Ever since the rise of plastic trench drains, there have been three big misconceptions about plastic driveway drains.
they’re not traffic rated (FALSE)
they’re not sloped (FALSE)
they’re not decorative (FALSE)
Popular plastic channel drains only provide surface level view of your options. Based on a trip to their local chain store, a homeowner would expect a gray plastic Spee-D Channel. But you can do better with your driveway drain.
Pre-Sloped Driveway Drains
Pre-sloped trench drains aren’t a necessity, but they do make things easier. A trench drain with a built in grade drains water faster than non-sloped drains, meaning less sediment build up inside the trench drain.
I’d recommend one of two big names in plastic trench drains for a residential driveway project:
NDS Dura Slope Driveway Drains
NDS Dura Slope is a 6” commercial grade system made from HDPE (high density polyethylene). It comes in 4ft sections that combine to create longer runs of sloped drain. At .7% slope, Dura Slope ranks among the highest flow rates of any system its size.
You can also use outlet options to adjust Dura Slope’s layout. Though 4” end outlets are most common, you can build in a 4” bottom outlet. Catch basins with trash baskets create a handy water reservoir during big storms that also prevents leafy debris from getting past the drain into the piping below.
And Dura Slope is built for traffic right down to the grates. The system’s “basic” grate option is a light traffic plastic grate perfect for cars, SUVs and light trucks. From there you’ll be able to upgrade to iron grates, which are rated for more commercial traffic such as delivery vans and trash trucks.
Storing tractors or fork trucks in your garage? You may want to consider frames for your Dura Slope system.
Zurn Z886 Driveway System
Zurn’s HDPE Z886 is a popular name in 6” commercial systems, which doesn’t make it better so much as a brand to be reckoned with. With a 4” ID width, it has roughly the same water capacity as the competition. Capacity aside, Z886’s .75% slope actually offers the most slope of any system its size.
The big perk of using Z886 for driveways comes on bigger projects. Z886 channels are two meters (80”) long, meaning a faster installation and fewer joints. Fewer joints mean less chance of the drain going crooked or needing to be re-leveled during installation.
The area where Z886 excels is grating options. Though they don’t have traffic rated plastic grates, Zurn does offer ductile iron, fiberglass and stainless steel in traffic-rated varieties. The price and material can get excessive for a simple residential project, but luckily Z886’s ductile iron grate is a good standard to fall back on. Don’t let the options get to your head.
Non-sloped Driveway Drains
Slope isn’t a given, and you’re not likely to see it in drains smaller than 6” wide. Lest we get nervous about effective drainage, however, it is worth reviewing a principle: water always seeks its own level. If there is a lower place where water can go, it will find its way there. Don’t agonize over it.
Non-sloping drains will generally be smaller than 6” and have fewer options. For example, don’t expect catch basins.
Polylok for Driveways
Polylok is surprisingly heavy duty for a 5” plastic drain that works in driveways. Its sturdy channel walls enable it to handle H-20 wheel loads, but you’ll have to install the drain in concrete to see the benefits. Luckily, the system is designed for easy assembly and quick concrete installation.
Homeowners, whether installing Polylok in a driveway or a patio, enjoy Polylok’s layout flexibility. The system offers T-intersections and corner segments without the special fabricating you’d need with pre-sloped systems like Z886 and Dura Slope.
Notably, Polylok’s color options extend to the channel itself. Your choice of black, gray, sand or green grates come with matching drain body, eliminating pesky edge lines so common in trench drains. And, if you need a ductile iron grate, it’s easy to maintain style by pairing the grate with a black channel.
Pro-Series 5 in Driveways
The 5” Pro-Series by NDS combines a solid channel construction with the bells and whistles of a bigger system. Pro-Series is a commercial system disguised by its HDPE composition. But Pro-Series 5 has a lot going for it.
