A trench drain can be an expensive item to install. First you have to invest time and energy into trying to solve a drainage problem. Then, there is the cost of the drain itself: channel, top grating and shipping costs.
Next, there is an expense associated with the installation. Maybe you use a contractor. Maybe you do it yourself and end up with a sore back or smashed thumb. You have concrete and other supply costs, as well. It all adds up. If it’s a home project, there is some personal frustration associated with the whole affair. So, in the end you want the drain to actually solve the problem.
Shortcuts and misunderstanding the breadth of the problem lead to a failed trench drain. Usually, I am brought in to consult with the project owner after the failed drain is discovered. I have seen enough of these to lump the failures into three categories.
There is a misconception that you don’t need to use concrete when installing a channel drain. Put this out of your mind. In most cases, you NEED to encase your trench drain in an envelope of concrete.
The only situation where you don’t need to pour concrete is in a paver patio that will never see vehicle traffic.
The example to the left shows a polymer concrete drain installed in a paver driveway. Polymer concrete has a high compressive strength but is brittle and easily breaks when dropped or put into a dynamic force situation.
The abutting paving stones could have settled a bit in this drive. The top edge of the trench drain became exposed to the dynamic forces of the car wheel, which broke the channel walls at the base of the drain. The contraction and expansion of the stones freezing and thawing may also have played a role in the disintegration of the drain.
Originally, a modular trench drain was sold as a “form” which was used to when forming a drain out of concrete. The drain body wasn’t the strength of the system, it was the shape. When a drain is encased in concrete, the concrete takes the shape of the drain and becomes the strength of the drain. Often, suppliers will specify a thickness of concrete needed to achieve a specific drain load classification. Four inches are used in small automobile traffic. Eight inches for heavier loads.
A drain can’t merely be sitting adjacent to the concrete.
The concrete must encase the body of the channel intimately. In the example above, the client poured the concrete allowing a gap for the trench drain to be grouted in after the fact. Because there was no support below or from the sides of the channel, the plastic channel body and grates were easily crushed under the weight of an automobile. If the entire drain was supported by concrete, the weight load of the car would have been transferred to the concrete and the drain would still be intact.
“Can I use asphalt to install my drain?”
Generally, I would say “No”. I have seen situations where the majority of the drain was encased in concrete, but the top surface adjoining the drain was tamped with asphalt. That is doable if the contractor takes care not to crush the drain during asphalt compaction, but that is not a risk I’d like to promote.
Encasing the entire drain in concrete is preferred – and easier for the installer. The asphalt can be compacted next to the concrete. If there is an aversion to the contrast between the light grey concrete and the black asphalt, one could always seal coat the concrete to make it blend in. If not, you may end up with a drain that looks like the photo below.
Improper Drain Selection
You can install a product beautifully, but if you install the wrong drain you are not going to have a good time. Such is the case when you put a plastic drain in an area that sees fork truck traffic (below).
For applications where a drain is going to see repeated automobile, delivery truck or fork truck traffic, a heavier duty drain is required.
I recommend drain bodies made from HDPE or polymer concrete with grating recesses that are supported by embedment concrete (i.e. the grate is wider than the channel opening). Channel bodies capped with a metal frame and heavy duty grating are more preferable.
Some drains are meant to be used in light duty, residential applications only. Those little plastic drains you buy at the big box stores (Lowes, Home Depot, and Menard’s) are meant for use in a patio or maybe a driveway with little automobile traffic. Often, the channels are made from extruded cellular PVC and the structural support on which the grating rests is made entirely of plastic. The light duty construction of these channels will have a tendency to break under heavy loads or due to the freeze-thaw episodes seen in the winters up north.
Another improper drain selection situation is when you install a drain that will see a larger amount of water than it can handle.
The drain can be installed perfectly, but if the drain is overrun with a deluge of water, it is not serving its purpose.
A Pipe Size Calculation is nice to do prior to selecting your drain just to double check that you have a drain that can handle the water flow anticipated.
Improper Grating Selection
An incorrect grating selection can also lead to trench drain problems. The most common problems arise when the grating either has:
Insufficient load rating or
Insufficient chemical resistance
Load rating problems are common.
