The Definitive Guide to Trench Drain Systems 101

The Absolute Guide to Trench Drain Systems



What is a Trench Drain?


A trench drain is a linear drainage application used to catch, collect and convey water from a starting location to and an outlet or catch basin.

These Linear Drains are made up of: channels, end caps, end outlets, grates, catch basin and other installation accessories.

Channel materials include: Fiber Reinforced Concrete, Polymer Concrete, Stainless Steel and HDPE.

Grate Materials include: Ductile Iron, Cast Iron, Galvinized Steel and Polymer.

Technical specifications can be viewed here.






Linear Drain Systems can be made of polymer or concrete channels or troughs




Trench Drain Systems (strip drains, channel drains, floor drains) are linear drainage applications that catch, collect and convey water and other liquids. Choosing the right trench drain may seem like a daunting task, with all different sizes, materials makes and models. But in all reality, anyone can find the right drainage solution by understanding this simple overview and checklist.


There are two major groups of trench drains. Polymer Channels and Concrete Channels.


Polymer based channels can come in the form of hdpe (high density polyethylene) or fiberglass. Concrete based channels can come in the form of fiber reinforced concrete or polymer concrete.


Polymer channels have anchors for rebar which prevent floating.


Concrete channels have articulated mechanical anchors which come pre formed in the trench drain channel.


These Linear Drains are typically 4" , 5" , 6" , 8" or 12" wide. Anything larger than 12" is usually overkill. They come in varying depths, with shallow profiles, deep profiles or pre sloped systems. Pre sloped trench drains usually have a .75% or 1% external slope. Meaning, that each channel is numerically numbered and slightly deeper than the one that precedes it.


For instance Channel 1 could be 4.25" to 4.75". Which would connect to Channel 2 which would be 4.75" deep to 5.25" deep.

Most trench drain systems come pre sloped.


Drains can be furnished and configured pre sloped or neutral. Neutral trench drains have the same depth from the end cap (start) to the end outlet or bottom outlet (finish)



Channel Drains are straight drainage applications used to collect water from a point and transfer it to another desired location.  A trench drain system is usually composed of a few different parts including:



  • a channel




  • a grate


  • an end cap
  • an end outlet


  • catch basin




Composition and Makeup



Cast iron grates on an hdpe channel (Left) Galvinized Steel perforated grates on a concrete channel (Right)



Most of these parts are beneath the surface and after they are installed shouldn’t be seen from or heard from if installed properly. Channels can come with attachments for re bar on the side which secure the channel to the concrete bed which will be poured as shown in the following clip.



Trench Drain Channels are long, tubular u shaped conduits.

The channel can be made of:

  • HDPE/ Fiberglass / Polymer
  • Polymer Concrete
  • Fiber Reinforced Concrete
  • Cast iron,
  • Stainless steel

Plastic derivative channels are more than sufficient for most residential applications.  One of the main things to consider when determining channel material is load bearing.

Load bearing is how much weight the drain can and is expected to hold. In most residential situations, the heaviest thing that will be going over these drains are delivery trucks, oil and gas trucks and typical “highway rated traffic”. In most instances a polymer channel should be sufficient. Higher grade materials wouldn’t add much functional or structural integrity to the system.  Polymer channels are budget friendly, last long and easy to assemble.

There are some differences between channels. As previously mentioned, some have anchors for re bar to prevent the drain from floating during installation. The Dura Slope has anchors that are pre fabricated, circular place holders for re bar. This thoughtful and measure allows the installer to fasten re bar beside the channel every section and the concrete will be poured around the re bar to prevent it from “floating” or moving during the installation process.

In lieu of re bar, other manufacturers have chosen to have articulated channel bodies so the concrete can form a natural “wet blanket” around the rivets as its poured.  These indentations allow the poured concrete to form better and also gives an added layer of foundation.



Concrete channels have vented articulated designs to conform with concrete pour


More on ASTM Standards and Ratings can be viewed here.

How to select the right drain? When selecting the right trench drain, consider the following

Load bearing How much weight will the trench drain need  to bear. Load is classified into different load classes (light, medium and heavy). Choosing the appropriate load capacity is determined by the type of traffic.
Type of traffic- Pedestrians, cars, trucks, forklifts airplanes and wheel load. Pedestrians require ADA slot styles and heel proof grates so shoes don't get stuck.

Drain sizing - Depending on expected flow rates, most drains will be 4”, 6” or 8”. Drain sizing depends on flow rates, land size and how much water is expected to be drained.
Channel & Grate Selection
Choose the right channel and grate with heavy duty enhanced concrete, HDPE, cast iron, stainless steel or polymer

Site conditions play a significant role in determining channel material. Stainless steel works better in extreme temperatures with freeze and thaw cycles. Stainless steel deals well with chemicals and caustic agents. Galvinized steel does not rust. Cast iron does well for general purpose interior and exterior use cases.

Grates are chosen based on site and user requirements, load bearing, and expected water flow. Generally, 3" - 12" is a safe width to use. Grates are made in cast iron, ductile iron, stainless steel, polymer and other materials. Polymer is suitable for pedestrians. Cast iron and galvinized steel for cars, trucks, forklifts and traffic rated applications. ADA grates (American with disabilities act) and heel proof grates are a good choice for pedestrians.

Residential Drainage

Commercial Drainage

Drains are an integral part of any home. A good drainage system will keep the house free from water accumulation caused by improper slope that can result in foul smell, seepage and mold. During spells of excess rainfall many residences face the problem of water accumulation in their foundation, basements, driveways and yards. Not only does it look unsightly, it can ruin the landscape and cost a fortune to get the damage repaired.

Residential trench drains serve the purpose of removing surface water from storm water runoff and excess rainfall by diverting it effectively from areas prone to flooding. Why use Residential Trench Drains? Trench drains are so versatile that using it for residential application is as easy as it comes. With a wide variety of sizes and patterns to choose from, trench drains are no more eye sores in an otherwise lovely landscape. Trench drains can be customized based on individual

Materials used to make trench drains are strong with high compression strength and low porosity such as cast iron, steel, polymer concrete and fiberglass. They are easy to assemble within a trench and need to be set in concrete to help attain integrity required for a good drainage system. Trench drains can be used within the house such as in the shower room, indoor garden, external kitchen and porch. Trench drains can be used outside the house for swimming pools, gardens, downspouts, barns, outhouse, driveways and sidewalks.
While drainage is commonly associated with runoff from rainfall, it is equally applicable in commercial establishments such as food processing units, chemical factories and vehicle service centers. Industries that utilize processes that require the use of cleaning agents need to have a good drainage system in place. Surface storm water runoff near commercial establishments such as offices, warehouses and parking areas also need to be managed in order to prevent clogging of storm water drains. Why use Commercial Trench Drains?

Commercial trench drains are available in a number of visually appealing decorative designs. These trench drains are eco-friendly and adhere to safety norms such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Public places such as parks, pools and water fountains utilize decorative commercial trench drains and grates that adhere to ADA for the benefit of pedestrians and tourists in order to enable them to walk over freely.

Decorative trench drains with decorative grates are also great for use near office buildings and businesses. Parking areas also require trench drains and should be installed in such a way that vehicles never run over the length of the grate. It is a good idea to install trench drains in warehouses that store goods. Excess rainwater or storm water runoff can be easily directed away from the warehouse by installing trench drains on the periphery.

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