When I started my career with trench drain, I didn’t know the benefits of using plastic trench drains on drainage projects. Since then, I’ve seen enough projects to tell the difference between good and bad trench drain systems. From what I learned, all trench drain is good as long as you have the proper product for the application. Here’s how you get it right.
1. Is the drain located in an area with extreme freeze/thaw?
Plastic is more susceptible to freeze-thaw than other materials (such as metal or polymer concrete) used for trench drains. Plastic trench drains can separate from the concrete that holds them in place during extreme temperature changes. Also, PVC becomes brittle in the extreme cold and could crack under impact at those times. So, be aware of environment factors before you choose your trench drain material.
2. Is the drain being installed in a paver surface or in a pour concrete floor?
Trench drains used in paver patio applications usually are straight walled so to accommodate the close proximity of a paving stone. Plastic drains that have built-in pedestals or an exaggerated grating seat impart greater strength to the drain and are best suited for concrete installations.
3. Are the aesthetics important?
Narrow plastic drains, also called strip drains, come in 1-2” widths and don’t offer decorative grating options. Larger plastic systems (3” wide and larger) often feature decorative grating options in plastic, cast iron or stone. Some systems even use stainless steel grates. Or, how do you feel about the plastic channel edge being exposed at the drain-floor interface? There are systems which minimize or eliminate unsightly channel details.
4. What are the load requirements for the drain?
Not all residential-grade plastic trench drains are built with vehicle traffic in mind. But some applications, such as driveways, require load bearing drains. Small plastic channel drains are designed to incorporate the strength of the surrounding to achieve higher load standards. Often, these systems offer cast iron grates and reinforcing frames to assist in transferring the load away from the plastic channel. This allows the plastic channel to achieve industrial-grade load ratings.
5. Is the drain being installed by you or a contractor?
Superior trench drain design promotes easy installation. Engineers thought through the installation process to design easy-to-install trench drains. Plastic trench drains are lightweight and easier to handle. Still, some of the larger plastic systems can be unwieldy in inexperienced hands, especially when being installed in concrete.
This list of considerations is by no means exhaustive. Maybe you have some other ideas. If so, let me know by leaving a comment below.
Need a price quote? Have installation or replacement questions? Feel free to speak to one of the professional sales staff at Trench Drain Systems by calling 610-638-1221.
Ever since the first line of plastic trench drains emerged on the market, homeowners have welcomed the convenience of lightweight, affordable drainage systems. Easily purchased and installed, plastic drains bring patio and driveway drainage systems to an accessible level.
But a lingering flaw in plastic drainage systems has been the same simplicity that made them popular. The smallest plastic drains are about 1.5” wide and, though they come in up to three colors (usually gray, sand or white), are just narrow strip drains with no ornamental grating options. Larger drains between 2” – 4” wide come standard with plastic slotted grates that offered new colors but no design improvements.
Now NDS’ design efforts allow anyone to buy decorative plastic trench grates for new and preexisting NDS drain systems. The new Botanical and Wave designs are both beautiful. (see a side by side comparison below). While the pattern options are still developing, both styles come in trademark NDS colors of sand, black, green and gray.
These grates are available for the 3” Mini Channel and the 4” Spee-D Channel systems, and they also work with 12” catch basins. Overall, I think the new decorative grates improve the 3” and 4” NDS profile drains. Let me show you why.
The Mini Channel and Spee-D Channel profile drains feature honeycomb chambers within the wall. Spee-D Channel drains (not shown here) have thicker walls to accommodate their greater width, but the basic construction is the same. Profile drain grates rest on a lip in the channel body and are screwed into place.
Traditionally, either system’s slotted plastic grates rest fully within the channel and do not hide its edge (see above photo, right). Gray channel edges are visible on either side of plastic slotted Mini Channel or Spee-D Channel grates, a detail frequently commented on in upscale applications.
“[The visible channel border] has been a long running criticism of the Mini Channel and Spee-D Channel,” says Mike Schreiber, District Sales Manager at NDS.
Personally, I always felt this was a design flaw on the part of NDS not only because water can gather between the grate and the channel but also because it’s not aesthetically appealing. I’m pleased that NDS is taking steps to improve on the design.
NDS’ decorative grating (see above photo, left) is thicker. The grates hang over the channel walls. Once installed, all you see of the drainage system on the left is the Botanical pattern grate.
The photo above shows how nicely the new decorative plastic grates fit into NDS profile drains. I do like these grates better because their added thickness makes the systems more durable. It also makes the grates sit higher in the channel, which means you’ll have to use special screws to secure the grates.
At first I was concerned that the additional height would tempt the Fates and lead to broken drains. However, NDS specifications recommend profile channels be recessed up to a quarter inch to improve drainage. Recessed drains also protect the channel from snow plows, which have been known to tear up grates. If there are any issues they will probably occur in preexisting drains that were not installed in a recess. But if the existing drains were installed properly there shouldn’t be a problem.
