trench drain systems

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POLYCAST® – Home Grown Product

by Michael Schroer on February 19, 2021 Comments Off on POLYCAST® – Home Grown Product

POLYCAST® was the first US designed and produced polymer concrete trench drain channel. Originally, polymer concrete technology came from Europe.  In the construction industry, polymer concrete channels were introduced as a time and labor saving “leave in trench form”. This new technology was distinctly European and was sold in one meter channel lengths. POLYCAST® channels, on the other hand, were sold in “good old” 4 foot sections which made it more acceptable in the marketplace.

POLYCAST® trench drain has been around since the late 1970’s. A construction company out of Fargo, ND developed the first POLYCAST® channels. They grew the business for a few years and eventually sold it to Shell Oil in the early 1980’s. At that time Shell was busy buying up all the polymer concrete business in North America in hopes to consolidate all the small operations into a large polymer concrete plant. After gathering a few processes, they began marketing the under the company called Quazite.

Once the price of oil fell to $12 per barrel, Shell sold the Quazite business to John Tickle, then acting president of Quazite. He changed the name from Quazite to Strongwell. The Quazite brand continued to represent the encloser business that had been developed under his direction. Mr. Tickle was successful at growing the POLYCAST® and Quazite product lines. In 2006, Hubbell Power Systems purchased the polymer concrete business from Strongwell and continued to expand the polymer concrete product offering to the construction industry.

Currently, Hubbell is the largest manufacturer of polymer concrete in the US. Their polymer concrete plant is located in Lenoir City, TN. Besides the POLYCAST® trench drain product line, they continue to make the Quazite boxes which are used in the underground utilities market.

Trench Drain Systems is one of the largest stocking distributors in the United States for POLYCAST® products and offers a wide selection of grating and accessories available beyond the standard OEM offering.

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Michael SchroerPOLYCAST® – Home Grown Product

7 Considerations for Trench Drain Systems

by Kristie Pohlman on September 5, 2019 Comments Off on 7 Considerations for Trench Drain Systems

Trench drain systems come in all shapes, sizes and materials and it can be difficult to determine which system is best suited for your project. Here’s a breakdown on what you need to consider when planning a project that requires trench drain systems.

1. What are the load requirements for the drain?

Drainage in pedestrian areas

It’s particularly important to mitigate potential flooding situations in high pedestrian areas.

Knowing what kind of traffic that will cross over the drainage system is one of the most important factors for you to consider first. There’s a big difference between pedestrian traffic and a commercial airliner and, of course, not all channels are built to take on that kind of weight. You also have to consider that even though the channel may be able to take the weight, it needs to be topped off with grates that are able to mitigate rainwater (or other liquids) while being appropriate for the traffic.


2. What’s on top?

As with the drainage channels, grates play an important role. They vary in material from plastic and fiberglass to stainless steel and ductile iron. Even areas with pedestrian traffic force you to think about load ratings and material options. Plastic grates may be appropriate for a park landscape or pool side deck but gates at an airport require ductile iron grate patterns that are heelproof and ADA compliant. There are a wide variety of patterns that can control flow rates while providing the correct amount of support. If the area tends to stay water-logged such as in a water treatment plant or around a pool, you can find options that are non-slip and either grip boots tightly or are barefoot friendly. In many cases, you’ll also find options that will blend into the surroundings or designs that enhance the look of the project.


3.Going to extremes

Another important consideration is knowing what is going to flow through the trench drain system. Some systems are perfect for storm water but can’t take the extreme heat that it would see in a brewery situation or stand up to corrosive chemicals in a manufacturing facility. If the system is outdoors, it needs to withstand seasonal freeze-thaw or perhaps extreme heat seen in Texas and Arizona.


4. Keeping it legal

Trench Drain Systems at Airports

At smaller airports, trench drains can be found within the hangers as well as the entrances.

