Channel Drain Confusion: Which Is Best for Me?

Adding channel drains to your home or property can be a game-changer when it comes to preventing damage from excess water. But the actual process of choosing these types of drains can be overwhelming. After all, there are a variety of options for both drains and grates.

Channel drains can be broken down into characteristics based on their material, method of creation, and size. Channel drain gratings are usually divided based on their material, but can also be sorted based on certain other features. When choosing channel drains, you’ll need to make a choice on each one of these characteristics. While it might seem confusing, thinking about the factors involved in the decisions can make the process easier. 

Let’s take a look at the factors you should consider and what your options are when it comes to channel drains and gratings.

Factors to Consider for Channel Drains


One factor you need to consider when choosing a channel drain is where the drain will be installed. Usually, channel drains are placed in front of a garage or driveway, by a downspout, or around patios or other features in residential applications. Commercial areas have many options as well, including in parking garages or parking lots, near walkways, or in outdoor spaces such as gardens or even golf courses.

Washing carChannel drains are commonly installed in driveways to quickly remove water from the surface. ©Anoushka Toronto |

Each of these locations will have different needs when it comes to their installation. For example, if you are installing a channel drain in an existing driveway, you will most likely need to tear up and relay at least part of the surface.

The slope of the surface where the drain will be installed affects the speed of the water and how much water may flow into the drain at any one time. Usually, you want the surface to be sloped around 0.7% to 1%. Drains placed on a surface that has a higher slope may need to be larger to accommodate the additional water flow.

Be sure to consider other existing or planned drainage in the area. How will the drains connect, if at all? The installation of these other drains may affect previously placed drains. You may also want to consider how the drains will connect to drain pipes as well.

Water Capacity

You also need to consider the amount of water that the drain will need to collect and move as this will help determine the size of the drain you need. Most residential drains are between 4 and 12 inches, with 6 inches being the most common width. However, commercial grates may need to be wider as more water may need to drain through them. Consult a water table chart and consult your landscape architect to see which specific size may be the best for you.


Finally, budget is a consideration for most projects. Certain materials and types of channel drain cost more than others. Make sure to create a budget so you can compare this to your quotes when you receive them. Always remember that you may pay more for certain drains or grates but the quality they provide may be worth it.

Choosing a Channel Drain

When choosing a channel drain, you’ll have options for both the material and type of channel.

Material Options

  • Polypropylene: Polypropylene is a lightweight plastic. It usually costs less than other options, yet is sturdy and durable. This material is also resistant to chemicals so you don’t have to worry about fertilizers or other chemicals damaging the grate (though you should still limit these when possible as they can hurt local water quality).
  • Concrete: Many channel drains are made from concrete as this results in a sturdy and long-lasting channel. These kinds of drains can even be reinforced with rebar for extra strength in heavier applications.
    Concrete channels are especially beneficial for commercial applications. You can utilize other features such as frames for extra stability. The material itself is easy to maintain.

Types of Channel Drains

  • Cast-In-Place: With cast-in-place trench drains, a channel is dug and then the drain is installed. This is usually done by building a frame and pouring in concrete. This is the most labour-intensive and therefore usually the most expensive.
    However, since cast-in-place drains are installed on-site, they are ideal in situations bringing in pre-made channels may be difficult.
  • Precast: Precast drains are made off-site and transported to the location. Usually, they are made in pieces to ease transportation. A trench is dug and the drains are laid inside. This tends to be a less expensive option.
  • Linear Drain Systems: This is a modern variation of precast drains. Narrow channels are made offsite using lightweight materials such as plastic or fibreglass. A trench is dug and the channels are laid inside. Then, concrete is poured around the channel, for additional support.

Environmental Channel Systems

  • Micro Channel Drains: These channels are only about 1.25” wide, hence their name. They are used in mostly residential applications where only a small amount of water needs to be drained at a time.
  • Mini Channel Drains: These drains are slightly wider at 2.25” and offer a larger collection area. These are usually more visible and well-suited for both residential and commercial applications.
  • Standard Channel Drains: This common option can be used in a variety of options. They can be either flat or sloped. There are a few sub-options within this category.
    If you need a wider drain as discussed earlier, you can opt for a wide channel drain. This additional carrying capacity is ideal for a variety of applications.
    Modular channel drains feature interlocking joints that make them easy to connect and build. This is a flexible option that can be customized to your needs.
    If you want to ensure optimal flow through your channel drain system, you may want to opt for sloping trench drains. These have a built-in slope and can be used in commercial applications. These drains are modular, making for easy transportation and installation.