When decorative cast iron grates became a reality for homeowners, plastic drain manufacturers realized they were missing out on a large market. Contractors and homeowners saw cast iron grates as an upgrade to basic slotted plastic worth the extra cost, but decorative plastic was unsold real estate in the trench drain market. So far, only NDS has done anything to fill the market need.
Seeing an unmet market need, NDS began developing their line of decorative plastic grates a year ago. The manufacturer conducted surveys among customers and contractors to help choose which designs would be most popular before sending out small batches for trial runs. The end result is that homeowners can now buy Botanical and Wave pattern plastic grates for their profile drains and catch basins.
The decorative grates are making in-roads on applications where drainage systems are visible such as commercial pools, patios and sidewalks. While they aren’t driving new sales – nobody who doesn’t need a trench drain is buying the grates just to have them – homeowners and contractors lean toward decorative plastic because of its improved aesthetics.
“I’m really starting to see the decorative channel take off,” Schreiber says.
Many NDS drains have a decorative iron option available (see our blog about decorative cast iron grating here). Plastic decorative patterns are still limited at the moment, but I expect options to expand once the idea of affordable plastic replacement grates sinks into the public’s mind. NDS, now busy incorporating new acquisitions such as KBI flow control and ADS drainage systems, is going to wait before expanding their decorative offerings.
Thanks for reading! Do you like the new decorative plastic grates?
Visit DrainageKits.com to buy replacement plastic grates for your NDS profile drains or catch basins. You can also call Trench Drain Systems at 610-638-1221 to speak with a trench drain specialist or leave a comment below!
Iron Age Designs is a Washington-based designer that embraces its Made in the U.S.A. identity as it sells decorative iron grates, tree grates and custom casting at prices homeowners can afford.
Founded in 2005 by Mark Armstrong and Craig Diamond, industry professionals who had already worked together for years designing decorative castings for landscape projects, Iron Age brought high-end design to homeowners and contractors everywhere.
“We started with the drain grates where there hasn’t been much variety at a price most folks could afford,” says Dominique Watkins, a partner at Iron Age Designs.
Making their signature decorative iron grates in the U.S.A is important to Iron Age for a number of reasons. Manufacturing domestically doesn’t just present practical benefits such as little to no language barrier, a standard currency or similar quality standards. Domestic manufacturing also allows the company to take part in a shared business culture and a sort of patriotic loyalty during each grate’s design, manufacture and ultimate sale.
“It’s just easier to pick up the phone and talk to a person in the same country,” Watkins says. “Also, I have noticed that our business partners feel like we are the same team. U.S. manufacturing has been embattled for many years, and we share a determination to work together to succeed in making things right here at home.”
Iron Age, like many Made in the U.S.A. companies, has difficulty competing with imported drain grates and tree grates. The low cost of labor in foreign countries translates to price differences that don’t favor American manufacturing. “Value engineering” – a euphemism for cutting costs by buying the cheapest option available – disregards design in favor of budgeting.
It might be better for Iron Age to scout for manufacturers across the border, but they don’t. Though the Internet makes it easier to collaborate on new trench grate designs over long distances, being geographically close has its benefits. Meetings take on a different tone in person and product development is easier to manage, for example.
“Communication is better when you are in the same room,” Watkins says. “For production, it is best when you can see the progress of the actual product and touch the prototype as a product evolves.”
The grating designer sets itself apart from the competition by continually creating grating designs not found elsewhere in the industry and by embracing its Made in the U.S.A. identity.
Iron Age Designs sells more trench drain grates and catch basin grates than any other product. The designer supplies drain grates that fit a number of trench drain systems by leading industry manufacturers such as NDS, ACO, ABT, ADP, MEA and Zurn.
“Drain grates are successful because we have something really unique to say in terms of our design,” Watkins says. “Also, nobody else carries the kind of breadth and depth of decorative offering that we do.”
The product niche is very narrow, with only a handful of competitors. Many foundries manufacture their cast iron grates outside the U.S. and import. Other designers who hire domestic foundries don’t offer decorative products. Neenah Foundry, a titan in the cast iron grate industry, gears itself toward industrial projects instead of homeowners.
“That leaves only a couple who produce a variety of decorative grates in quantity in the USA, and among them we are probably the most reasonably priced,” Watkins says. “As far as trench grates and catch basins grates go we have no peer in the variety of design palette.”
Trench Drain Systems is happy to have brought you this article, and we want to know: Why do you buy American?
If you have a question about Iron Age grates or decorative grating upgrades, email us or call one of our drain specialists to discuss your application. Decorative patio drainage kits and cast iron grates are available online at www.DrainageKits.com.
In our previous blog on stainless steel shower drains we touched on the growing trend of rimless showers. At the time, though, stainless steel was a high end solution and out of reach for many homeowners. The economy had consumers cutting back but the needs of the baby boomers were – and are – the same. It’s been a few years, but public interest in shower drainage systems never went away. Actually, I’ve seen the demand for information on shower drains increase.
