Do Walk-in Cooler & Freezer Walls Wear Out?

Hi there,

Do walk-in cooler walls wear out over time?

I build restaurants and we are renovating a restaurant we built 17 years ago.  A supplier is recommending we replace the walk-in box, because they “break down”. I find that hard to believe. Could you please give me your opinion?


– Len Chaston


On the surface, your walk-in box probably has a few scratches, dents and slightly worn metal but overall it appears serviceable and is likely structurally sound. However, the insulation inside the panel can take a much more severe beating over the years than the exterior. The insulation has to deal with huge temperature differentials between the inside and outside of your box. Depending on the material used to insulate your box it could have absorbed a good deal of moisture, which degrades the thermal resistance of your insulation. Your old walk-in was also not built to meet modern efficiency and safety requirements and it could even contain a large amount of wood (which is a poor and water permeable insulator). If you have a walk-in freezer, one indication of trouble is ice buildup on the inside of the box. This is a sign that water vapor has been able to infiltrate the insulation.

At 17 years old, the cost of running the walk-in for several years as well as the added load and wear on your refrigeration unit will far overshadow the cost of purchasing a new walk-in unit. If you do decide to opt for a new walk-in, I want you to take a look at the inside of the panels when your old unit is disassembled. A panel that is now leaking all over the floor was no longer doing the job it was intended to.

leaking walk-in panel
Ice buildup in a walk-in panel
  • Len Chaston January 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Thanks very much for this response. I will examine the walls more closely and let you know what we find out. This gets me going in the right direction.

    – Len Chaston

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