Heavy-Duty Casters Buying & Installation Guide

Casters are used on everything from commercial kitchen equipment to mop buckets. Become more knowledgeable on casters to make life in your restaurant a little bit easier.

Whether you refer to them simply as wheels or by their most common name, heavy-duty casters are the little workhorses that help bring some much needed simplicity to the commercial kitchen. Yet, the task of installing new ones or replacing old ones can seem daunting, but it’s actually fairly easy and can save you money on up-front costs. We hope you can use this guide to know what type of heavy-duty caster is best for your equipment and how easy it is to install new casters on your own.

What are Heavy-Duty Casters?

In their simplest form, casters are wheels that help save time by allowing you to roll things around that would otherwise be a pain to drag or carry.

  • They allow you to move heavy-duty commercial equipment quickly and easily.
  • They make mop buckets, hand carts, and trash cans mobile.
  • They help make cleaning walk-ins and storage areas easier.

Heavy-Duty Equipment

Heavy-duty equipment doesn’t always come with casters installed; i.e. refrigeration equipment is usually the only large restaurant equipment that does come with casters; the rest come with legs. When it comes to installing casters yourself or having the vendor install them for you, you need to know that there is likely an upcharge for having the vendor install them for you. The additional charge is an industry standard and beneficial for busy restaurateurs that don’t have the time to DIY.

However, if you’re interested in saving costs upfront, we’d definitely recommend learning how to install the casters yourself – we show you just how easy it is to do below. Learning to install them yourself is also beneficial if you have any broken casters that need to be replaced in the future.

Bonus, the extra height will help you meet the minimum 6” space between the equipment and the floor, which is required by most health inspectors.

Mop Buckets, Hand Carts, and Trash Cans

Unlike restaurant equipment, mop buckets, hand carts, and trash cans usually come with casters already mounted on them. When you’re likely to be in the market for new ones is when they need to be replaced. DIY on these small movers is much easier than heavy-duty equipment and can save you cash when it comes to throwing the entire thing out simply because of a faulty wheel.

Walk-Ins and Storage Areas

Where there are walk-ins and storage areas, there are wire shelves. When it comes to cleaning and rearranging these areas, wire shelving with casters installed correctly helps make cleaning time a snap.

Bonus, the extra height will help you meet the minimum 6” space between the bottom shelf and the floor, which is required by most health inspectors.

Are Casters Essential in Restaurant and Food Service Kitchens?

Most restaurateurs would say yes. Without the use of casters on heavy-duty equipment, it’s next to impossible to move that equipment away from walls for cleaning purposes, let alone to clean under them! Casters are also very helpful when installed on wire shelving during cleaning time.

Let’s face it, time saved in the kitchen is essential, and if these little workhorses can help get the job done, who wouldn’t call them essential?

What Type of Caster Do I Need?

Knowing the weight capacity of the machine you’re installing the heavy-duty casters on will help you find the best caster for your needs. Most casters have their weight capacity listed in the description of the product. With that information, you can easily find the right caster for your needs. Caster types and their typical heavy-duty applications are provided below.

Plate Caster

Plate Caster
  • Heavy Duty Equipment
  • Carts, Dollies, and Mop Buckets

Expanding Stem Caster

Expanding Stem Caster
  • 1” Tubing – Shelving and Carts
  • 1 5/8” Tubing – Work Tables and Equipment Stands

Threaded Stem Caster

Threaded Stem Caster
  • Heavy Duty Equipment
  • Carts, Dollies, and Mop Buckets

Push-In/Friction Caster

Push-In/Friction Caster
  • Carts, Dollies, and Mop Buckets
  • 1” Tubing – Shelving and Carts
  • 1 5/8” Tubing – Work Tables and Equipment Stands

The Right Casters on the Right Flooring

  • Rubber wheels are more commonly used in walk-ins and closets. Used on rough floors, these type of wheels break down quicker.
  • Polyurethane wheels are more commonly used in kitchens as they are much stronger and are breakdown resistant to grease and strong cleaning agents.

Bearings – Heavy-Duty vs. Light-Weight Duty

Although smaller casters, such as those used on mop buckets, are still considered heavy-duty when used in commercial applications, their plastic bearings make them light-weight compared to the casters made with metal ball bearings. This is important to note when shopping for new casters as the metal ball bearings are essential for holding up to strong cleaning agents and kitchen grease.

Sizing Correctly

If you are looking to replace existing casters and need to measure the fit, here are a few tips for different caster types.

  • Plate Casters
    • Measure the overall length and width of the caster plate first. Then, measure the length and width from the center of each bolt hole. Take note of these measurements when buying new casters. There’s a video below that can help you better measure plate casters.
  • Threaded Stem Casters
    • The best way to measure the size of threaded stem casters is to take it to a local hardware store and find a nut that fits the threads. Take note of the nut size as this will be the size of your threaded stem.
  • Expanding and Push-In/Friction Casters
    • For these types of casters, it’s best to know upfront that almost all casters for 1” tubing are typically used with shelving and carts, whereas, casters for 1 5/8” tubing are typically used with work tables and equipment.
    • To measure tubing, you need to measure the outside diameter (OD).
    • To measure piping, you need to measure the inside diameter (ID).
    • Pipe size is determined by measuring the male (threaded) end of the pipe; whereas,
      • If OD is 1 3/8” or under, ¼” needs to be subtracted
      • Or if OD is 1 3/8” or over, 3/8” needs to be subtracted.

Also, remember that an inch of height needs to be added to the wheel height to estimate total lift in the equipment; i.e. if the wheel is 3”, the total lift will be 4”.

Understanding Terminology

There are two common terms when it comes to casters: load height and load capacity.

  • Load height is how high the equipment will be raised off of the floor when the caster is installed. It’s important to understand this height increase as it will cause the equipment to fit differently in the kitchen.
  • Load capacity is the total weight that a set of 4 casters can carry while the equipment or shelving is in motion. The weight includes the total weight; i.e. if shelving has food on it while in motion, that weight needs to be considered.

How to Install Casters?

When you’re looking to install heavy-duty casters under an 800 pound piece of equipment, it may sound exhausting as to how that feat is accomplished, but the good news is that even the lightweights in the kitchen can get this done. Check out how quickly and easily our very own Chris Tavano gets it done in this video, including measuring from the hole centers on existing casters or equipment legs.

How to Install Expanding Casters

Expanding casters are great for equipment and shelving where casters weren’t traditionally supposed to be. Follow these instructions to install expanding casters:

  1. Holding the swivel bearing cover (which is just above the spinning part of the wheel) with your hand or a wrench, twist the top nut clockwise to begin expanding the rubber sleeve outward.
  2. Keep twisting the top nut clockwise until there’s a snug fit when trying to fit the caster into the tubing leg. When it’s hard to push the caster in, you have the right size.
  3. To lock the caster into place, turn the swivel bearing cover counter-clockwise, by hand or with a wrench, to expand the rubber into a snug fit.
  4. The hex nut (which is under the swivel bearing cover) is then turned counter-clockwise with a wrench to secure the caster into place.

Do I Need to Adapt Anything Else When Upgrading Gas Equipment to Casters?

Yes, if you’re upgrading gas equipment from legs to casters, you need to make sure to get swivel and quick release gas hoses with restraining cables so that they can move and flex with the equipment without breaking. Dormont has a great supply of gas hoses.

If you’re updating equipment with water connections, such as steamers, to casters, you’ll also need to upgrade to quick disconnect water connections to help prevent line issues.

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