I’m excited to say that shower drains are finally becoming a standardized product line. Some manufacturers make flanged shower drains from 28” to 70” long with six patterned grates. Others are more select, showing limited lengths on their stainless channels but offering artisanal grating options. True, custom stainless steel shower drains are still around in a big way, but they are becoming less necessary as standardized drains gain popularity. The setback isn’t in finding a drain anymore but in finding which drain works best.
One of the newest concepts within the stainless steel drain market is that drain bodies no longer have to be stainless steel. One manufacturer, Infinity Drain, had the moxie to design a series of linear drain systems for showers that combine aspects of low profile channel drains and full-bodied stainless steel drain systems. Though their drainage systems have been used in patios, pools and driveways for some time, their products make the biggest mark on bathroom and shower drainage, a market previously dominated by expensive, custom stainless steel drains. Infinity Drain has opened a huge market for residential trench drains and trench drain users by offering not only full stainless steel systems but plastic-bodied linear drain systems with stainless steel grates, too.
Infinity Drain has an edge over the competition. Unlike traditional center floor drains, which require a pitch in the floor in four different directions, Infinity Drain products allow the shower floor to be pitched in only one direction. The drain itself can be located anywhere in the shower stall because it features adjustable outlets. Eliminating restrictions on tile size or slab material within a shower, Infinity Drain systems allow for design flexibility.
The basic appeal of Infinity Drain is its simplicity. Take a look at the photos below. The AG Series, identified by its architectural slotted stainless steel grate, and the DG Series (stainless steel perforated grate) are the same system. Infinity Drain’s plastic-bodied AG and DG Series shower drains come in two widths: 38mm (1-1/2”) and 65mm (2-7/8”). While these grates and channels can be combined or cut to create custom lengths, Infinity Drain also acknowledged the current market standard by providing their linear drains in ready-to-assemble kits at set lengths.
Another option is to “hide” the shower drain using the TIF Series (short for Tile in Frame). Like the AG and DG Series, it uses plastic channels that can be combined for any length of drain. Again, the only real difference here is the grating option. Instead of a slotted or perforated grate, the TIF Series uses a stainless steel grate frame that sits inside the channel. The frame supports a tile or solid insert to camouflage the drain. I think the result (shown below) is pretty cool.
To those who prefer a stainless steel channel body but want design flexibility, Infinity Drain offers the AS Series (shown below), a full-bodied stainless drain that can be adapted for custom lengths that only comes in 2-7/8” wide. At only 1” tall, the channel is considered low profile and mostly used in shower areas with thin flooring; the shallow channel body also makes the AS Series grate unique to this product line. The AS grate has tightly grouped slot openings, meaning it has relatively less open surface area for water to drain through.
There is an air of mystery surrounding the FX Series, a 2-3/4” wide stainless steel channel and grate system that comes in complete kits with a center outlet. Designed with fixed lengths, this system can be customized to a specific length or grate pattern by the manufacturer upon request, but this isn’t a do-it-yourself drain. Where would you be if all the bases weren’t covered?
Overall, if you are a homeowner and wanted a shower drain for your home, Infinity Drain has placed your goal within reach. They have taken the stainless steel market to an affordable level so you can obtain the quality of a stainless steel drain without dramatically affecting your pocketbook.
Now that more are more options on the market, I think it’s safe to say we are beginning to enter into a new shower age. With more reasonable options, the average consumer can re-design their bathrooms and showers to incorporate the trench drain and make it more accessible.
Trench Drain Systems is happy to have brought you this article. If you have a question about shower drains or any of the Infinity Drain product lines, send us an email. To discuss your application with one of our sales professionals, call us at 610-638-1221.
We left off our previous blog after after introducing standard grating options such as the plastic slotted grate and the painted black iron grate. The neat thing, though, is that multiple grates fit the 12″ x 12″ size profile adapters and catch basins.
Three new grating options recently became available to the market, which open up the design possibilities for every budget. Now there are designer grates available in plastic, cast iron and reinforced stone.
Designer Plastic Grates by NDS
Earlier this year, NDS came out with two new grating designs that are expected to replace the standard plastic slotted catch basin grate. Their Wave (left) and Botanical patterns (right) come in four colors and fit the 12” x 12” catch basins and low profile adapter for both NDS and ADS products. They are interchangeable. The price of these designer grates are a few dollars more than the standard slotted plastic grates. This allows for the affordable replacement of existing basin grates.
Decorative Cast Iron Grates by Iron Age Designs
Iron Age Designs has been around for a few years in the designer cast iron grate market. Their 12” x 12” catch basin grating options, designed to fit the NDS 1200 basin series, are top notch. Coincidently (or by default), they also fit the ADS and Old Castle 12” catch basin product lines. These grates are strong enough to use in a driveway drainage application. They will easily support the weight of a delivery truck or car. Expect to pay over $100 dollars for one of these grates. Also, expect years of enjoyment from one of these grates being an heirloom in your outdoor living space.