For starters, the channel drain comes in shallow (2-5/8”) and deep (4-3/4”) varieties. Both include grooves every 4 inches in case you need to cut the system to a shorter-than-standard lengths. While shallow channel drains don’t allow you to design corners, they do offer side outlets that you can’t get with deeper channels. Pro-Series’ deeper channels, meanwhile, offer 90- and 45- elbows. They also include radius couplers, allowing the system to “bend” by six degrees.
Both channel profiles accept the same grates, which range from pedestrian-only perforated to galvanized steel slotted and H-20 rated iron grates. The most common grate for residential driveways, however, is a light traffic slotted grate (available in six colors) that handles up to 72 gallons per minute… per foot.
Plastic trench drains are giving traditional drains serious competition in driveway applications. But don’t make the mistake of buying from a chain hardware store expecting to get the strength or full range of design available on the market.
The Pro Series channel has a grating recess that is supported by concrete rather than the plastic channel itself.
MEArin 100 is actually a fiber-reinforced plastic system, but it is popular on residential projects because of its affordability and decorative grating options.
At 5.3” wide, MEArin 100 has the chops to take on more commercial systems. Each fiberglass channels comes with a solid construction and provides a pre-marked recess for bottom outlets.
Unlike many pre-sloped drains, MEArin 100 also offers affordable, pre-fabricated corners to make installation in large driveway pads easier.
You can choose from 20 grating options, Class A (pedestrian only) to Class C. Ductile iron and galvanized steel grates will work in driveways and garages.
Here’s a quick reference list of the top plastic driveway drains available:
NDS Dura Slope
NDS 5” Pro Series
MEA’s MEArin 100
Have a driveway related question? Give us a call at 610-638-1221 to discuss your driveway drain project. Or, send in photos and questions to email@example.com.
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.
If you’ve been looking for a MEArin 100 installation guide, you’re in luck!
Trench Drain Systems partnered up with a customer last month to create an accurate install guide designed specifically for the MEArin system.
I love MEArin 100. I worked with it for years, and I’ve found that it has some great things going for it, especially for homeowners who need an affordable drain around the house.
Versatility. MEArin 100 is the right size for a patio or pool situation, yet it’s tough enough for driveway applications.
Cover Selection. To quote a coworker, MEArin 100 comes with “billions and billions of grating option.” While I don’t think it’s quite so high, MEArin 100 does
DIY Friendly. All the parts assemble easily in MEArin 100. And, installation doesn’t require technical expertise. It’s great for the residential do-it-yourselfer!
Here’s how it happened:
When we asked MEA to send us an accurate install bulletin for MEArin 100, they sent us the same incorrect one we’d been using for years. They didn’t have an installation guide for the system, either.
We wouldn’t send contractors off to install commercial drains without a bulletin, so why were we doing it to homeowners with less experience? It wasn’t acceptable. So we decided to make our own.
At the same time, one of our customers who had purchased MEArin 100, offered to send us photos from his installation. A retired engineer, he even took the time to make suggestions for our new installation guide based on his experience installing the drain.
We’re proud to have an installation guide that is easy for DIY homeowners to reference. Use it for your own MEArin 100 installation – or as a basic guide for any driveway installation.
Need professional advice? Give Trench Drain Systems a call at 610-638-1221 or send a request to our estimating department!
In 2012, NDS rolled out an improved channel for the 5 inch Pro Series. The 5 inch Pro Series is the workhorse of the Pro Series line, which ranges from 3” – 12” wide. The 5 inch Pro Series is sold in hardware stores around the country, though only in kit form. If you want to buy special grates or additional components, you’ll need to find an online store.
The first striking difference between the new and old design is the rebar attachment feature. (See below.) In the original rebar attachment design, a hole in the channel’s supporting foot allowed the installer to thread a piece of construction wire to connect rebar. The new rebar attachment design features a plastic clip that affixes to a No. 4 rebar (1/2”) without a tie wire.
The new 5 inch Pro Series model also sports a new rib design. The ribbing was originally designed into the system to define the location where the channel could be cut during final channel length adjustment. Compared above, one can see how one of the ribs in each pair has been extended. The extended rib has three purposes.
