This is a story about a trench drain installation in a horse barn.
In this case, a drain was previously installed and deemed inadequate for many reasons. The owners decided to replace the old drain with a product called Econodrain #4. Econodrain is what I call a former trench drain system; it utilizes a disposable form to mold the channel shape in concrete. I have written about this system in a prior article where Econodrain #8 was installed in a driveway with heavy water flows. In this horse barn, they were seeing similar flows and needed a drain that could handle the volume.
Phase 1 – Initial Site Visit
The barn is situated slightly downhill from the rocky crest of a horse pen. When it rained, water followed a natural path to the north door of the barn and continued downhill through the south door. In an attempt to stop the flow, the owners had hired a contractor to install a trench drain at the north door and a catch basin in the center of the barn. That contractor connected a pipe to each of these that was supposed to drain to a lower drainage outlet. Asphalt was laid for the flooring material, covering the gravel layer that contained the plumbing.
Let me just preach a little about contractor selection here. When you ask a paving contractor to perform a plumbing project or estimate the flow requirements for a landscape drainage problem, you are usually asking for trouble. Not always, but usually. For these applications, speak to someone that knows something about drainage and can help you design the system. After that, a concrete or excavating contractor – maybe even a paving contractor – can usually do a good job at the installation.
There were three problems associated with the horse barn drains when we came onto the scene. First was the drain selection. The original contractor decided to take the easy route; he went to Lowe’s and purchased the first product he saw, which was the Spee-D channel by National Diversified Systems (NDS). Spee-D is an all plastic trench drain system that is meant for pool and sidewalk applications. The 2″ outlet that this drain has can only effectively handle 12 gallons a minute. The barn was seeing 3-4 times the amount of run-off water that the little Spee-D drain could handle. In addition, the water was heavy with sediment and the openings on the grates were becoming clogged, making drainage even less effective (see photo below).
A second problem was the drainage pipe used to drain the water from the trench. The contractor used 4″ corrugated pipe rather that 4″ sewer and drain pipe (S&D pipe). S&D pipe is smooth lined and more rigid then corrugated flex pipe. In the process of backfilling corrugated pipe and compacting the gravel in the previous installation, we found that the contractor smashed this pipe, which constricted the flow, making water drainage even more difficult.
Lastly, and even more ridiculous, was the drainage outlet to this system. In the process of digging the trench for the drainage pipe, the contractor found an old French drain and decided that was a suitable place to connect his outlet. For those who want more background on French Drains, we have an article on that topic. In effect, the drainage water was put into a small perforated pipe that had no outlet. So, in summary, a system that was designed to handle 12 gallons/minute was subjected to a flow of 50 gallons/minute. Even so, it couldn’t handle the limited flow due to a crushed pipe and no outlet. No wonder the barn was flooding!!
Phase 2 – Installation
I like pictures. A picture says a thousand words. Just go to McDonald’s and stare at the menu. You don’t need to read anything; just look at the pictures and feel yourself salivate. I’m going to do the same thing here – without the saliva. You’ll see a few pictures in succession that show the steps of the installation of the Econodrain #4 trench drain system.
To preface, my assistant and I had to remove the old drain. We began by cutting the asphalt, excavating the soil and removing the old, ineffective pipe. Then we installed the new drain and piping, backfilling with gravel, and poured a final topping of concrete. The photos below show the sequence and are accented with brief explanations.
First, we laid parallel chalk lines in the center of the barn, 12 inches apart, and used a concrete saw to cut the asphalt at the markers. The asphalt was only 3 inches deep and easily cut and removed. At times, the water from the saw blade washed away the chalk lines, so other markers had to be used to complete a straight cut line.
The existing drain was completely removed. Once cut, the asphalt between the plastic drain and the barn yard was easily removed and stacked up for later use. Similarly, the gravel beneath the asphalt was also removed and stored.
I didn’t get a photo of the piping installation. As usual, the concrete truck arrived before the piping was completely laid. That means there was a lot of rushing around and not enough time to take photos of the pipe setting, backfilling, the tamping of the backfill or the concrete pouring. Actually, we could have used a third person for this part of the job.
We used standard concrete tools for the installation of concrete around the drain and over the drainage pipe. The pour would have gone much smoother if we had a pencil vibrator, but no matter. We applied some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease and got the job done.
A new catch basin was installed in the square cut out. Generally, I make four inches of concrete perimeter around any catch basin. For more information on catch basin installation, view one of the previous posts that have been written on this topic.
The concrete was poured level with the asphalt surface of the barn. I didn’t really like this idea. I would have preferred to have the concrete a few inches below the finished floor and then use asphalt for the last couple of inches. However, for cost and time issues, the owners wanted to go this route. They planned to power wash and seal coat the entire floor with a black bituminous coating anyway. That would have covered up the color difference.
Phase 3 – Site Cleanup
The aftermath of a concrete pour is a sight to behold. There is always a big clean-up on the following day. This was the condition of the pour on the day after. Not shown here are places where the horse and dog stepped in the fresh concrete. The owners tried to smooth the concrete with garden tools but didn’t quite manage it. I think it gave the appearance a unique charm.
After grinding off the 3/16″ spreader bars, the form was removed from the trench. Because a mold release was used on the form surface prior to pouring concrete, it was easy to remove. At this point, my assistant and I patched any blemishes within the trench with mortar. The steel grating rails were scraped and wire brushed to remove dried concrete. The channel was swept clean and made to look presentable.
Cast iron grates were finally put in place and fixed with locking devices. These grates had a large open area to allow water to quickly descend into the drain body. Also, as the grate was made from cast iron, there would be no problem with grates breaking under the weight of a horse or tractor.
We still had some trenching to perform and some pipe to lay downhill from the barn. We were able to recycle some of the asphalt chunks excavated the day before into the backfill around the drainage outlet. Instead of bringing the pieces to a landfill, we layered the asphalt over the S&D piping to protect it from being crushed by tractors and then covered the area with dirt. The owners finished by surrounding the outlet pipe (invert out) with stones in an effort to make it visible to folks that might drive through with vehicles.
With the construction area cleaned within reason, we poured water into the drain to verify that everything was pitched correctly and flowing freely. The owners still had plans to bulldoze the ground in front of the door level but finally had a drain that worked. Our job here was done.
Trench Drain Systems is happy to have brought you this article. If you have a question about trench drain installations or the Econodrain trench forming system, send us an email! To discuss your application with one of our sales professionals, call us at 610-638-1221.