Color Coordinated Stone Grating by Jonite
Jonite has been around for years but is only now getting a foothold in North America. Headquartered in Singapore, they supply decorative grating and custom furniture made from a reinforced stone composite. The product they manufacture is resort quality. This is a drain option to be considered for a paver, tile or stone deck around your pool or in your outdoor living space. For custom jobs, Jonite is able to make personalized designs and match existing stone colors and textures.
The product selection in the United States is limited but growing. Six color options are available which match a common assortment of pavers and tile flooring. The photo below shows three patterns; Slotted, Baby Pebbles and Chiseled Rain. More options are to be available soon.
Any of the products you’ve seen today are available from Trench Drain Systems. Patio and driveway drainage kits are available online at www.DrainageKits.com. If you have any questions, please contact a Trench Drain Systems expert at 610-638-1221 or via email.
Just about any place in need of a drainage point can use catch basins (or one of their many variations) to evacuate water. Homeowners can use catch basins for driveway drainage, pools, patio point drains and landscape area drains. And, the installation techniques employed will be as diverse as the application.
An interesting variation of a catch basin is the low profile adapter. This is truncated, or shallow housing that is designed to accept a standard 12” x 12” catch basin grate and allows for direct connection to a vertical drainage pipe. These drains are similar in character to single point floor drains used inside the home, but without the flanges and waterproofing features. They have no reservoir to collect debris from the run-off water. They simply fit on top of the vertical 3”, 4” or 6” PVC drain pipe that is part of the drainage system (shown below without grating).
Both products have a similar dimensioned housing to carry the grate. The grates used in each drain are actually interchangeable. Each product requires a twist-in adapter (3 – 4” and 6”) to interface with the drainage pipe. Both are black colored. Even the company acronyms are close. ADS? NDS? What’s the difference?
There are a few subtle differences between the two low profile adapters that become apparent when you hold them. The ADS product is made from Polyethylene (PE) whereas NDS makes their product from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Parts made from polyethylene are a little more flexible and durable than PVC parts. PVC is easier to crack or break, especially in cold temperatures. But this characteristic may not have any bearing on longevity or performance, especially when the drain is installed in concrete.
The flip-side of that material analogy is that PVC, being a slightly stiffer material, gives the impression that the NDS product is a well designed, cleaner fitting drain body. Of course, the ADS drain body has the same design quality as the NDS product. However, the flexibility and feel of polyethylene may give an impression of it being an inferior product. This is certainly not the case, however.
The pipe adapter is an important part of the low profile adapter. It is the link between the grate housing and the drain pipe. As we all know, there are many drain pipes that can be used for an outdoors application, depending on the amount of water anticipated. Generally, 3” and 4” diameter pipes will handle the flow of water experienced in a residential setting. The two adapters, shown above, are designed to attach to both pipe sizes, both PVC and corrugated PE. Both adapters work well with their respective drain housing. For higher volume flow applications, pipe adapters for 6” diameter pipes are available from both manufacturers.
When installed in a patio or driveway, the low profile drain will be hidden from sight and the only thing visible is the top grating. There are a number of products available made to fit both of these housings. Each manufacturer has their own set of standard plastic and cast iron slotted grates, which are affordable, functional and diverse. We will discuss more decorative grating options in our follow-up blog.
Over the past couple years we have posted several articles discussing catch basins and catch basin installation. More specifically, we have found ourselves focusing on the broad selection of catch basin products for yard and downspout drainage manufactured by National Diversified Sales (NDS).
This article is devoted to one of my favorite NDS catch basin products called the Next Generation Basin, or 1200 NGB. The 1200 NGB is a unique 12” x 12” catch basin that allows you to adjust the invert elevations of the catch basin without changing elevation at grade (at the grating). No other residential grade catch basin has this feature!
Take a look at the 1200 NGB catch basin kit (above), which contains two open adjustable wall panels. The round openings in the basin’s wall panels are specifically designed to accept one of NDS’s universal outlets. So, not only are the inverts for the 1200 NGB adjustable, but it can fit a variety of piping options, too. In the photo below, a 1243 pipe adapter is shown alongside a panel wall.
If only one outlet is needed for the catch basin, the 1266 plug adapter can be inserted to seal up the wall. NDS also offers a solid wall panel (or plug side) can be inserted to close the open side (see photo below). Still, the plug side does offer a knock-out for a pipe adapter if you later change your mind about having an outlet at that location.
The 1200 NGB system was developed to make catch basin installation easier and more convenient. You can see in the photo below that it has three snap off side-outlet options, each changing the slope of drainage slightly. The lowest setting eliminates most sitting water from the basin, leaving less room for a sump to catch debris but draining the quickest. The center setting is the standard and connects with the middle of the catch basin. The highest setting gives the catch basin more elevation for drainage that needs to travel a longer distance. Depending on the situation, each of these outlets can be just what is needed to complete the job.