It acts as a guide to assist in manual trimming of the channel,
It gives more rigidity to the channel body, and
It is part of a new, snap-fit tongue-and-groove channel connection design.
There is a fourth purpose of the rib re-design, shown above. Three of the extended ribs have pedestal extensions, which are great for leveling the channel during installation on a tamped gravel surface. In the previous 5 inch Pro-Series design, the bottom outlet prevented the channel from setting level on a flat surface. The new design eliminates this issue to improve the overall installation experience.
Improved Channel Connection
Probably the best outcome of the 5 inch Pro Series redesign is the new channel connection snap fit. Above, one can see both designs are still a tongue and groove fitting. The big difference is in the small “snap housing” at the top of the new design (left channel). Upon completion of the tongue and groove connection, a tab on the male end of the channel makes a “snap fit” with this housing and secures the assembly.
With the previous design, PVC glue was used to secure the channel connection. Though, PVC glue would make the joint between the two channels water tight, it’ application was sometimes an afterthought and made for a more complicated installation.
Different Plastic Composition
You may have noticed a slight color difference between the two channels in comparisons above. That’s because NDS altered the plastic composition of the channels. The early version was made of a Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) composition while the new channel is made from Poly Ester (PE). The grates used in the system have not changed. They are still as reliable as they were in the past.
There are property differences between the two plastics. However, these differences may be more significant to the manufacturer than the customer. Two helpful observations I’ve made between the two plastics:
You can’t use PVC Glue to connect your new 5 inch Pro Series channels. It doesn’t work. You’ll have to find another product other than “good ol’” PVC glue. I initially learned of the new channel design from an irate customer complaining that he couldn’t glue these new channels together. At that point, NDS still had an old installation data sheet circulating. Oops!!
If you freeze and drop PVC components, they will crack. I learned this after receiving a January shipment of NDS PVC catch basins. The product arrived in the box shattered due to poor handling by the trucking company. If it was July, they probably wouldn’t have been broken.
The final difference between the two 5 inch Pro Series designs is the channel weight. The new channel weighs 15 percent less than the previous channel. This may be due to the actual density of the plastic itself. Or, it could be related to some reduced channel dimensions. My gut feeling is that the weight change is an inherent property of the plastic rather than reducing the amount of plastic in the design. In fact, with the added features of the new design, it seems that NDS has “beefed up” on the volume of this channel. Again, this is my gut feeling and not based on any technical evidence.
NDS’s design change to the 5 inch Pro-Series hasn’t changed the width or length, but new design features make installation easier. Some installation problems may crop up if one is trying to make a construction blending the two designs.
I’ll miss the old design because we spent so many years together. However, I look forward to working with this new channel. Good job NDS, Inc.!!!
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.
Are most residential drainage projects solved by plastic trench drain?
It’s starting to look that way.
As society’s attention to stormwater runoff issues grows, so does our need to learn about water control products such as trench drains. Concrete and fiberglass trench drains dominated the commercial market for years. These polymer concrete or fiberglass based drainage systems proved too costly, which leaves plastic as the alternative material for household drainage products. For many homeowners, plastic trench drain offers the best value – if they can find a drainage system right for their needs.
Go to the local landscape supply or home improvement store and you’ll only see a small sample of plastic drainage products. Maybe you’ll even find actual trench drain on the shelves. But ask yourself, “Is this what I want?” Most likely, this is not what you originally envisioned. Maybe you expected a bigger variety. Maybe you are uncertain of all the products available on the market or how to find them.
PlasticTrenchDrain.com is here to shed some light on plastic trench drain systems and manufacturers plastic drainage products. Homeowners and contractors alike will see products and find possibilities to solve drainage problems using plastic systems.
I will occasionally give you website links that will help you on your quest for knowledge. I will show systems that meet your engineering requirements, budget and aesthetic needs. If you have immediate questions that need answering, feel free to leave a comment below or email me.