Plastic Trench Drain vs. Residential Trench Drain

Are most residential drainage projects solved by plastic trench drain?

It’s starting to look that way.

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As society’s attention to stormwater runoff issues grows, so does our need to learn about water control products such as trench drains.  Concrete and fiberglass trench drains dominated the commercial market for years. These polymer concrete or fiberglass based drainage systems proved too costly, which leaves plastic as the alternative material for household drainage products. For many homeowners, plastic trench drain offers the best value – if they can find a drainage system right for their needs.

Go to the local landscape supply or home improvement store and you’ll only see a small sample of plastic drainage products. Maybe you’ll even find actual trench drain on the shelves. But ask yourself, “Is this what I want?” Most likely, this is not what you originally envisioned. Maybe you expected a bigger variety. Maybe you are uncertain of all the products available on the market or how to find them.

Read: Top Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Plastic Trench Drain

PlasticTrenchDrain.com is here to shed some light on plastic trench drain systems and manufacturers plastic drainage products. Homeowners and contractors alike will see products and find possibilities to solve drainage problems using plastic systems.

I will occasionally give you website links that will help you on your quest for knowledge. I will show systems that meet your engineering requirements, budget and aesthetic needs. If you have immediate questions that need answering, feel free to leave a comment below or email me.

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Pro’s and Con’s of Plastic Trench Drain

When I started my career with trench drain, I didn’t know the critical questions that determine whether plastic trench drain is appropriate in a drainage project.

At the time, I handled a polymer concrete product line. Polymer concrete is a mixture of an inert material (such as silica sand) and a two part polyester resin binder. The sand-resin mixture is poured into a mold, where the bond sets and the shape dries. Further curing can then be done in large driers. The resultant product is heavy, hard, durable, and brittle.

My sales manager instructed me that polymer concrete trench drain products were “good” or “superior” and plastic products were “bad”. Of course, he had a vested interest in promoting his polymer concrete trench drain. It made me ponder the reasons that lead to the contractor’s decision to use one material versus another material.

Since then, I have seen enough applications and selling situations of trench drain to have legitimate opinion on what is “good” trench drain and what is “bad”. And, from what I’ve seen, it’s all good…depending on whether or not you have the proper application.

When looking for a trench drain product, determine what is needed and what can be sacrificed. Where is the project? Is the aesthetics or functionality more important? Are you or someone else installing the product? What equipment is available to use in the installation? What are the load requirements for the drain? What is the budget? All these are necessary questions to the drain selection. And, all may have an impact on whether you use a plastic based product. Selection considerations are discussed below.

Advantages of Plastic Trench Drain:

trench drain grates, trench grates, channel drain grates, channel drains, plastic trench drain, patio trench, patio drain, drain channelGreater Selection Options — Plastic trench drains come in many widths, lengths and styles. Products are available in 1” to 21” widths and can come in up to 10 foot lengths.  Narrower channels use lightweight grates with decorative options.  On the larger side, plastic trench drains can use heavy duty iron grates for situations with heavy vehicle traffic.

Plastic Trench Drain is Light Weight — Being lightweight gives plastic trench drains two benefits:

  • Easier handling during installation — One person can handle a 10 foot section of drain. Other products, such as polymer concrete and fiberglass, are heavy and come in shorter lengths.
  • Better shipping — Small orders of plastic trench drain can be shipped by UPS or Fedex. Similar orders of polymer concrete product would require a freight hauler and a fork truck to unload.

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Ease of Installation — The high degree of processing sophistication allows for superior trough designs that promote an easy installation. The designers thought through the contractor’s process and came up with plastic drainage systems that are both adjustable and quickly installed.

Lower Product Costs — Plastic trench drain is more affordable than polymer concrete drains at widths up to 8”. Plastic systems also offer a wider range of decorative grating options, corner angles and color choices.

Forgiving to Impact (at times) — If you drop a section of plastic trench drain on the floor, it won’t break like polymer concrete will.

Disadvantages of Plastic Trench Drain:

Freeze/Thaw problems — Plastic has a higher coefficient of thermal expansion than does polymer concrete. This can lead to problems in environments that see extreme cold and heat. The trench drain can separate from the concrete that holds it in place.

Extreme Cold Impact Problems — Some plastic will shatter if it sees an impact while frozen. Some plastic trench drain will do the same.

Low Industrial Strength — Some plastic products promote their ability to handle heavy load applications. And though the grate they provide may meet the load requirement, the channel itself may display low integrity.

Durability — In general, plastic trench drain doesn’t have the life as polymer concrete.

This list of advantages and disadvantages is not exhaustive. It’s just what I can think of today. Maybe you have some other ideas. If so, let me know. Email me with comments or questions! Feel free to speak to one of the professional sales staff at Trench Drain Systems by calling 610-638-1221.

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