging the sewer lines. Grease interceptors shall be located outside the food establishment whenever possible. Alternative methods of grease disposal (grease machines) may be considered if approved by the sewer agency of jurisdiction.

Existing hood systems, which include the back splashes, flashing, and filters, shall be replaced with approved, non-galvanized materials when any of their components are: in disrepair, damaged, no longer protected by an intact zinc coating, corroded, rusted, or modified in a manner that negates the sanitation certification.

The doors of a FOOD ESTABLISHMENT, shall be solid, self-closing, and tight-fitting to protect against the entry of pests. If a door is kept open for ventilation or for other purposes, such as taking out trash or receiving deliveries, it must be protected against flying insects with an air curtain. The on/off switch shall be positioned out of normal reach and shall activate a micro-switch within two seconds of opening the door. The airflow and direction should be such that flying insects cannot easily enter. Typically, exterior doors that enter directly into a food handling area are required to have air curtains installed. Doors used for emergency use only may not be required to have an air curtain.

No, gaps greater than 1/8 inch cannot be effectively sealed with caulking. You may either space the equipment to allow access for cleaning, flash and seal the gap, or use equipment which is easily moveable for cleaning.

Live animals are not allowed on the premises of a food establishment with the exception of: fish in aquariums; shellstock or crustacea in cold holding or in display tank systems; patrol dogs accompanying police or security officers; and, service animals that are controlled by the disabled employee or person. You may apply for a Dog-Friendly Patio Waiver if the dogs do not have to walk through the food establishment to access the patio area.

No, drainage of all liquid waste effluent from EQUIPMENT to sewer shall be accomplished by gravity at not less than 1 per 12 of fall.

Sump pumps and lift stations are not allowed for the purpose of draining food service equipment to sewer, except in the case of a lift station installed outside the food establishment that has been approved by the building and sanitation regulatory authority. In such a case, an alarm system with both audio and visual signals shall be installed within each food establishment serviced by the lift stations.

A food establishment that provides public seating shall have separate public restrooms for males and females when 10 or more public seats are provided. Only one customer restroom is required if there are less than 10 seats. If there are no customer restrooms, you may be able to add seating via a Restroom Waiver process.

Contact Information

Phone: (702) 759-1258


Updated on: July 14, 2021