ACO talks phantom drainage

ACO talks phantom drainage

Angus Crichton, Marketing Manager at ACO House & Garden, wades into the risky realm of taking shortcuts with channel drains.

At its core, a channel drain does precisely what its name implies: it channels rainwater runoff from the wrong places to the right ones. However, when shortcuts are taken during installation and rainwater ends up where it’s not wanted, it can potentially cause major problems down the line.

In this installation no end caps have been installed and rainwater has seeped into the surrounding sub-base

Dubious drainage

A good example is the threshold drainage for Tony and Tina Joyce. In the summer of 2022, they purchased a new-build property constructed in 2019, complete with a channel drain designed to stop rainwater running into the garage. Unfortunately, once rainwater entered the channel, there was no path for it to follow — the channel had not been connected to the stormwater drain. The result was a flooded garage after a heavy downpour.

In another incident I personally observed, a run of ACO HexDrain was installed on a driveway in Oxford. No endcaps were installed so, predictably, rainwater was left to seep into the surrounding subbase.

In contrast, this channel has been properly sealed with an endcap

When drainage is improperly installed — without the ability to remove water to the proper destination — we call it phantom drainage.

Faults of phantoms

When water permeates the subbase and subgrade, the load-bearing capacity of paved surfaces weakens over time, eventually resulting in slumps and shifts. I recently heard from a builder in Surrey with 45 years of experience who told me about a time an entire paved driveway slid into the road after a heavy rain because it had been installed on a slope with phantom drainage.

While phantom drainage may initially seem like a cost-saving shortcut, it can prove catastrophic for a contractor’s reputation, not to mention the considerable expenses incurred correcting faulty work. This means that the proper sealing and connection of channel drains to onward drainage is a critical part of any installation. Fortunately, it is a task made easier with the aid of the right accessories.

Essential accessories

Each ACO channel drain system comes with a range of accessories necessary to responsibly, legally, and sustainably channel runoff. These accessories are not optional extras; they are indispensable tools to deliver a high-quality installation:

Seal: Clip-on endcaps with sealant effectively contain rainwater within the channel. This method is far more secure and efficient than scouring the site for appropriately sized pieces of slate.

Corner: Channel drains often need to conform to a building’s footprint, so corners or T-junctions are needed. ACO provides corner units compatible with each of its channel systems, featuring knock-out pieces that facilitate connections for up to four channel runs.

Clean: Incorporating a sump unit before or within the outlet prevents the buildup of silt, helping to safeguard against clogs in downstream pipework or soakaways. Additionally, a leaf guard positioned over the outlet offers an extra layer of protection against debris. Similarly, access units are indispensable for properly maintaining a run of slot channel drains.

Connect: ACO channels feature vertical outlet knockouts, while endcaps can be exchanged for horizontal outlets. This design element allows for tailored outflow options, positioning the drainage connection wherever best suits the needs of the instillation. Round and square downpipe connectors can be effortlessly clipped onto the channel, just like a grating, to direct rainwater from roof drainage into the channel.

Regulations relevant to rainwater runoff

Currently, the onsite disposal of rainwater is a legal requirement. For instance, in England and Wales, any area exceeding 5m2 (or 0m2 in Scotland) requires the onsite dispersion of rainwater when a new driveway is laid or renovated.

Consequently, contractors need a comprehensive channel drainage system — not just the channels themselves, but the corresponding accessories to ensure proper rainwater disposal.

Note the sump unit at the end of the channel run to clean rainwater

By selecting ACO channel drain systems, it becomes possible to complete projects swiftly and effectively, leading to more jobs as word of-mouth recommendations spread. Moreover, the ACO channel drain system can contribute to a sustainable drainage solution, effectively managing rainwater from rooftops to ground level. This approach minimises the risk of sewage overflows into waterways, further promoting environmental responsibility.

Phantom drainage represents a shortcut that’s dangerous for customers’ properties and to business reputations. It can be entirely avoided with the right solutions. ACO’s extensive portfolio of channel drains and accessories equips drainage professionals with everything they need to drain paved surfaces to the highest standards and guard against phantoms.

Images courtesy of Richard Armstrong.

Find out more about why accessories are essential for effective drainage at

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