Trench Drains vs. Standard Drains


Choosing the Right Drainage Solution for Washdown Areas 

Facility managers, the unsung heroes of efficient and smooth operations, know that the devil is in the details. When it comes to washdown areas, one critical detail often overlooked is the choice of drainage systems. Trench drains and standard drains each have their merits, but understanding the specific needs of your facility can make all the difference. 

Sanitation Considerations  

Drains are essential for removing wastewater and preventing the accumulation of debris, but they can also be a breeding ground for bacteria and contaminants if not properly maintained. Here are a few common issues: 

Biofilm Formation. Drains can develop biofilms, which are layers of microorganisms that adhere to the drain surfaces. These biofilms can harbor pathogens and are resistant to normal cleaning procedures. 

Debris Accumulation. Food particles and other debris can accumulate in drains, providing a nutrient-rich environment for bacteria. This can lead to unpleasant odors and increase the risk of contamination. 

Cross-Contamination. If drains are not designed and maintained properly, there’s a risk of cross-contamination between different areas of the plant. Contaminated water from one part of the facility may flow into areas where food is being processed. 

Regular and thorough cleaning of drains is crucial. If cleaning procedures are not followed rigorously, bacteria and other contaminants can persist, posing a risk to food safety. 

Improper Drain Design. Since we are dealing with floor slopes of just 1% to 1-1/2%, much care and attention to installation is required. It is quite difficult for the team pouring the concrete floor to pay adequate attention to finishing near the drains, and once the concrete is finished, it’s too late to make corrections. Local sloping of 2%, or 1/4” per foot within 18” of the drain, is strongly recommended to solve this problem. A second very common issue is when the concrete is not well vibrated close to the drain edges. If the edges and anchors that are typically part of the drain are not thoroughly bonded to the concrete, traffic will ultimately cause separation of the drain edge from the concrete. Some trench drains are built with a “U” channel edge to provide rigidity. It is impossible to fill this inverted “U” with concrete. The solution is to invert the drains before installation and fill the “U” with epoxy. 

Material Compatibility. The materials used for drains must be resistant to corrosion and easy to clean. If the materials used are not suitable for the harsh conditions in a food manufacturing environment, they may degrade over time and become a source of contamination. 

To mitigate these issues. It’s essential for food manufacturing plants to implement a robust sanitation program that includes regular inspections, cleaning schedules, and proper staff training. Using materials that are easy to clean and resistant to microbial growth can also contribute to maintaining a hygienic drainage system.  

Trench drains oftentimes are not considered easy to clean since the grating can be heavy and cumbersome. They tend to have hard corners, which promotes stagnation and bacteria growth. A teardrop or rounded bottom design is preferred, which is more common with slot drains. Slot drains can be beneficial when solids aren’t a concern. Slot drains, however, come with their own challenges. It is virtually impossible to see if the inside of the slot is clean without using lights and mirrors, a procedure not conducive to efficient sanitation. 

Trench Drains: A Closer Look 

Efficient Water Removal. Trench drains, also known as channel drains, are designed to remove large volumes of water quickly. Their elongated profile provides a larger surface area, enabling them to handle the high-flow scenarios common in washdown areas. Properly installed, this design minimizes water pooling and the risk of slip hazards. 

Multiple Options. A key advantage of trench drains is the multiple options available. They can be customized to match both the layout and appearance of your facility.  

Easy Maintenance. Trench drains are relatively easy to clean and maintain. The open grating design catches larger debris for quick debris removal, minimizing clog risk. Routine maintenance becomes a breeze, contributing to the overall efficiency of your facility. 

Standard Drains: Finding Simplicity in Functionality 

Cost-Effectiveness. Standard drains, also known as point drains, are cost-effective for washdown areas with moderate water flow. While they might not handle as much volume as trench drains, they are a practical choice for facilities where the water discharge is not excessive. 

Space Considerations. Standard drains may be the more suitable option if space is a constraint in your washdown area. Their compact design makes integration into existing floor plans easier and can avoid major modifications. 

Easy Installation. Standard drains are known for their simplicity in installation. This can reduce downtime during installation, making them a practical choice for facilities with tight schedules. 

Making the Decision 

Choosing between trench drains and standard drains boils down to understanding the specific needs of your washdown area. Consider the volume of water that needs to be handled, the available space, and your budget constraints. 

Trench drains are the superior choice for high flow washdown areas focusing on aesthetics and customization. However, standard drains might be the way to go if you are looking for a cost-effective, space-efficient solution for moderate water flow. 

In conclusion, the right drainage solution can significantly impact the efficiency and safety of your washdown area. Evaluate your facility’s unique requirements and make an informed decision aligning with your short-term and long-term goals. Ultimately, when it comes to floor drains, success lies in the design and installation details.  

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Vice President of Engineering

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