The cheaper grates generally have a lower load class. Class A load gratings, for pedestrian applications, are sometimes used where automobile traffic is frequent thus leading to grating failure. I’ve seen contractors or engineers choose a lower class grating because it met the budget of the project. Later, of course, the owner of the project would have to replace the grates anyway.
This is the case for the example to the left. A winery had stainless steel slotted grates installed that had Class A loading. The application actually needed a grating with a much higher load rating. As stainless steel is expensive enough, the project settled on the cheaper stainless grates only to come back later looking to replace the grates with the appropriate stainless steel product. Money could have been saved by making this decision during the initial installation.
Insufficient chemical resistance is also a common example of an improper grating selection.
We don’t always think about the quality of the water or environment that the drain is going into. Sometimes it just slips our mind. Additionally, we may want to ignore the chance that the drain is in an aggressive environment because that will force us to consider more expensive, chemical resistant grating options.
Consider those folks that live near the sea coasts of Florida, California or Washington. The salt water atmosphere plays havoc on cast iron and galvanized steel. Eventually, trench covers corrode and need replacing. For coastal environments, it is wise to consider a stainless steel, HDPE or fiberglass grate when possible.
Likewise, in dog kennel applications, galvanized steel grating eventually corrodes from the dog urine and harsh cleaning chemicals used. This leads to a premature replacement of the grates. For non-profit organizations, who are always looking to cut costs, it is tempting to use a low cost galvanized steel grate for the kennel application. It would be better in the long run to use a stainless steel or perforated HDPE grating so to avoid expenses later.
The photo below shows how a galvanized steel grate can corrode and deteriorate in a kennel application.
Much of these problems can be summed up to poor workmanship. Here are a couple take-aways:
Make sure the contractor installing your drain knows what he is doing. Is this his first trench drain installation or has he had a number of successful products?
Don’t leave it to the contractor to find you a drain. He might just go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and come back with a plastic drain that is incorrect for the application or aesthetically displeasing.
Every so often an ADP (American Drainage Products) plastic grate is mistaken for NDS Spee-D Channel. There is a good reason for that. ADP was a company based out of Columbus, Ohio who carried a product line that overlapped with those offered by NDS (National Diversified Sales). In 1997, NDS purchased ADP and incorporated their product line into the NDS offering. The redundant products have been supported by NDS over the years but are being phased out. That is the case for the ADP 2” and 4” channel drains. Replacement components, such as plastic grates, and some channels are still sold by NDS, though they are difficult to locate.
ADP 2” Channel Grate – As first glance, the 2” ADP grate can be mistaken for an NDS channel grate because it is made in the same style as the NDS Mini Channel. The thin, slotted plastic grates come in an assortment of colors (shown below). The slots have a center rib running down the length of the grate, which makes it more structurally sound and gives it the “double slotted” look.
Distinguishing features between the two grates can be seen in the photos shown below. While the Mini Channel grate (left) is 2.75” wide and 36” long, the ADP Channel grate (right) is 2” wide and only 24” in length. Another subtle difference between the two can be seen in the screw hole locations. The longer Mini channel grate only has four locations screw holes used to attach the grate to the channel while the 2” ADP grate has six screw holes.
Grates are not the only replacement component available for the 2” channel system. End caps, channel couplers and channel supports can also be purchased for this system. Channels are available in 4 foot lengths but are not being advertized because NDS is trying to phase out this product line. If you like this product, you’d better hurry before it is gone forever.
ADP 4” Channel Grate – For the longest time, I incorrectly thought that the ADP 4” channel was a Spee-D Channel system. The two products are so similar, it can fool you. I was first introduced to the ADP 4” channel when I was replacing a trench drain in a customer’s driveway. The 4” channel drain had been installed in the drive without the proper support by the previous contractor and failed under use. When I removed the channel, I recall thinking that this must have been an older version of Spee-D channel because it had a few style differences yet still looked identical to the Spee-D Channel.
Many similarities exist between the Spee-D and ADP 4” systems. Channels are extruded gray PVC plastic and supplied in 10 foot lengths. The 4” wide grates are 24” long and are slotted with a similar slot design. But upon closer evaluation, the Spee-D grate (left) is about 1/8” narrower than the ADP 4” grate. In addition, the ADP grate (right) has slots with squared corners and screw holes that are directly opposite of each other.