In some cases, projects have to adhere closely to local or federal laws such as MS4 programs or government builds. These can include courthouses, government buildings or flood control projects. A simple guideline to determine if it’s a state or federal project is knowing who controls the project. A state project can be funded federally but it is still a state-controlled project. However, a state land project may have the US Army Corps of Engineers working on it which then makes it a federally controlled project. It’s not a topic that can be covered easily since each state has a separate set of guidelines and laws to follow.


5. Surrounding landscapes

Trench drains to redirect stormwater

A well-placed drainage system can keep rain water separate from pool water.

Trees, mulch and stone are just a few of the possible types of debris that have the potential to obstruct the flow of a trench drain system. Make sure you know the plans for the landscape and surroundings. Any trees planted too closely have the potential for roots to interfere with the channels. Likewise, trees can create seasonal debris that can also clog up a system. Stones in some parking areas can get knocked into channels if the grate openings are large enough causing the storm water flow rate to drop.

Another landscape consideration is the land itself. Is there a natural slope to the area? How much solid surface area will there be versus the amount of green space for water to naturally absorb? You can take it a step further and look at what the soil is composed of. Why is it important? You won’t be able to rely on clay to help disperse storm water.


6. Long term maintenance

Trench drain systems maintenance

It’s important to have a maintenance plan in place to ensure that trench drains remain effective.

Is there a maintenance program planned for the drainage system? It may seem trivial now but we have just about seen it all: trenches completely filled with silt at the bottom of a ramp and sand-filled drains at the beach that are rendered ineffective. We frequently see warehouses with cracked and/or partial grates that hopped and broke over time from not having locking devices. It’s a potential hazard at airports where jets can easily lift grates and locking devices if they are not properly secured. Seasonal checks and cleanouts would be beneficial to the system for it to remain effective.


7. Expect the unexpected

We always say that it’s better to plan for a hundred-year flood than to explain why you didn’t plan for a hundred-year flood. The system you choose may not be able to keep a hurricane at bay, but if you plan well, you will help the waters to recede faster.


Putting it all together

Even when you take everything into consideration, you may still feel overwhelmed by all the possible configurations. Luckily, there are experts that can help you through the decision-making process.

Author Bio

Kristie Pohlman has been working in marketing for over 15 years. A great deal of her writing has been on topics related to construction, education and marketing. Her work has been featured in several industry specific trade magazines such as Modern Contractor Solutions, Utility Products and Crane Hotline to name a few.

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Kristie Pohlman7 Considerations for Trench Drain Systems

Trench Drain Systems Begins Distribution of ULMA Architectural Drains

by Kristie Pohlman on July 31, 2019 Comments Off on Trench Drain Systems Begins Distribution of ULMA Architectural Drains

Have you heard about the Spanish company ULMA?

Ulma Architectural Solutions have manufactured architectural products for the construction industry for over 50 years. And though, relatively unknown in the United States, ULMA has been providing drainage solutions around the globe for 15 years. Their trench drain products are being distributed stateside by Trench Drain Systems, in Fremont, OH. ULMA provides superior drainage systems that complement the extensive products currently being offered by TDS.

ULMA Drainage Systems Benefits

Coke Can at ULMA HQ

You can see that Coca-Cola is an international brand. This was captured just outside of the ULMA Architectural Solutions HQ building.

One big draw of the ULMA products is their corporate investment into product research and development. This allows them to offer a highly competitive range of drainage systems at a competitive price. Like other manufacturers, ULMA uses polymer concrete (a mixture of silica and quartz aggregates that are bound by stable polyester resins) to manufacture their drain channels. Polymer concrete increases the impact resistance of the channel while also providing a smooth low porosity channel surface which helps in the rapid flow rate. Compare this to traditional concrete channels that have a 5-10% absorption rate. Additionally, the ULMA polymer concrete channels are resistant to nearly 60 chemicals including citric acid, diesel fuel, gasoline, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid; just to name a few. These drainage systems also tolerate seasonal ground freeze/thaw and can withstand a maximum temperature of 75C / 167F.

