Considering Stainless Drains for Food Production

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Stainless steel seems to be the ideal material for food processing facilities because of its inherent resistance to corrosion, cleaning chemicals, heat and bacteria growth.

Plant managers prefer stainless steel grating instead of cast iron and galvanized steel because of the material’s longevity in corrosive environments.  Besides having these benefits, stainless steel has a shiny, clean appearance that makes it aesthetically ideal for some architectural designs.

Food production plants – and I count breweries, wineries and distilleries in the category – often specify floor drains made of stainless steel alloys (304 and 316) for all these reasons.

stainless drain for food production, stainless brewery drains, drain for distillery,Stainless Benefits:

  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Tolerates cleaning processes
  • Heat resistant
  • Resistant to bacterial growth

But then there’s the issue of cost.  Stainless steel tends to be four times (4 x) the cost of a similar galvanized steel component. That difference is enormous when you are a brewer looking at start-up costs or a food processing plant manager who needs to bring your drains in line with what the FDA wants.  These costs only go up as the load requirement of the application go up.  Light pedestrian loads call for light duty, affordable drain covers.  Fork truck loads call for heavy duty drain covers with significantly more stainless steel to meet the structural requirements.

Thankfully, not all applications need a 100% stainless steel drain system (body and grating) with heavy duty grating.  In fact, most applications are able to reduce overall costs of their drain by managing either the load rating of the grating or drain body composition.

Cost Management:

  • Drain Body
  • Load Rating

Drain Body Options

Often, trench drains in food application are concerned about the chemical resistance of the drain body to the cleaning chemicals used to kill bacteria.  Though stainless steel is the best material for this application, polymer concrete and plastics can also be used.  The trench grating tends to be the item that is required to be stainless steel, anyway.  Check your local building codes as these vary from place to place.

You might want stainless steel channels where hot system fluids are dumped directly into the drain.  High temperature polymer concrete (Vinyl ester composition) channels are often used as a substitution to stainless steel due to their affordability in comparison to stainless steel.

Sometimes on-site production practices affect what channel material you should use. For example, it turns out that system water cools significantly when dumped onto a concrete floor; temperatures are generally below the 140 F threshold once they enter the drain. If system fluids are being dumped on the floor prior to entering the drain, then standard polymer concrete (polyester resin composition) or a low thermal expansion polymer is a safe way to go.

Another way brewers and distillers lower water temperature is by diluting it with cold water during the dumping phase.


stainless brewery grates, stainless grates for food Stainless Steel Grating options

The grating, or top grill, seems to be the drain component that is most often required to be composed of stainless steel.  It makes sense why. The trench drain grate takes the brunt of the food production process.

If your drain system requires stainless steel grating, be sure you select a product proper for the load your drain will experience.

In areas where only people are walking, use a pedestrian rated slotted grate or perforated grate if you need heel-proof or ADA compliance.

If your process area is exposed to pneumatic wheeled traffic, like a delivery truck, you will need a reinforced stainless steel grating. These grates are similar to the pedestrian rated grates but have reinforcing “fins” for added structural support. (See below.)

reinforced stainless grates, stainless grating pallet jack,


Applications where fork trucks loads will be seen call for a heavy duty drain cover.  The reinforced stainless steel “finned” grating has never been capable of supporting fork truck loads.  And, in general, the trench drain marketplace has not had a satisfactory product for this application.

heavy duty brewery grate, heavy duty stainless gratingTrench Drain Systems filled this need by designing a heavy duty stainless steel bar grate that handles fork truck traffic and fits into a traditional Polycast pre-sloped polymer concrete system.  The grating model DG0669 is made from ¼” stainless steel welded bar and designed using the “fin philosophy” currently seen in traditional reinforced grating.  Grating is available in 24 and 48 inch lengths.  It is capable of accepting large water flows with its 68% available open area.

These grates are becoming popular in portions of corrosive chemical or brewery applications that require heavy loads.  Added protection is achieved when using the stainless steel channel overlays with the DG0669 grating.  The overlays protect the underlying channel from chipping due to impact and premature wear.

For more information on stainless steel drain options for food and beverage production, please contact a Trench Drain Systems sales representative at 610-638-1221.  Or, send us an email!