Many more differences are apparent when you compare the bottom side of these grates. The Spee-D grate has a thicker, shorter rib section which defines the slot. The ADP 4” grate has thin, deeply protruding rib sections. These thin ribs, while making the grate more rigid, may also make the grate more brittle and easier to crack during aging. Another difference between these two grates can be seen in the lips that fit into the channel: the Spee-D grate has an elongated edging while the ADP product has a V-notch.
There are other grate options for the ADP 4” wide grate. One really interesting option is the flanged grating (shown on the top in the photo above). The purpose of the flange was to cover up or mask the plastic channel edging so there would not be a color mismatch in the trench drain after installation. I suspect, however, that the edging tended to fatigue and break under use. Maybe this is why NDS hasn’t used this idea in their existing product lines.
The ADP 4” grates of both styles are available in four colors: black, sand, green and gray. The flanged 4” wide grate is also available in the color “brick”. End caps, outlets, couplers and channel supports are also available for this system. While NDS no longer advertises these channels, they are available (for now).
Recently, a number of people contacted us regarding the NDS 8 inch Pro Series Channel Drain. In a previous article, the 8” Pro Series was mentioned, though not in any great detail. In this article, I’ll elaborate on the channel and grating features this popular channel drain system.
The Pro Series by NDS
The Pro Series is a family of plastic channel drain products manufactured by National Diversified Sales (NDS) under licensing agreement from First Plast S.R.L. (Italy). There is a similar product line in Brazil made by Tigre Plastics that may be licensed under an agreement with First Plast, as well.
These injection molded channels are made with PVC containing ultra violet light inhibitors to help prevent fading and cracking. Pro Series channels are neutral (non-sloping), reinforced with ribbing every 4 inches and come in widths of 3”, 5” 8” and 12”. Options on grating, channel length, corner sections and outlets differ between the various width products.
However, each Pro Series channel features a unique, interlocking end joint connection. The reinforcement ribbing doubles as a cutting point (in the event that the channel needs to be shorted) which maintains the interlocking end joint connection. These features help make the Pro Series product line a smart, affordably drainage system for residential applications.
8” Pro Series Channel Details
The 8” Pro Series channel is used in applications where rain water accumulates rapidly or in applications requiring a larger runoff reservoir than is offered by the smaller Pro Series products. Technically speaking, the 8” Pro Series is named for its width, which is actually 7.875 inches wide. The channel width, or throat, is about 6 inches wide. All channel lengths are ½ meter (20 inches) and are available in shallow or deep profiles (shown below).
The 8” shallow channel is about 4 ½ inches from the top of the grate to the bottom of the channel. Each shallow channel will hold 2 gallons under static conditions (no flow). The 8” deep profile channel, in comparison, is 7 ¼ inches in height and will hold 3.5 gallons under no-flow conditions. The amount of runoff water that these drains will effectively handle depends on the length of the drain, the diameter of the pipe used to drain the system, the pitch of the channel and the size of the openings in the grate used with the system. NDS has technical data that can be used to design a trench drain system capable of withstanding rainfalls typical to your geographic location.
8” Pro Series Outlet Options
Both the shallow and deep profile channels have end caps that can double as a 3” or 4” sewer and drain pipe connections. (See Below) These end caps have knock out sections of plastic that enable water to flow out or in. The shallow profile channel has an additional fitting that allows 3” or 4” S&D pipe to be attached to the drain from the side or the bottom of the channel. The deep profile channel doesn’t have this option. Again, there are knock out plastic sections that cover each of the pipe attachments on this special outlet.
8” Pro Series Grating Options
NDS sells 4 grating options for the 8″ Pro Series. Each grate is 7 ¾ inches wide, 19 5/8 inches long and ¾ inches deep. You will need to have one grate for every section of channel, as they are the same length. Each grate is connected to the channel by 4 stainless steel screws (sold separately).