There are several other benefits to using the ULMA drainage channels. For one, they are chemically inert which makes them recyclable and earth-friendly. ULMA also offers some of the broadest selection of channel sizes and slopes in the industry. Last, but not least, product pricing stands out as one of the top benefits. ULMA’s pricing is less than its closest competitors.

A Quick Look at Two ULMA Products

ULMA U100KM with Iron Age Interlaken Grate

ULMA U100KX with Iron Age Interlaken Grate

When you look closely at their popular light/medium duty channels (U100K, M100K), you can see how versatile the systems are. All of these models have an internal nominal width of 4” (5” external) and feature integrated stainless steel or galvanized steel edge that increases the stability of the drain. It also provides a sleek appearance especially when adjacent to lawns or areas with loose landscape finishes such as gravel and mulch. This is something that most manufacturers sell separately for an additional cost. The U100K and U100KX systems have a built-in 0.5% slope. Neutral and half channels are available as well. The M100 and M100KX are shallow, non-sloped systems with a nominal depth of 1 ½”. Both of these drainage systems are typically used in residential areas, public areas, walkways and other locations with light vehicular traffic.

Topping Off ULMA Channels

ULMA channels look great next to all types of surfaces including natural stone.

A broad range of grating options are available for the U100K and M100K channels. Load class, material type and opening style are some of the grating options available. Choose grates made from ductile iron, stainless steel, galvanized steel or polyethylene. They range from load class A to C and are offered in variations that allow for ADA compliance for wheelchairs, bicycle traffic, domestic vehicles and/or heel proof for safety. For decorative options, Iron Age Designs offers grates that are compatible with the U100K and M100K channels for a high-end appearance.

The systems reviewed are just two of ULMA’s wide range of drainage solutions. Whether it’s a football stadium, a Costco, a food processing center or a residential project, ULMA has a drainage solution for every industry challenge. Would you like to know more about ULMA’s line of drainage products? Trench Drain Systems in Ohio is the largest stocking distributor with a quick turn-around for shipping. Visit them at or call 610-638-1221 and ask about contractor pricing.

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Kristie PohlmanTrench Drain Systems Begins Distribution of ULMA Architectural Drains

Polymer Concrete Trench Drain – In the Beginning

by Michael Schroer on July 19, 2019 Comments Off on Polymer Concrete Trench Drain – In the Beginning

The first time I learned of ACO and polymer concrete was in 1985 while on a tour of some silica mines in northeast Ohio.  In that part of the country, the Sharon conglomerate crops out of the ground and is mined by a number of industrial mineral firms.  The Fairmont Minerals Best Silica Facility, located in Chardon, OH, is one such company.  It turns out that the silica in that part of the district has a low iron content, which in turn, reduces the amount of “binder” between the individual sand particles.  As a result, the silica in this deposit is very clean, rounded from being water deposited and easily beneficiated.  The silica at the Fairmont Mineral’s Best Facility is really the “best” silica for a number of industrial processes that use high purity silica.

ACO, located their first manufacturing facility in Chardon, on the edge of the Best Silica property.  As I was taking the tour, I learned from my guide about this new company and their products are made from “polymer concrete”.  At that time, I was a research engineer designing high temperature concretes for the molten metal industry, so the binder system used in polymer concrete was of interest only as a curiosity.  It had no relevance to me at that time.  I would learn much later that I had a brush with my future fate in that introduction to ACO and Best Silica.

Silica Sand Used ACO Trench Drain

Best Silica Sand – Chardon

What Is Polymer Concrete?

If you have ever hand mixed your own concrete for a household project (I’m not talking Sakrete), you will know that the formulation of concrete is 3 scoops of gravel, 2 scoops of sand and one scoop of Portland cement.  In this formula, cement is the binder which is activated by water.  If your gravel and sand have a proper distribution (that is, particle size distribution), and you don’t add too much water, you will make a concrete that is easy to work with and will achieve a density of about 100 pounds per cubic foot.  The concrete will set in 1 – 5 hours, depending on the local conditions (temperature, wind, etc.).