The 1200 NGB basin also gives you options in bottom discharging. In the bottom of every basin is an adapter knock-out (similar to the plug side knock-out), which can attach to solid a PVC pipe that feeds off your drainage system. By attaching the bottom outlet to a perforated pipe, you can create a leaching system uses storm water to recharge the ground water. Small “weep hole” knock-outs are also located in the bottom corners of the catch basin for those who are just trying to rid the basin of standing water.
The fourth option offered by the Next Generation Catch Basin is a total bottom cut-out, which allows the maximum amount of storm water to be put back into the ground. As the ground becomes saturated, excess water reaches the pipe elevation and is taken away in the drainage system. Though this option maximizes the water that remains on site – a popular choice among those interested in water sustainability – it is not the best option next to home foundations.
One of the best things about the 1200 NGB system, though, is the amount of grating options available for it. Standard plastic grating comes in 4 colors: black, sand, green and gray. Also, there are bronze, brass, galvanized steel and cast iron options. Below are examples of the standard slotted cast iron grating (left) and the black plastic grating (right).
Other ornamental cast iron grating options are manufactured by Iron Age Designs are also available for this catch basin. Below are four gorgeous patterns that are popular in patio and downspout catch basins. Clockwise from the upper left, the pattern names are Interlaken, Locust, Sun and Oblio.
These grates fit perfectly with the 1200 NGB. What makes the designs so fantastic is how each one incorporates a different image of nature into what would otherwise be a simple work of cast iron. The Interlaken Grate on the top left has a beautiful yet strict design; it must be a representation of the solid form of earth. On the top right, the Locust Grate provides a breezier feel; the leaf patterns soften the harshness of the material until it seems to flow. With the grate pictured on the bottom left, the Oblio Grate, you can get a sense of water in the concentric circles; the grate is reflecting the distorted surface of water during a rain. At the bottom right, the Sun Grate exudes warmth and intensity; the sun seems to pop out of the plain background of circles. Consider painting this grate in bright colors prior to installation.
Thanks for stopping by our blog to learn about the Next Generation Basin, the catch basin that does what no other residential basin can do! All of the products mentioned in this article are available from Trench Drain Systems. Call them at 610-638-1221 or email your inquiry.
National Diversified Sales (NDS) is a plastic trench drain manufacturer based out of California. They have a fantastic selection of plastic trench drain systems that are used in residential and commercial applications. The 3 inch-wide Mini Channel is popular because its honeycomb design and inexpensive price appeals to contractors and homeowners. However, a big part of the drainage system’s popularity comes from the number of complementary grating options offered.
The standard grate offered with the Mini Channel is still a 3 foot long plastic grate, which is offered in six colors (gray, white, green, black, red, and sand). Gray was the go-to color in the past, but customers are now branching out for colors that blend with the hardscaping; sand and white plastic grates, especially, are gaining popularity.
For those with a more discriminating taste, NDS offers two slotted brass grating options. The 1 foot long brass grates come in a satin or polished finish. Besides being simple, shiny, and elegant, they contain chamfered holes for optional screw placement, which helps keep the grates secured in the channel.
Another option available for Mini Channel customers is decorative cast iron grates. These aren’t the ordinary slotted grates of yester-year; the cast iron grating product lines below illustrate the beautiful side of a functional product that was previously considered a necessary – and ugly – evil by many homeowners. (Note: these grates are shown with a baked-on oil finish unless otherwise specified but come standard in an unfinished cast iron.)
Currently, five styles of cast iron grates work with NDS’ Mini Channel system: the Acanthus, Interlaken, Carbochon, Locust and the Minnione. There are a few basic differences between these four Mini Channel grates. The Interlaken is an intricate geometrical pattern while the Minnione has a flowing design. The Locust pattern evokes the feel of leaves blowing in the wind. Meanwhile, Carbochon’s open area is only accentuated by its bold pattern.
Style aside, the most noteworthy difference in the grates is length. The Interlaken (11″ long) is an inch shorter than the Minnione and Locust grates (12″ long). The Carbochon (14” long) outdoes all three grates by inches. I think the length of the grates is important because it determines what you can do with the design of the run. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked during the planning stage and leads to extra work later on.
Another difference in the grates is how they fit into the Mini Channel. Take a look at the photo above. Minnione, the thinnest grate, does not rest in the channel with the same depth that Interlaken, Locust and Carbochon do. While the other grates are cast with tongues that fit snugly into the Mini Channel’s patented “flying buttress” lip, one gets the feeling that the Minnione sits on top of the drain rather than resting inside it.
The foundry uses cast iron as the standard material when making these decorative grates but also manufactures cast brass, bronze and aluminum grating for an additional cost. We should note that cast iron grates are uncoated (raw) and will form a rust coating over time. The rusting process, when reproduced artificially to save time, is called a baked-on oil finish. I find the resulting patina charming.
If your application doesn’t support this view, though, consider painting with an epoxy or powder coating. The powder coating process smoothes out the natural texture of the cast iron grates, giving them a softer, less metallic look. You can really feel the difference between the painted and baked-on oil finishes; the process encased these grates in paint rather than changing their outer layers.
