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NSF Requirements for Walk-In Coolers

John Landers

NSF International is a nonprofit organization that develops standards for food, water, environmental and indoor products. NSF requirements for walk-in coolers pertain to the guideline for the construction of the equipment. The NSF also has accreditation from the National Standards Institute to grow the ANSI Standards for all storage refrigerators, including walk-ins, beverage coolers, display refrigerators and ice cream cabinets.

Many stores have walk -in coolers behind the display coolers.

NSF Certification

The NSF has a certification process for walk-in coolers and other products. The steps begin with a product assessment, which includes a review of the design and construction, an evaluation of the materials and other testing. The NSF also conducts inspections of manufacturing facilities for walk-in coolers. Many regulatory bodies may require NSF certification and buyers and users look for NSF credentials on products, which assures compliance with public-heath guidelines.

Basic Construction

NSF standards allow walk-in coolers, refrigerators or freezers to have "prefabricated floors" or pre-approved concrete floors. The floor must have a smooth finish. The rules prohibit the use of galvanized material in coolers or freezers. Walk-in coolers for beer storage can have an epoxy resin surface or a diamond-aluminum tread plate installed over the concrete surface. The standards prohibit food storage in this type of cooler. The installers must adhere to all local building codes for the installation, including electrical and plumbing regulations.


The base of the walk-in cooler has to be made from a material similar to the cooler’s floor, stainless steel or prefabricated vinyl screed. Installer can also use quarry tile base that must be positioned against cooler walls. The walls must have rigid foam interiors, and the screed has to be properly secured to the floor. All joints and panels require food-grade silicone caulk along the seams.


The shelves in the cooler must meet NSF quality standards for cold storage, which includes a resistance to corrosion. Manufacturers cannot use shelving constructed with galvanized or chrome-plate zinc materials in walk-in coolers. The coolers must have a moisture-proof lamp. The lighting requirement for these units must meet minimum illumination requirements with moisture-proofed lamps placed throughout the cooler.

Space above the Cooler

The rules require the installer to construct an enclosure around the area above the walk-in cooler. Fixed or removable wall panels are acceptable. This space must allow access to the cooler’s equipment and provide ventilation.