Two of the most common 8” Pro Series grates are shown below. The top grate in this photo is a pedestrian rated perforated grate (Part No. 836) which is ADA compliant and can drain 15.33 GPM per linear foot of grating. The bottom grate is the standard light traffic slotted grate (Part No. 837) that has over twice the draining capability of the perforated grate. Both grates are made of high impact Polyolefin and are light gray in color. Not shown in this photo is a glass reinforced nylon slotted grate (Part No. 838), which is said to be able to withstand heavy truck traffic while also being ADA compliant.
Two cast iron grates are available for the 8” Pro Series. These are shown below. The black slotted grate (Part No. 888) is made by NDS, has 54 GPM drainage capability per linear foot of grating and is able to withstand truck traffic. The decorative grate beneath the slotted grate is called the 8” Carbochon and is made by Iron Age Designs. This grate was specifically designed to fit the 8” Pro Series channel, is made of ductile iron, is ADA compliant and has a higher open surface area per foot than any of the NDS grating options.
The Carbochon grate isn’t supplied with bolt-down holes or a protective coating to prevent rust. However, the aesthetics and pricing of this Ironage product make it an attractive option to the standard slotted cast iron grate. The Carbochon grates are available from Trench Drain Systems and can be purchased with an oil-baked finish or a custom epoxy coating.
Pro Series Installation Features
The Pro Series channels have three useful installation features that are common to all available sizes. These are illustrated in the photo below.
Pro Series channels have a unique interlocking channel design that is the key to their modular system success. This “tongue and groove” design allows each channel to securely lock to the adjoining piece. The “male” end of the channel easily slides into the “female” side of the adjoining channel when adding length to the drain. This connection joint can be made stronger by using PVC cement at the contacts prior to locking the channel together.
Another key feature that makes the Pro Series a unique modular system is the reinforcing ribs. Not only do the ribs give the channel walls rigidity, they are designed to be a cutting point for channel shortening while still keeping the “male” end of the channel that is necessary for attachment. No other trench drain system on the market has this feature.
Each channel also has “feet” that can be used as a rebar attachment site during installation. Generally, rebar is hammered into the ground at the foot locations. Wire is then wrapped securely around the rebar and channel foot. Final adjustment can be made to the channel to ensure the top of the drain is set to the desired elevation prior to pouring concrete. Instead of rebar, wood stakes can be used. In this case, wood screws can be used to firmly attach the channel foot to the installation stake.
In summary, the NDS 8″ Pro Series is a high volume channel drain for residential applications. The wider channels help insure that water is quickly removed from hardscapes. The unique design of the Pro Series facilitates ease and speed of installation. Grating options are comparatively meager, but growing due to the new selections becoming available by Iron Age Designs. For questions regarding this product line, contact the folks at Trench Drain Systems at 610-638-1221.
Last entry discussed differences and commonality between extruded channel drains manufactured by NDS and Stegmeier. I wanted to continue along this path and discuss two other very similar extruded products — NDS’s Spee-D Channel and Stegmeier’s Flowmaster. The Flowmaster is marketed as a professional grade channel drain for swimming pool decks. The Spee-D Channel is sold as a general purpose drain for residential applications that include driveways, paver patios and pool decks. Let’s first look at the two products side by side. NDS Spee-D Channel is to the left while Stegmeier’s Flowmaster is to the right. Both channel drains have a similar cross section and have similar geometry. Both are about 5 inches wide and 3 inches deep. Both products are made from extruded PVC.
Two things stand out in the photo above. First, the wall thickness of the plastic is greater in the Stegmeier product. They also have a smaller amount of open air space than does the NDS product. This makes the Flowmaster channel much sturdier than the Spee-D channel. You can feel the difference when you hold the product. Normally, I don’t like to recommend extruded channel drains in regions that see frigid temperatures because of my concern for cracking during freezing and thawing. I think the Spee-D channel is susceptible to rapid deterioration in this environment. The Flowmaster channel drain stands a much better chance of holding up in colder regions because of the more rugged wall design.
The second apparent difference between these two products is the design of the grate rails. The Stegmeier product has a curved rail that requires a specially designed grate. The NDS product has a straight rail. This may not be much of a difference. But, I think the NDS design makes grate replacement and removal easier. Their design also lends itself to easy adaptation by other grate manufacturers.