Construction worker

The first step is to determine which kind of channel you need. One factor may be how easy installation will be due to existing structures. ©Budabar |

Factors to Consider for the Grate

A channel or trench grate is another critical piece of your channel drain. This piece serves a vital role in keeping the space usable and blocking debris from clogging up the drain. Therefore, choosing an appropriate grate is just as important as the channel itself.

Practical Factors

You’ll want to consider what will go over the grate. Depending on this, you may want to choose a different load class or other features.

If only pedestrians will walk over the grate, you can choose a class A grate, the lightest rating. If passenger cars and light trucks will drive over it, such as in a driveway, class B is a better choice. Finally, class C grates are necessary for heavy vehicular traffic including delivery trucks, loaded forklifts, and tractor-trailers.

You might also want to consider certain features that are designed to help specific groups of pedestrians. ADA-compliant grates have holes or slots that prevent wheelchairs or crutches from getting stuck. In fact, these slots must be less than 0.5 inches and perpendicular to the main direction of travel. If many people will be crossing over the grate, you may also want to consider heel-proof grates.

The weather in your area will also play a role in choosing a grate. Some types of materials are at risk of cracking due to freeze-thaw cycles. Those in areas with high amounts of rain and humidity should opt for materials that are resistant to rust and corrosion.

The maintenance required for the grate is also important, particularly for commercial areas. You don’t want to make cleaning the grate difficult as this could increase your maintenance budget. In addition, sturdier materials will make the whole process easier. 

If your grate is placed in a public space where theft may be an issue, you should consider a lockable grate. This will still allow access for maintenance personnel but will prevent a thief from just taking the entire grate.

Aesthetic Factors

Your desired aesthetics for the area are also important. For instance, you wouldn’t want to install a white plastic grate in a four-star hotel. It would look out of place and detract from the overall look of the place. On the other hand, a classic reinforced stone grate would complement and enhance the beauty of the area.

Any other grating that is already present or will be installed should also be considered. If you are choosing all new gratings, you can have them all match, whether it's a trench grate or a tree grate. You can also opt for different colours and designs that would blend best with existing grating if they will be staying.

The Manufacturer

You will need to consider all of these factors together when choosing a channel drain grate manufacturer. Some will not offer the material or style you want. Others may not have the features that would work best for your application. 

At Jonite, we can help you design the ideal grate for your channel drain. You can customize our reinforced stone gratings to your exact specifications. They are ideal for most applications ranging from driveways to gardens. Plus our experts will walk you through every step of the way, so you know you are making the best choices possible.

Choosing a Channel Drain Grate


  • Metal: There is a variety of metals that can be used for channel drain grates. These are all sturdy and will hold up well. However, you will want to opt for a type of metal that resists rust.
    Unfortunately, metal grates are not great for areas where feet will travel over them. This includes the bare feet of children in a play area or patio or even those of pets. Metal grates work better in industrial areas where the grates need to be tough but not necessarily beautiful. This includes factories, warehouses, and food service areas.
  • Plastic: Plastic is an inexpensive and soft material, which makes it a good budget option. However, it may not be strong enough to handle a tone of wear, for example on a heavily travelled street. You may also run into trouble in areas with extreme weather, including repeated freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Reinforced stone: Reinforced stone from Jonite is tough like metal grating, yet looks beautiful and provides additional benefits. It is rust and corrosion-resistant. However, it does not heat up or feel rough on bare feet. This means you can use it anywhere from parking garages to playgrounds.
    Reinforced stone is also the most aesthetically pleasing option for drain grates. It mimics the look of real stone, making it a perfect addition, even in those high-class areas.


Reinforced stone is a perfect material for channel gratings due to its beauty, strength, and comfort.

Additional Choices

Your choice of material will directly impact what design options you have. Once you have this narrowed down, you can ask your manufacturer about all of the design options available to you.

You may also want to consider some additional options that impact the structure of your drain and grates. For example, frames can help add extra support to the grating, which reduces shifting and the chances of breaking. This can be especially important in driveway channel drains, particularly in commercial ones.

Avoid Channel Drain Confusion With Jonite

Choosing channel drains and grates can be overwhelming and confusing. When you work with Jonite, you’ll know that all of your specifications and needs are being taken into account. 

Get started with your custom reinforced stone drain grates today!