Four Considerations when Choosing your Swimming Pool Deck Drain

When faced with the prospect of selecting a channel drain for your swimming pool deck, your task can seem overwhelming.  Your contractor may only have a handful of the drain products available in his regional marketplace.  Additionally, if you are looking for custom or design-specific grating options, you may have to spend many nights researching on your own for a product that is just right.  A deck drain consultant can be a big time saver.

Pool deck drain selection is a balancing act between deck design, functionality, aesthetics, safety and cost.  It is important that the pool owner weigh the relative value that each of these features have to his project prior to designing the pool drain.

1. Budget Considerations

Is cost the overall driving factor in your selection?  Or, would you consider a drain with a little something extra to act as a conversation piece?  In the pool drain world, there is a broad spectrum of product costs.  The standard 1.5″ wide deck drains, which inevitably get clogged and break, are at the bottom of the spectrum.  From there, systems are available in all cost ranges, up to 10 times the cost of the low end product.  I should point out that quality systems are available at affordable prices for those watching the budget.  In general, pre-sloped systems are more expensive than neutral (non-sloped) systems.  However, pre-sloped systems have installation advantages that we will point out below.

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2.  Functionality Considerations

When I start discussing a pool deck drain with a client I ask them, “How is the pool deck to be constructed?”   Is the deck made of poured concrete, pavers, or tile?  All drains can be installed in a concrete deck construction, but not all drains work well with paver stone or tile.   Drainage systems that are designed with straight walls provide a linear surface that are great for laying paving stones against.  If the drain body has legs or support structure that are too close to the top edge of the channel, abutment of pavers will be compromised.

Examples of this are shown below.  Mini Channel and Polycast are both systems with straight walls and play well with paving stone.  Dura Slope and Pro-series #5 have rebar connection features that make it impossible for pavers to lay adjacent.  These latter products need to be encased in concrete prior to laying the paving stone.  In streetscape applications, this may be a reasonable design approach.

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6″ Dura Slope (left), 4″ Spee-D Channel (right)

3.  Drain Capacity

Wrapped in this conversation we should begin to consider how large of a drain we need for the deck application.  How large is the project and how much water is the drain required to handle?  Is this an Olympic sized pool or are we looking at a back yard sauna?  Long drains generally need to have a pre-sloped channel body if you plan to have only one drain outlet.  Neutral drain bodies, like NDS Mini Channel, can be used in long or complex drain designs as long as they are designed with bottom outlets every 15 – 20 feet.  This requires a parallel plumbing design running beneath the deck drain.  Though a little more complex in the construction, frequent bottom outlets gives you design flexibility that you can’t get with some wider, higher volume deck drain systems.

4.  Aesthetic and Safety Considerations

Once a deck drain is installed in your pool, the only evidence you have is the top grate – or grille, as some call it.  The selection of the grate will determine how much attention is brought to the drain and how safe the grate will be to pool goers.  My first “Rule of Thumb” is to make deck drain grates “barefoot friendly”.  The openings should be small enough to prevent a toe from getting caught in it.  This is not always possible if you have some really inquisitive children, however.

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Decorative grates bring an added touch of elegance to the pool deck, but need to be selected with safety in mind.   Cast iron metal grating not only can rust and become unsightly but have a high heat capacity that are hot to the touch during summer months.  Plastic, aluminum and bronze grates seem to be a more popular grating choice for deck drains in high foot traffic areas.

Grating color is another aesthetic parameter that comes into play.  Grates made from plastic, metal and stone are all available in a varieties of color.  White, tan and light grey are the three most popular deck drain colors.  Darker grey grates are used in bluestone and some paver pool deck designs.  Brass, bronze, stainless steel, cast iron and aluminum grates are popular in modern, designer pools.

Where to do research…..

After you have a drain design roughed out, visit www.DrainageKits.com and see some of the options available in kit form for pool applications.  Look through all the drain options, not just pool and patio drains.  You will be able to see options and pricing.  While doing this research, you will begin to narrow down exactly what it is you want.  If you still need to discuss the project, contact one of the drain professionals at Trench Drain Systems at 610-638-1221.  They can offer more direction to your search and help with the project estimate.

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Trench Drain Systems (TDS) is a leading supplier of trench and channel drain systems for residential and commercial applications.  In addition to having a full line of products used for walk-in shower and driveway drainage applications, they carry an attractive assortment of swimming pool deck drains that are chosen for both their safety features and great looks.

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