Let me just demonstrate the difference between the two available finishes in another way. Look at the Interlaken grates shown below: in terms of color, they are very similar. But, if you look closer you can see the different shine, the thickly coated surface of the grate on the right. It’s been powder coated. The grate on the left, though, has a baked-on oil finish. I’ll leave you to decide which one you like better. For additional information on cast iron grating finishes, visit our “Cast Iron Finishing Options” blog.
Cost is all in a person’s perspective, especially when talking about trench drain products. A simple plastic grate that comes in six basic colors is available for a very low price per foot. NDS’ brass grate, a beautiful, no-hassle solution for those still worried about rust or decor, is the most expensive. The cast iron grates, which add style and variety, come for the more moderate price that falls somewhere in between and have beautiful finish options. They are the true extra mile, the art to efficiency, and are the balance if a cost-efficient and stylish grate is desired.
For cut sheets and literature on the products discussed here, download the available drawings embedded throughout the article. If you’d like a quote on a Mini Channel drain system or decorative cast iron grating, contact Trench Drain Systems (TDS) at 610-638-1221 or send an email.
There are many plastic trench drain manufacturers in the marketplace. By far, the top two manufacturers are Zurn Industries and National Diversified Sales (NDS). Zurn is a world class plumbing supply manufacturer headquartered in Erie, PA. One of the four business grouping Zurn has is Drainage Products. The Perma-Trench products represent the plastic trench drain component of their drainage products offering. NDS is a manufacturer of plastic components used in storm water management, irrigation, water flow control and landscape water and root management. They are headquartered in Woodland Hills, CA.
These two very different companies find an overlapping marketplace with their pre-sloped, high density polyethylene product lines. For NDS, their Dura Slope product line was an outgrowth of their landscape drainage product line development. This product was meant to be a high performing drainage product used in larger landscape and residential projects.
The Zurn Perma-Trench products (all high density polyethylene) were developed as an economical alternative to polymer concrete trench drain for industrial drainage applications. The work horse of the Zurn trench drain product line is their 4” wide channel call Z886. Both Dura Slope and Z886 have similarities in channel composition and drainage capabilities. However, each has strengths which should be considered when choosing a product for a particular application.
Dimensional Comparison – Above is a photo comparing the Zurn Z886 and Dura Slope channel bodies as received from our supplier. At first glance, the main difference you see when comparing two is the length. The Zurn product is 2 meters (80”) in length while Dura Slope is 4 feet (48”). Next, you will notice that the Dura Slope has a black plastic cover attached with locking devices. The Zurn channel has 4 metal “spreading bars” which are used to keep the channel walls from flexing during installation. Dura Slope’s black cover helps to prevent channel compression during concrete placement, but also works to keep channel free from debris during drain installation. As a side benefit, the locking devices come free with the Dura Slope channel.
The channel width, slope and colour are relatively similar between these two products. And likewise, both products can achieve continual slopes of 100 feet (96 in the case of Dura Slope) and have the deepest channel section being 12”. Look at the close up photo comparing the two below.
Flow Data Comparison – The flow data reported on the Zurn product is 20-25% higher than that reported on similar invert depth Dura Slope channels. This didn’t seem reasonable since both channels are so similar. To investigate the disparity, I compared Z886 and Dura Slope channels of similar depth. (See Photo Above)
Flow rate is a function of the cross-sectional area of the channel, the channel slope and the channel material. As the material in each is HDPE, we can ignore this as a factor of the flow difference seen. The cross sectional area of each channel seemed to be similar. Z886 is a full 4” wide with a rounded section at the bottom. Dura Slope has a top width of 4.5”, but, then goes into a taper to the rounded bottom which has a 4” diameter. Maybe, Zurn has slightly more area…maybe. Could the extra 0.05% slope of the Z886 explain the 20% greater flow data? I don’t think so.
Upon closer analysis, I learned that Zurn’s technical data defines the invert depth of a channel to be the distance between the top of the grate and the lowest point in the channel. Dura Slope, on the other hand, measures the invert depth as the distance from the bottom of the grate to the lowest channel point. The resulting 0.75” difference has an effect on the overall cross-sectional area calculation, and in turn, affects the flow calculation. In essence, Zurn measures flow of the channel without a grate while Dura Slope recognizes that you will have a grate in the trench while it is in full flow. When each company’s data is compared after adjusting for this depth difference, Zurn shows only an 8% higher flow rate than Dura Slope.
Channel Feature Comparisons – Other channel features worth noting include built in rebar clips and anchors, built-in bottom outlets, channel connections and end outlets. Both Zurn and Dura Slope products have rebar clips built into the channel body. (See above.) Rebar clips are used to help suspend the channel within an excavated trench during installation. Rebar sections are generally hammered into the ground. The purpose of the rebar clip is to attach the channel to the embedded rebar. The rebar clip designs for the Z886 and Dura Slope channels are different but equally functional. Z886 has a side clipping design while Dura Slope has a clip opening that is perpendicular to the channel. Both clips have tie wire holes. The Z886 wire tie hole is in the outer most side of the clip.
