Tag Archives: DIY drainage

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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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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