In commercial and residential settings, standing water can cause significant problems. Beyond being a nuisance, standing water poses safety hazards and can cause severe structural issues. In outdoor environments, standing water can attract bugs and cause land erosion.
To solve the issue of standing water, trenches were invented in the 1200s. Throughout the centuries, the idea of rudimentary trenches evolved into the modern trench drain system.
Choosing a trench drain system for your unique needs takes considerable consideration. Continue reading below to learn what essential factors to consider before making a decision.
What Is the Purpose of a Trench Drain System?
A trench drain system is designed to protect paved surfaces and surrounding areas from damage related to standing water and chemical runoff. The primary part of these systems is a long trough-shaped body called a trench. This helps quickly and efficiently evacuate water that flows into the channel via the grate or opening.
Trench drain systems are used in many applications, both residential and commercial. Residential trench drains include those used in bathrooms and kitchens or surrounding driveways and pools.
For this article, the primary focus is on commercial trench drain systems. Residential trench drains are only touched on briefly. Commercial trench drains are used in a wide array of industries and applications, wherever liquids are present.
Understanding Trench Drain System Categories
To choose the right trench drain for your needs, it’s necessary to understand how these systems are categorized. Although not all-inclusive, the following are the most common categories you’ll see:
- Residential – designed primarily for use in homes or similar light-duty applications
- Commercial – created for businesses and heavy-duty projects
- Heavy Duty – designed specifically for areas with heavy water flow or to withstand heavy equipment traffic
- Shallow – designed for use in projects where available height and depth parameters are limited
- Stainless Steel – a higher quality of trench drains providing higher hygiene and easier cleaning that don’t rust
Once you understand the different categories you may see associated with potential trench drain, you need to learn the parts that make up these systems.
Understanding the Parts of a Trench Drain System
To choose the right trench drain, you need to understand the varying parts that make up these systems. The construction of a trench drain is relatively simple. However, each piece plays a vital role in ensuring the drain can accomplish its tasks.
The basic parts of a trench drain system are as follows:
- Solid End Cap – A solid end that doesn’t allow for drainage, attached to one end of the channel
- Grate – A cover for the channel that allows water to flow inside
- Bottom Outlet – An opening at the end of the channel attached to a pipe that allows water to be removed
- End Outlet Cap – A cap at the end of the channel allowing water to drain through
- Channel – A flat, sturdy bed or trench that directs water to flow out of the trench continually
With a basic understanding of the parts creating a trench drain system, you’ll understand the additional tips on how to choose the right one for your applications.
Choose an Appropriate Flow Rate
Several factors determine a trench drain system’s flow rate. The primary consideration is how wide the drain is and how much water the grate allows in at a time. Broken done, the flow rate is how much and how fast a drain can remove water.
Choosing an appropriate flow rate is essential since the drain’s primary job is to remove liquids. Consider the needs of the area where the drain is to be installed. Remember, it’s always better to slightly overestimate flow rate needs versus underestimating.
Choose a Strong Enough Load Capacity
The load capacity determines how much weight the drainage system can handle. Sometimes the drain will be in an out-of-the-way area and doesn’t need a high load capacity. Other times, however, the drain system needs to withstand heavy equipment or heavy foot traffic.
Consider how many people and types of vehicles or equipment will be traveling over the area where your drain system will be installed. Once you figure out the minimum load capacity necessary for your drain system, ensure the one you choose is strong enough. The load capacity is primarily determined based on the materials used to build the drain.
Ensure the Drain and Grate Are Resistant to Chemicals
Many business owners fail to realize that all drain systems and grates need to have some chemical resistance. In certain applications, chemical resistance becomes more necessary. Prime examples of those who need additional resistance include chemical manufacturers and those working in industries where sanitization chemicals are used more frequently than average.
Every drain needs some level of resistance, however. Drains must stand up to being routinely cleaned and flushed out, which often uses chemicals to ensure proper sanitation.
If a trench drain isn’t created with some chemical resistance, it’ll degrade over time. How fast degradation occurs will depend on the strength of the materials, but it can eventually lead to cracks and leaks inside the drain. These issues can cause flooding or, depending on the drain’s placement, structural issues inside buildings.
Understanding if You Need a Heat Resistant System
Heat resistant trench drain systems are created to handle liquids at high temperatures. Many companies don’t require heat resistance in their drains, but some do. A few examples of situations requiring heat resistant trench drains include breweries, food processing plants, and industrial plants.
Consider Ease of Maintenance
How often will you clean your drain system, and with what method?