Polymer Concrete is similar to regular concrete in so far that there is aggregate, sand and fine powder in the mixture.  However, rather than using water to blend all these components together, a polymer resin is added to the mix.  This resin comes in a number of chemistries depending on the application.  And, there are a bunch of resin types all with very specific viscosities and working times.  Polymer resin, by itself, will not cause the mixture to set into a hardened mass.  A chemical hardener, such as MEPK, is required to set off a reaction within the polymer resin, initiating a solidifying event.  Not much hardener is required.  Usually 0.1% of the amount of resin is all it takes to make this reaction.  And, reaction times can be adjusted by the hardener addition.

ACO Trench Drain Former Headquarters

ACO Trench Drain at their Former National Headquarter in Chardon, Ohio

The polymer concrete (PC) used in making trench drain varies by manufacturer.  Aggregates used in the polymer concrete usually are determined by what is local and cost competitive.  For instance, ACO uses the rounded, high purity silica sands from Best Silica.  That is why they initially built their manufacturing facility new the Chardon Mine.  Depending on the thickness of the part being made, they will adjust the particle size distribution of the batch.  In general, a 6 mesh top aggregate is used (3.36mm) for parts ½ inch in thickness or greater.  ACO has come to depend on the Best silica aggregate.  Even after their move from Ohio to Arizona, they still purchase a rail car of silica per week from northeast Ohio.

Other manufacturers have found different aggregates to use in making their polymer concrete formulations.  Hubbell, the largest polymer concrete manufacturer in the U.S., for instance, uses dolomitic limestone to make their Polycast polymer concrete trench drain.  Again, this is a local raw material for their Tennessee facility. In another situation, I have studied Chinese polymer concrete channels that, I swear, use recycled glass as an aggregate in their formulation.  Again, polymer concrete formulations will change depending on the application and available raw materials.

Polymer Concrete has European Roots

More than fifteen years after my introduction to polymer concrete, I became reacquainted with ACO while working as a salesman for a precast concrete manufacturer.  As ACO was part of my product offering, I was able to study the product line better.  What I have learned is interesting to trench drain nerds.  If you have made it this far in the article, consider yourself as such.

Initially, polymer concrete as a material was a European phenomenon.  Early development was in Italy after WWII.  It spread to Germany and was initially used to make feeding troughs for farm animals.  The success of polymer concrete and the founding company of modular trench drain belongs to a company named Hauraton.  They are a significant European brand to this day.  In around 1975, ACO (Germany) began making modular trench drain channels using polymer concrete.  Using an aggressive marketing strategy, they sought to develop the construction market in the United States, which to that point had not been approached.  In or around 1977, ACO set up shop in the States.

Over the next few years, market acceptance for modular trench drains grew in the United States.  Soon, more competition entered the newly formed modular trench drain market.  POLYCAST®, which was the first U.S. made polymer concrete trench drain was initially developed in Fargo, ND by a construction company.  With the help of another European company, ABT (PolyDrain) began making channels in North Carolina.  Technology, and therefore products, out of Europe were metric based.  Polycast, the American based company, elected to use imperial measurements, making their channels 4 foot in length.  ACO and ABT being European based made their channels one meter in length.   This division in units of measure is ever present in the trench drain market today.  It is an indication of the technologies source.


Polymer Concrete Channel

Hauraton’s 1st Polymer Concrete Channel

No matter, these three companies were the foundation of the modular polymer trench market in the U.S. and had some commonality in the design of their products.  All three manufacturers had 4” (or 100mm) wide channels.  The polymer concrete was based on a polyester resin of equal quality.  The channels were all pre-sloped to around 0.6%.  The channels all had recesses built into the top edge so when installed, the grating would sit flush in the channel.  And the top edge of the exposed channel was polymer concrete.  It is here, at the top edge of the drain body, where ACO made product innovations to help differentiate themselves from the rest of the market.

