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’ 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 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. The 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.