I think it’s time to tell you about a product that is a bit of a secret in the marketplace. I’ve been selling it for years but haven’t written about it until now. It is simple, economical, sturdy and versatile. I find myself recommending it more now that I have experienced how easy and quick it can be to install. I’m speaking of EconoDrain, a patented concrete trench former system manufactured by MultiDrain Systems, of Barium Springs, North Carolina.
Two types of Poured-in-Place Trench Drains
First a little background on poured-in-place trench drain systems needs to be covered. Poured-in-place concrete trench drains come in two flavors:
- Frame and Grate Systems (or Traditional Trench Drain systems) require a contractor to build the trench form, usually from wood.
- Trench Former Systems use frames, grates and a disposable, pre-sloped form (or mold) to make the drain channel.
The end result of both systems is similar. Both trench drain types are used to build a concrete channel with an embedded metal frame that supports an engineered grating. There are some differences, however, which are discussed below.
Trench Former System
A trench former system is similar to the traditional frame and grate product in-so-far that you are supplied a frame and grate. However, with this type of system, you are also given a disposable, pre-sloped form. The forms are specifically designed to attach to the frame, making the whole “wooden box construction episode” obsolete. The forms and frames are assembled quickly and suspended in the excavated area by use of rebar.
As the frame and form are pre-engineered to a specific width and depth, less design work needs to be done in the field and installations are significantly quicker. Forms are pre-sloped and can have rounded bottoms to give the resulting concrete channel improved flow characteristics.
The three most popular Trench Forming Systems on the market today are:
- EconoDrain (MultiDrain Systems) uses an EPS mold to make round or flat bottom, pre-sloped channels that range in width from 4 inches to 24 inches. The frame design allows the trench installation to be done with one concrete pouring event.
- Trench Former (ABT, Inc.) also uses an EPS mold, offers channels between 6 and 24 inches. Like EconoDrain, they have a patented framing system. However, for proper installation of the Trench Former System, two concrete pours are required.
- FastForm (ACO) uses a cardboard molding material to form the 12” and 24” wide channels. Form assembly is required.
EconoDrain – The Most Versatile Trench Drain Former Product
No one has a trench former system as versatile, easy to install or cost effective as EconoDrain. EconoDrain’s patented frame and channel forming system eliminates time and many materials required to build a traditional formed-in-place trench drain. The frames, which come in 8 foot lengths, have specially designed anchor stand shoulders that accepts #4 or #5 rebar. This rebar is the supporting member that suspends the frame and EPS foam in the trench where the concrete channel is to be formed.
A lightweight, pre-sloped form attaches to the underside of the EconoDrain frame. Whereas traditional forms are made of wood, the Econodrain form is made of expanded polystyrene (EPS). This form is designed with a locking collar which holds the form in the frame during installation. The center wedge, designed with “ears”, is easily removed after the concrete sets, allowing the remainder of the form to collapse and be removed from the channel. Thereafter, grates can be placed into the frame. Locking devices are also available to help secure the grates in place.
The EconoDrain former system can be made with painted steel, galvanized steel, stainless steel or aluminum frames. The most common grating options are ductile iron slotted grates and bar grating. However, custom trench drain designs can be designed to meet your needs. Custom stainless steel grates, decorative cast iron grates and custom stone grating have been used with EconoDrain.
Recently, MultiDrain and Trench Drain Systems developed a pre-sloped, radius channel drain using custom forms made by EconoDrain. These channels are used to make curved drains that can be used in running tracks, pools, driveways and fountains. They utilize custom cast iron radius grating that cover curvatures that range from 3 feet to 55 feet in radius. No other product or manufacturer can offer this degree of versatility in a poured-in-place trench drain system that can be achieved with Econodrain.
Traditional Frame and Grate System
When you purchase a poured-in-place trench drain system (read: frame and grate system) from a foundry what you actually buy is some quantity of cast iron grates and some cast metal rails. The rails are used for making a frame to cradle the grates. Traditionally, trench drain grates made by a foundry in the US have been 2 foot in length. The width of the grates will vary based on the flow requirements of the channel. However, a historically popular grate width seen in the U.S. has been 12”. The rails used to hold the grates are often 4 foot in length.
So, for example, if you were going to install a 16 foot long trench drain using this system, you’d first purchase 8 grates and 8 rails from an iron foundry.
Two common foundries that manufacture this product are Neenah Foundry and East Jordan Iron Works. These companies make large gray iron and ductile iron castings used in roadways and sewers. Other plumbing fixture foundries such as Josam and Zurn make frame and grate systems geared for interior uses like maintenance facilities and warehouses.
Though there are differences in the design of each of these products, there is a great deal of application overlap. And, in the end, each product requires a channel form to be constructed out of wood.
The act of building a wooden channel form can be a daunting task to the novice. The wooden form is constructed and suspended in an excavated trench. The metal rails of the drain are attached in some manner to the wooden form. Because the rails are designed with an anchoring system, once concrete is poured around the form the rails become imbedded in concrete. The wooden form, which forms the trench, is removed once the concrete is dry. If a sloped trench bottom is wanted, the form can be constructed to produce the effect, or a mortar layer can be applied afterwards to slope the trench bottom. It all sounds difficult. But, it can be done in time with a skilled tradesman.
EconoDrain Installation Example
I recently installed a concrete former system trench drain in a homeowner’s driveway. Usually, in residential driveway trench drains, I recommend a 4 inch wide polymer concrete trench system (such as Polycast 600). In this situation, however, a “river” of water flowed down the driveway with a force that moved yard structures. A wider, more industrial trench system was required to divert the water. We decided on using an 8 inch wide, poured-in-place concrete trench drain with a 10 inch wide grate containing a high percentage of open space.
We decided to place the drain at the bottom of the drive along the area we have marked with the measuring tape. We decided to direct the water to a cobble stone lined creek to the left, just behind the flowers. The asphalt driveway was cut using a walk behind concrete saw. The asphalt topping and soil was removed to a depth that allowed us to have 6 inches of concrete all around our form. The drain frame and form was set in the excavation using #4 rebar. I never took photos of these steps because I was busy getting the drain set. The concrete truck was scheduled to be there soon!!
The photo to the right shows the drain just after we had placed the concrete. We made a box to form a square end to the outlet end of the drain. At this location, we connected a piece of corrugated pipe which ran below the surface of the cobble stone creek. We let the concrete set overnight and removed the form the next day. To remove the form, we had to first cut the metal support bars that hold the metal rails to their dimension. For this we used a small angle grinder. The EPS form actually seats around these bars during installation helping to hold the form in the frame.
Once the support bars were freed, a center wedge section of the form was removed, allowing us to pinch and collapse the remainder of the mold away from the new concrete channel wall. The mold separated easily from the concrete because we had used a mold release agent on the form prior to pouring concrete. After the EPS forms were removed, we leaned the excess concrete from the metal rails with a scraping device and then swept the remaining dirt out of the drain. The only thing left was to install the grates and bolt them into place.
For more information on the EconoDrain trench forming system and how a system can be designed for your application, contain Trench Drain Systems (TDS) by calling 610-638-1221 or by email.