Three variations of polymer concrete channels

PolyDrain, ACO Klassic Drain and Polycast 600 Channels

ACO was the first trench drain manufacturer, at least in the States, to have the “integral metal” edge.  They realized that the wide exposed polymer concrete edge was prone to chip under the right conditions.  And, in areas prone to freeze-thaw, the exposed edge could deteriorate over time.  From an aesthetics standpoint, the integral edge offers a clean, trim look that outperforms the exposed concrete edge.  Both Polycast and PolyDrain have remedied the aesthetics of their channel by developing a metal overlay or edge protector that acts as a sheath to cover the channel edges.  Though, as nice as the overlay technology may look, ACO’s integral metal edge seems to have struck a chord with architects and engineers, alike.


Jumping on the Band Wagon

Over the next 20 years, polymer concrete trench drains would find acceptance in the market place. Those frame and grate systems that required the contractor to build a wooden form started becoming more costly as skilled labor rates in the States rose.  In the early 1980’s, big plumbing component manufacturers began taking notice of the linear drain marketplace. To this point, polymer concrete trench drain had been used predominantly in site work (outside projects). Plumbing construction hadn’t quite yet incorporated polymer concrete trench drain as a building material. Eventually, plumbing hardware companies such as Zurn, Watts, Josam and J.R. Smith began aligning themselves with the polymer concrete trench drain manufactures and began promoting modular drains in their markets. Polycast, for example, manufactured trench drains for Watts and Zurn. ACO entered into a relationship with Jay. R. Smith. Josam began working with another European giant, MEA and established the MEA-Josam product line.

The original three manufacturers (ACO, Polycast and PolyDrain) had established the U.S.Trench drain market and had invested in manufacturing facilities. The plumbing supply houses that originally jumped on the polymer concrete drain “band wagon”, began to seek ways to manufacture their own trench drain without the overhead required by setting up a polymer concrete facility. In early 1990’s there began a gradual migration of the plumbing markets to move away from polymer concrete to plastics products. For instance, Zurn, which had previously bought and re-sold the Polycast brand, moved away from Polycast (polymer concrete) to fiberglass (Z806) and then plastic channels (Z886) because they were able to establish channel manufacturing from these materials cheaper than they could a  polymer concrete channel. Likewise, Watts and Jay R. Smith left their polymer concrete trench drain roots to developed channels based on polyethylene plastic. And, Josam, not to be left behind, recently shipped all their MEA polymer channels to Europe and Canada and began promoting a fiber reinforced structural plastic. So now, what we are experiencing in the trench drain marketplace tends to be PC channels for exterior and some interior applications. Plastic channel drains are seen in some interior commercial applications and many residential applications (largely exterior).

Three variation of plastic drains

One can argue that the future of trench drain will be with plastic drain products.  But, I doubt it. I would argue that polymer concrete channels are much better suited for exterior applications than plastic channels. Polymer concrete is more similar in composition to standard Portland cement based concrete that encases the channel.  Because of their similarity, polymer concrete channels “play” better with concrete than do plastic channels. This is largely because of the differences in thermal expansion between plastic and concrete. On hot days, plastic channel tends to expand and separate from the concrete that they are encased within. Oppositely, on cold days, plastic channels can shrink more than the concrete around than and form stress cracks.  This problem has plagued the plastic channel industry from the beginning and is amplified with longer drains and large swings in temperature.

It could be that plastics channels are better suited for stable interior environments. For instance, I generally see plastic pre-sloped channels with plastic grating at commercial pools and kennels. The plastic stands up to chemicals and is not sharp to the touch of bare feet (or paws). There is also a price advantage to plastic components over polymer concrete and metal. However, for interior processes with hot solutions (Breweries) or upscale drain systems requiring fine detail, polymer concrete channels should be considered in the drain selection process.