Rebar clips are additionally helpful to stabilize and secure the channel after it has been set in concrete. One complaint I’ve heard about plastic trench drain channels (as opposed to polymer concrete) is that, over time, there is a tendency for the channels to separate from the hardened concrete, leaving a gap that can fill with debris and pinching the channel opening. In comparison to polymer concrete channels, this is probably a true statement, though maybe a little misleading. To help secure the channel firmly into the concrete and minimize this separation, Zurn has designed additional anchor posts at each rib point of the channel. Dura Slope doesn’t have additional anchors at their rib points. However, the HDPE used to make the Dura Slope product seems to be more rigid, maybe because of added fillers used in the plastic.
A feature of every Dura Slope channel is a built-in bottom outlet. This gives the contractor flexibility in deciding the drainage points of a long run or the convenience of not having to order a separate adapter if a bottom outlet is required. To use the bottom outlet, a 4” diameter hole bit is used to drill out an opening in the channel within the bottom outlet. Thereafter, a 4” schedule 40 pipe hub or Sch. 40 hub insert (DS-126) can be attached.
Zurn’s Z886 bottom outlet design also gives you a degree of flexibility. The Z886 doesn’t have a built-in bottom outlet with each channel. However, separate bottom outlets are available in 2”, 3”, 4” and 6” diameters. These can be installed anywhere along the channel bottom which allow for more complex drainage configurations.
Both Z886 and Dura Slope have tongue and groove joint connections. They allow for quick and easy installation. Dura Slope has a trademarked DuraLoc TM design which snaps to lock the channels together once the tongue has been properly inserted into the groove. I am impressed to see how quickly these go together and how straight the channels remain after connection.
The Zurn tongue and groove joint connection slides together easy enough. But, it just isn’t as user-friendly as the Dura Slope product. To secure the joints into place, you are required to place a screw at each side of the joint so you can mechanically connect the channels.
One of the selling points for the Z886 channel in Zurn literature is the fast installation times due to the tongue and groove connection and the 80” channel lengths. The longer channel lengths are thought to reduce the hassle of connecting channel (which is what takes time in setting drain). When compared to traditional polymer concrete systems, this may be true.
However, you cannot make the same inference when comparing Dura Slope and Z886. I feel the quick locking channel design feature of Dura Slope overshadows any installation advantage that the Z886 product may have despite the longer channel size. Dura Slope is just easier and quicker to assemble.
While I’m on the soap box commenting about channel length, I want to point out that long channel lengths are best when you have larger, longer channel runs. For smaller projects, you may not have need for a full 80” section. For common trench drain applications, such as a 12 ft or 16 ft wide driveway drain, a channel with a 4 foot length would be optimal. If an 80” channel was to be used on this project, a portion of the channel would have to be cut and discarded. As the project becomes larger in scope, a certain amount of flexibility is inherited. Lengths can be changed easier in the field to accommodate the channel increment. And with larger projects, if a channel is to be cut and discarded, it is a much smaller percent of the project cost than it would be in a small residential project. This is not to infer that smaller length channels shouldn’t be used in larger drainage projects. Smaller channels can be quicker to install, and they are easier to store.
One feature that aids Z886 in large drainage projects is its extender panels. These are wall panels that can be added to a channel to allow the drain to be installed at greater depths or with longer continual sloping runs. Dura Slope doesn’t offer this feature.
A final feature to compare between these two systems are end caps or end outlets. Both products have caps and outlets made from HDPE, which makes it easy to trim and drill out in the field using standard power tools. Both have a design that allows the outlet to attach by inserting into a channel groove and the end cap (shallow end) to be attached with screws. Zurn’s outlets are supplied with screws, while Dura Slope requires you to purchase these separately. There will be an excess portion of the cap which needs to be removed, with both systems, to make the cap level with grade. Dura Slope end cap design shows a depth scale that corresponds with the channel you are using as the last channel to make trimming easier. Zurn’s end cap design has a saddle that rests within the channel to make screw mounting easier during installation.
To recap, below is a quick comparison of the Z886 and Dura Slope with respect to channel features and geometry.
Parting Comments – If we are to look solely at the merits of each channel, I would say that Dura Slope has more to offer both home owners and contractors. The Dura Slope was designed to be easy to handle, quicker to install, with minimal assembly required. I personally like the shorter channel lengths because they fit on my shelves and are much easier to ship to my customers. I feel the plastic used to make the Dura Slope is stiffer than that used in Z886, which leads to straighter channel installations and less channel-concrete separation.
Having said that, I acknowledge that the Z886 channel has advantages over Dura Slope in applications where long, continuous slopes are required. By using extender panels, runs as long as 300 feet of continual sloping drain are achievable. In addition, Z886 has a wider variety of outlet diameter options which can help in more complex drainage projects. This is one of the reasons why you will see Zurn Z886 specified on big jobs more often than you will see Dura Slope.