What parts of the system will need to be replaced eventually?
How complicated and expensive will those replacements be?
These questions can help you consider how easy the trench drain you choose will be to maintain. It’s essential to select a system your company will be able to keep up with. Otherwise, your investment will end up being a bust.
Each type of trench drain will have a different set of maintenance tasks required to keep it running smoothly, based on various considerations. The different materials used in the drain and grate will require certain things.
Before choosing a trench drain, do your research on how much upkeep is required. Consider whether your company is equipped to handle this upkeep. If the answer is no, look for a solution that’s easier to care for.
Take the Estimated Lifespan Into Consideration
The estimated lifespan of a trench drain is how long it should last with proper upkeep. An important thing to remember is that this is only an estimate.
If you take proper care of your drain system, it may last longer than its estimated lifespan. Failing to take adequate care of the system can cause the opposite effect. The system may break or need replacement well before you hoped.
The estimated lifespan is based on several factors, but the most crucial consideration is what materials it’s made of. Generally, stainless steel is the most durable available material and will have the longest lifespan. The trade-off is that stainless steel tends to be more expensive than other options.
Although higher-quality materials cost more upfront, they tend to produce a better return on investment (ROI). An easy way to figure out how good a deal your company is getting is to break the total price down to price per year.
How to Figure Out the Cost per Year
As an example, let’s say there are two trench drain system options you’re considering for a warehouse.
The first is of higher-quality and requires an upfront investment of $30,000. The estimated lifespan of this investment is 40 years.
The second is of lower quality and requires an upfront investment of $20,000. The estimated lifespan of this investment is 20 years.
To figure out the cost per year, you take the overall price and divide it by the number of years it’s estimated to last. This means the cost per year of the first option is $750. The second option ends up costing $1,000.
The first option, although requiring a higher initial investment, ends up being more cost-effective. Without knowing the estimated lifespan of a product, you can’t fully understand your ROI.
Please keep in mind these aren’t actual project costs but are only being used as examples. Your overall costs may be significantly higher or lower than what is being used in this example.
Consider the Slope of the Trench Drain System
The slope of a drain system refers to the angle at which it’s installed. Some systems come pre-sloped. This means the bed of the channel has been designed to slow downwards.
The steeper the slope, the faster water will move towards the bottom of the drain, where it can be removed through a pipe. Sometimes, the landscape will provide the necessary slope to allow water to continue moving downwards.
To figure out how much of a slope you need, consider how fast water or other liquids must be removed from the area. If fluid is entering the drain system quickly, not enough incline can cause slow drainage and overflows. If only occasional, small amounts of liquid will be entering the system, a significantly smaller slope will work fine.
Consider Visual Aesthetics
If a drain system is installed in a public space or outdoor venue, visual aesthetics need to be considered. You don’t want an unsightly grate to ruin the appearance of a space. You’ll generally want to choose a design that best matches the area where the system will be installed.
Visual aesthetics may not be of consequence to some commercial buyers. Grates being installed in warehouses or indoor spaces may not need to be visually pleasing.
Ensure Grates Are Compliant, as Necessary
You’ll want to check any laws and regulations that may pertain to which grates can (or can’t) be installed. These regulations may vary based on your geographic location or where the grate is being installed.
For example, grates installed where foot traffic will pass must be safe for disabled individuals, as per the Americans with Disabilities Act. They must be safe for individuals using canes or wheelchairs and not cause them to become caught in the grate opening.
There may also be environmental regulations on drain systems or grates. These are what may vary from one location to the next. Be sure to do your research before making a purchase.
Choose a Reliable Manufacturer
There are numerous manufacturers and distributors of trench drain systems. You want to ensure you choose a system from a company that is reliable and known for producing high-quality craftsmanship.
One easy way to do this is by checking a manufacturer’s online reputation. There are many websites where previous clients can leave reviews of trench drain systems they’ve previously used, as well as the companies who installed them for them.
If a company has primarily positive reviews left online, this means they’re reliable and can be considered for your new drains. If a company has mostly negative reviews, consider this a big red flag. How previous clients were treated and how satisfied they were with the work done is a reliable indicator of what you can expect from your own experience.
Do You Have More Questions About How to Choose the Right Trench Drain?
Choosing the right trench drain takes a lot of consideration. This comprehensive guide offers you the information necessary to make an informed purchase that will prove effective for your unique needs.
Do you have more questions about how to choose the right trench drain? Or would you like to look at current trench drain offerings?