More Information about Trench Drain Systems

If you need further information on trench drain products or need help with a drainage solution which utilizes modular drains, contact the helpful folks at Trench Drain Systems (TDS). Their website,, will guide you through the products and applications commonly associated to linear drains.  Residential customers can find a wide assortment of functional and decorative systems on their on-line store Or call them at 610-638-1221. They don’t mind.



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Michael SchroerPolymer Concrete Trench Drain – In the Beginning

The Difference Between Polymer Concrete and Vinyl Ester

by Summer Hoffman on April 22, 2019 Comments Off on The Difference Between Polymer Concrete and Vinyl Ester

There are many variables to consider when you are choosing what you need for your drainage project, including what materials your system is made of. Much of it depends mainly upon the application requirements. Trying to understand the differences between polymer concrete and vinyl ester drainage channels can be confusing.

Polymer Concrete

Polymer concrete is a composite material in which the aggregate is bound together in a matrix with a polymer binder. Loosely translated, polymer concrete is great under high tensile (tension), flexural and compressive strengths.

What are the advantages of Polymer Concrete?

  • Freeze/thaw resistance
  • Handles heavy weight
  • Fast drainage
  • Durability
  • Holds up to 150 degrees F

Other features of the material has excellent long-term durability and low permeability to water, making it ideal for most drainage situations. Because of its properties, polymer concrete is frequently used in the utility industry as a reliable solution for harsh environments.

Typical Applications of Polymer Concrete:

Trench Drain Systems carries Hubbell’s series of POLYCAST® drainage solutions. One example is the POLYCAST® 600 Series is one of the most well known small commercial drains on the market. These 6.25″ wide (OD) polymer concrete channels are available in lengths of 48″ and 24″. Their built-in .65 percent slope ensures that the will achieve flow rates of 470 GPM (Gallons Per Minute), higher than drainage systems of similar size. These polymer concrete channels safely handle temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit without structural damage.

Vinyl Ester

Vinyl ester is produced by the reaction (‘esterfication’) between an epoxy resin and an unsaturated monocarboxylic acid. Essentially, they comprise of a base of polyester resin strengthened with epoxy molecules in the molecular chain. This means vinyl ester has fewer open sites in its molecular chain, making it more resistant to water penetration. Vinyl ester is less sensitive to surrounding conditions and is more tolerant of stretching than polyesters. These characteristics allow the drainage system to absorb a greater impact without damage, making it less likely to show stress cracking over time.

Advantages of Vinyl Ester:

  • Impact and weight resistance
  • Withstands chlorinated solvents
  • Resistance to acids
  • Higher resistance to halogenated substances such as fluorine, bromine, chlorine and iodine
  • Endures higher temperatures, up to 180 degrees F
  • Resistance to various caustics
  • Durability
  • Rapid drainage

Trench Drain Systems is the largest stocking distributor of vinyl ester channels through the Hubbell POLYCAST® product line.

Typical Applications of Vinyl Ester:

Trench Drain Systems is the leading supplier of drainage systems for distilleries, breweries and micro-breweries throughout the United States. Breweries are one of the main applications that Trench Drain Systems suggests the use of vinyl ester due to the high pH levels and high temperatures of wastewater. This type of environment can cause other drainage system materials to become weak, break down and even warp.


Where are Trench Drains Found in Breweries?

  • Between fermenters
  • Inside the walk-in cooler
  • Bottling/packaging area
  • Storage facilities

For many applications, selecting the right drainage system material is critical. The chemical differences between polymer concrete and vinyl ester result in several differences in physical properties. This product choice directly affects the project’s strength, durability, lifespan and cost. Let one of our experts help determine whether polymer concrete or vinyl ester is best for your application. Contact us at 610-638-1221 Monday through Friday, 8am – 5pm EST, or request a fast quote online today.

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Summer HoffmanThe Difference Between Polymer Concrete and Vinyl Ester