Let’s look at some of the grating options of the two products. Below you see the Flowmaster with an aluminum slotted grate. It snaps into place wonderfully. You can buy this in three colors (silver, tan and white). This grate also comes in plastic (again three colors). However, if you wanted to use this product for anything other than a pool or deck application, you would have a difficult time with the grate. I feel the grate would compress or crush a little under car tire applications, for instance. Maybe I am trying to “over apply” this product.
On the other hand, The NDS Spee-D channel has a variety of structural foam grating that is capable of small automotive traffic. If you want ornamental cast iron grating, it is available from Iron Age Designs. Maybe, the Spee-D channel doesn’t look as good as the Flowmaster in a pool deck application, but it has a broader residential appeal due to the grating options.
Another difference between these two products is in the way they couple. The photo below shows NDS (left) and its well-engineered channel coupler versus Stegmeier’s simple design internal coupler. I don’t know which is best. I think the Stegmeier coupler is simple and gives a sturdier connection. I think the NDS system is neat looking, though. And my gut feeling is that the Stegmeier coupler will allow water to seep into the wall cells easier than the NDS coupler. It’s just my gut feeling folks!!
I guess the last thing to talk about is pricing and availability. List prices of both channels are comparable. However, the popular home improvement stores usually carry the Spee-D channel at well below list pricing. Grating is where the pricing differences will be felt. The
Flowmaster grates are generally more expensive than the “off the shelf” Spee-D channel grate. However, you will most likely have to special order any Spee-D channel grate if you don’t want gray plastic. Cast Iron grates for Spee-D channel can be ordered online in raw iron or with a Baked-on oil Finish. The Stegmeier channel products are sold in pool supply stores and by special order. Their distribution network is not as well developed as NDS. If you like the Flowmaster product line, and can’t find a dealer, you can purchase this product over the internet.
Last month, I wrote an article about a plastic channel drain product marketed by NDS under the “Pro Series” brand. This neutral channel product line is manufactured by injection molding. While injection molding is great for making intricate shapes, manufacturing costs associated with injection molding drive product costs up.
There are design and mold costs associated with all formed plastic products. However, extrusion, as a plastic manufacturing method, is well suited for high volume, simple shape production. Being a continuous method, the extrusion process is continuously producing products (more units per hour) and drives down unit of the finished part.
Designed in the cross-section shape of the final product, extrusion dies are less complicated and less expensive to make. When hot plastic is passed through the die in the actual extrusion process, a continuous stream of product is made. Plastic PVC pipe in manufactured by this process.
In the case of plastic channel drain, this “stream” of molded plastic comes out looking like a plastic roof gutter (see photo below).
This article will address extruded plastic channel drains. In part 1, I will discuss common features in pool deck drains manufactured by NDS and Stegmeier. I also discuss the NDS Mini Channel product.
NDS Micro Series vs. Stegmeier Deck Drains
The NDS Micro and Stegmeier deck drains are narrow channel drains designed specifically for swimming pool decks. Generally speaking, these extruded PVC channels are 1.5” wide and 3.25“deep. The channels are used to form a perimeter around a swimming pool to create a drain for incidental pool water. All the products are designed to be installed in concrete. However, channel anchoring techniques during installation differ between the two brands.
Below you can see the NDS Micro Channel (left) compared to Stegmeier’s standard deck drain. Both products are extruded “box” channels. Later, slots are cut into the top surface to form the drain holes. NDS seems to use a small mill to form this slot while Stegmeier appears to use a carbide saw blade. The NDS Micro is actually more narrow (1.25”) than the Stegmeier products (1.625”). The Stegmeier product also has a more rigid feel to it.
NDS offers its Micro Channel pool deck drain in three different colors. That’s it. Stegmeier’s deck drains come in 4 colors and 4 styles. Two of the styles are like the above “box” channel with the integral drain grate. However, they have two other products that have an awesome “press fit” grate that make channel clean out very easy. Stegmeier’s Frontier Deck Drain has plastic “press fit” grates that come in 4 colors. Stegmeier’s Treadmaster Deck Drain has an aluminum grate for the more commercial swimming pool look. These grates come in tan, white and silver. I’m sorry I don’t have photos of these now. In the interim, check out their website www.stegmeier.com.
