How to Form a Concrete Channel Drain


Things You’ll Need

  • Transit

  • Jackhammer (optional)

  • Molded channel drain

  • Steel rebar rods

  • Small sledgehammer

  • Shovel

  • Concrete

  • Concrete trowel

  • Edging tool

Smiling senior woman swimmer in pool Channel drains are beneficial around swiming pools. Image Credit: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

The home pool holds a lot of water, but some can splash out during normal swimming activities. Concrete surfaces around pools are subject to overflow. A channel drain, installed in the concrete near the pool, collects overflow and directs it to a storm sewer or to a designated drainage area. Channel drains are small versions of commercial trench drains. It's simpler to install one when you're pouring a concrete walk or pool deck, but you can also add one to existing concrete.

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Step 1

Locate the channel drain so water runs toward it, often a few feet from the edge of a pool.

Step 2

Use a transit to determine the correct grade when installing a channel trench in a new concrete patio, slab or pool deck. The minimum standard slope for concrete slabs to ensure adequate drainage is 1/4 inch of drop per lineal foot. This means that if you install a channel drain 4 feet from the edge of a pool, the drain should sit 1 inch lower than the height of the concrete at the pool's edge. Transits are available for rent from construction rental stores, and they come with a measuring stick and instructions on how to determine grade.

Step 3

Break out concrete with a jackhammer to form a trench wider than the molded channel drain. The specs that come with the drain will specify the minimum distance required on both sides of the trench, but it's generally at least 1 foot on each side. The depth of the trench is determined by the height of the channel and will be specified by the channel manufacturer.

Step 4

Position the molded channel drain in the trench. Connect the sections as per the manufacturer's instructions to form the desired trench configuration. Some channel drains are straight and rigid. Others can be molded into gentle curves to fit your landscape.

Step 5

Drive rebar rods through the rebar holders on the sides of the molded channel sections with a small sledgehammer. The rods secure the channel to the ground beneath — and without them, the channel would move or float when you pour the concrete. The length and number of supporting rods depends upon the size of the channel drain and the manufacturer's specifications.

Step 6

Check the top of the channel for level and height. Fit the protective channel cover over the channel before pouring the concrete.

Step 7

Shovel wet concrete beneath the channel and tamp it into place with the blade of the shovel to work it beneath the bottom lip of the channel. To stabilize the channel, work the concrete around it before filling the rest of the trench or before pouring the rest of the pool deck.

Step 8

Smooth the wet concrete with a concrete trowel, tamping and working the concrete next to the channel sides and beneath the outer lip of the channel. Use a concrete edging tool to form a rounded concrete rim beside the channel.

Step 9

Let the concrete cure before removing the protective channel cover and placing the channel grate on top.


Check and double-check the level of the channel drain before pouring concrete.


Everything must be ready before the concrete truck arrives. Wet concrete is heavy. If you’re not experienced in pouring concrete, hire a professional to ensure that the concrete does not set before it’s in place.


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