The channel component of any trench drain is important when considering the engineering properties and installation. But this is just half of trench drain. The portion of the drain that people see after installation is the grate. Increasingly, the channel grating is becoming the focal point of the trench drain selection process. Aesthetics, ADA compliance, load capability and corrosion resistance are all properties to consider when selecting a trench drain grate. Part 2 of this report will continue the discussion on Zurn’s Z886 and NDS Dura Slope by focusing on trench drain grate options available from each.
Trench Drain Systems is a company which specializes in providing quick solutions to drainage problems. For more information about the trench drain products discussed in this article, visit the website or call 610-638-1221 for immediate assistance.
The Z880 Perma Trench is one of Zurn’s most popular residential trench drain product lines. Its name may sound intimidating, but there’s nothing to fear from this plastic drain. It was designed for pools, patios and landscape drainage much like its competitor, the NDS Mini Channel. Both the NDS Mini Channel and the Z880 are 3” wide at the top, and both systems have similar features that give each other a run for the money.
Channel Body Differences
The difference between the two systems really starts with the channel bodies. Take a look at the photo above.
The Mini Channel (shown left) has a gray, honeycombed channel design meant to distribute load stress and prevent the system from collapsing. This design extends to the grate supports, which hang out from the channel walls in an upside down flying buttress.
You can see that the Zurn Z880 (shown right) has a thicker, solid channel body. It is composed of high density polyethylene (HDPE), the same material as the Zurn Z886 or NDS Dura Slope commercial-grade trench drain systems. The inherent durability of the channel body gives some “street cred” to this little patio drain.
The Z880 channel body also has “ribs” extending from the outer walls that give the channel extra surface area at vital contact points to the surrounding concrete. The ribs help “grab” the concrete, anchoring the system in place and providing additional strength. The channel will not separate from the concrete once installed. The ribs also add flexibility to the design of the system because they serve as cutoff points in the drain that can still connect to other modular channels or outlets. I’d estimate the cutoffs are every foot.
The walls of the Mini Channel are made of smooth PVC. The absence of ribbing is advantageous when installing in a paver patio but poses a problem in the long run if you want to install it in concrete. Without ribbing to act as anchoring points, the drain body can begin to separate from the concrete years after installation. In addition, water and dirt may begin to flow between the concrete-channel interface, causing the channel to pinch. To prevent this pinching effect and the subsequent weakening of the channel wall, make certain that the Mini channel grates are always securely fastened down.
Grating Option Comparison
While Mini Channel grates come in a standard slotted pattern, the Z880 grates (shown below) have a more decorative pattern that gives them a classier appearance. The thicker grate also holds more weight, providing more structural integrity than thinner Mini Channel grates, but ultimately has less open area for water to drain.
The Z880 and Mini Channel systems each offer six color options which are the same with one exception. The Z880 offers a sky blue grate while the Mini Channel offers a forest green grate.
If you choose the Z880 system, you’ll be surprised to see that the channel matches the grates’ color. Unlike pool drains by other suppliers, the Zurn Z880 eliminates this “edge line of a different color” that borders the grating. This gives the system an overall nicer appearance.
Grates for the Z880 system clip into place. Each grate has several “tongues” on its sides that snap into the channel grooves. It’s easier than buying grate screws and lock downs, won’t create weak points in the channel structure and can be popped out of place easier for cleaning.
Iron Age Grating Options – Cast iron decorative grating is available for both drainage systems. Created by Iron Age Designs, the grates are both beautiful and efficient.
The Mini Channel has four decorative patterns that fit the system, three of which are shown below: Minnione, Carbochon and Interlaken. Each grate is slightly different in terms of thickness and how it sits inside the channel. Iron Age cast iron grates make NO accommodations for screws needed to lock down the grate.
So far there is only one cast iron grate option offered by Iron Age for the Zurn Z880 pool drain. What amazes me about the pattern is that it’s a Regular Joe. No, really, it is. I’ve never found out who was behind it, but somewhere along the lines the decorative option for the Z880 drain became a cast iron slotted grate. Of course, it looks entirely more sophisticated than a standard slotted grate, but it’s something I’ve never stopped being amused about.
One thing that is not amusing about the Regular Joe grate for the Z880 is the placement of its “tongues.” In the picture above, you can see the inconsistency between the plastic Zurn grate and the Iron Age Designs option. The lockdown tongue on the cast iron grate is placed too high, which means it probably won’t secure into the channel properly.
I don’t want to sell the Z880 drain short, though. Zurn does offer four other decorative options, including a bronze decorative grate, for homeowners who want to upgrade from plastic without buying the Iron Age grate.
Whereas, the Mini channel may wear and tear more quickly (especially in regions of freeze-thaw) because of the cellular channel design, the Z880’s solid body design and anchoring points makes it a more rugged product over the long haul. The Mini Channel is a sleeker, less expensive channel drain system that works well when used with pavers. The Z880 is a sturdier system designed for concrete installation. These two systems are so similar, yet they are worlds apart.