NDS Mini Channel – The next “size up” in extruded plastic channels is the NDS Mini Channel. This is a unique product that is both economical and sturdy enough to be used in light traffic areas. The 3” wide and 3” deep channel allows for larger water flow than deck drain while giving the home owner a greater selection of grating options. As with deck drains, the Mini channels are connected with couplings and are available with a broad selection of special junction sections.
The highlight of the Mini Channel system is with the grating options. You can select from six colors of plastic slotted “light traffic” grates. These come in 3 foot lengths and can be screwed into place. NDS also offers decorative plastic grates in two patterns and six color options.
If you want a more durable or ornamental product, you can have a slotted brass or cast iron grate. The brass grates are available in polished or brushed finishes and come in one foot lengths. The cast iron grate is available in four patterns (Minione, Interlaken, Carbochon, Locust).
NDS offers a line of channel drain systems called the “Pro Series”. These channels are injected, molded from polyvinyl chloride, and have a neutral slope (no slope). They come in a variety of widths (3”, 5”, 8” and 12”). According to NDS literature asterisk notes, this product is technology licensed from the Italian trench drain manufacturer First Corp.
This product line really has many options if you don’t want pre-sloped channels. From a manufacturing point of view, it makes sense. NDS production facilities would need to stock a bunch of injection mold dies of varying depth in order to make pre-sloped channel systems Injection mold dies are expensive!
With the Pro Series, NDS instead opted to make four channel widths to account for different flow situations. Three of the widest products have two depths (shallow and deep channels). So, in effect, there are seven different channel options in the Pro Series.
The photo above shows three of the four width options (I didn’t show the 12” wide option). The 3” and 5” wide channels come in 40 inch lengths (1 meter). The 8” and 12” wide channels come in 20 inch lengths (1/2 meter).
Pro Series Channels Mean a Flexible Layout
A key feature of the Pro Series trench drain product line is the ability to cut the channels to any desired size. The channels come with a “double ridged” cut line every four inches (4”) along the length of the channel. This makes it possible to trim, for instance, 8 or 12 inches from the channel in order to custom fit the drain into a tight area.
Trim the channel using a simple hand saw. By making your cut in the slot formed by the double ridges, you can easily change the length of the drain while retaining an edge that allows all the standard hardware (end caps and other channels) to be attached . There is no patching of the channel in a custom length situation.
While you can cut a channel to a specific length, specialty channels are available for making 45 and 90 degree bends in the drain.Side outlets are available in 5” and 8” wide channels. Another notable feature is that every channel has a bottom knockout. This gives you flexibility when it comes time to place a bottom discharge. You can place a bottom outlet wherever you want.
Pro Series Grates: Know Your Options
Grating options are not extensive with this brand and vary by channel size. For instance, the 3” wide Pro Series channel only has a gray plastic grate suitable for pedestrian or light vehicle traffic. This may be adequate for home owners that are looking for a budget driveway drain.
The 5” wide Pro Series drain, however, has the most grating options. Plastic slotted grates (class B loading) are available in six (6) colors. Perforated plastic grating is available, but only in gray. A cast iron grate and a high impact resistant plastic slotted grate are also available in 5” width.
The 8” and 12” wide Pro Series products have fewer grating options. With the 8” wide channels, you have a choice of three plastic grates, one of which is perforated, and one slotted cast iron grate. The 12” wide channel only has a plastic slotted grate (light vehicle traffic) and a cast iron grate for heavy traffic. All grates, no matter the width, come in 20 inch lengths.
One thing I like about the Pro Series product line over other NDS brands (such as the Mini or Spee-D series) is that it offers more durability and life to your drain system because of the grate to channel width relationship. I feel it is important to have your grate wider than the channel of the trench. This is particularly important in plastic trench drain products. If the grate is wider than the channel, then the concrete that surrounds the trench will be giving added strength to the channel. Systems that don’t have this added support have to rely solely on the strength of the plastic channel. In this later case, if the ledge that supports the grate breaks, the load capabilities of the grate fail. More on this when I cover other NDS channel drains.
List prices of the NDS Pro Series cover a broad spectrum. The least expensive is, of course, the 3” wide system and prices go up as do the channel widths. Grates with higher load capabilities also come at a premium.