What Are Floor Drains?

In this blog post, you’ll read:Floor drains are an integral component in many buildings, providing a crucial point of exit for unwanted or excess water. These drains are specifically designed to be placed at the lowest point of a particular area to collect efficiently and channel water away. Whether it's a sudden water spillage, cleaning activities, or simply water from a shower, floor drains play a pivotal role in keeping areas dry and preventing potential water damage.

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Floor drains are integral to many buildings, providing a crucial exit point for unwanted or excess water. These drains are specifically designed to be placed at the lowest point of a particular area to collect efficiently and channel water away. Whether it’s a sudden water spillage, cleaning activities, or simply water from a shower, floor drains are pivotal in keeping areas dry and preventing potential water damage.

Floor drain
Floor drains

Design and Components: A floor drain may seem like a simple structure, but it’s a thoughtfully designed system. Typically, a floor drain comprises:

  • Grate or Cover: This is the visible part of the drain, usually made of metal or plastic. Its primary role is to allow water to flow into the drain while preventing larger debris from entering and causing clogs.
  • Basin or Sump: Directly beneath the grate, this slightly depressed area collects water and funnels it into the drainage pipe.
  • Drainage Pipe: This is the conduit through which the water travels away from the floor drain and towards the sewage system or other designated areas.
  • Trap: Most floor drains contain a trap, a U-shaped pipe that retains a small amount of water to prevent sewer gases from coming back up through the drain and entering the room.

Applications and Varieties: Floor drains are ubiquitous and can be found in various settings:

  • Residential Homes: Especially in basements, bathrooms, and garages. They are vital in preventing water accumulation and potential flooding.
  • Commercial Buildings: They’re found in restrooms, kitchens, and other areas where there’s a possibility of water spillage.
  • Industrial Areas: They’re used in large numbers, especially in industries where large volumes of water are used in production processes.
  • Public Areas: Swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms utilize floor drains to manage water.

Materials: The choice of material for floor drains often depends on their application:

  • Stainless Steel: Common in commercial kitchens and industrial areas for its durability and resistance to corrosion.
  • PVC: Lightweight and rust-proof, these are suitable for many residential applications.
  • Brass and Bronze: These offer both aesthetics and functionality, often found in upscale establishments.
  • Cast Iron: Predominantly used in heavy-duty or industrial applications due to its robustness.

Maintenance and Care: Floor drains, like all plumbing components, require regular maintenance. This includes:

  • Regular Cleaning: Keeping the grates free from debris ensures efficient water flow.
  • Checking for Clogs: A slow-draining floor indicates potential blockages in the drain system.
  • Trap Water Level: The water in the trap can evaporate over time, especially in drains that aren’t used frequently. It’s essential to occasionally pour water down such drains to maintain the water seal and prevent sewer gas emissions.

Floor drains are essential players in the plumbing world. They serve as frontline defenses against water accumulation, ensuring spaces remain dry, safe, and clean. Whether designing a new building or renovating an old one, understanding the importance and functionality of floor drains can save you from potential water damage and offer peace of mind.

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How Do Floor Drains Work?

Floor drains are an effective way to eliminate any excess water in your home. They are often found in older homes’ basements to prevent water damage to the house or its contents. From a design perspective, these drainage systems are based on physics principles. Newer homes also use floor drains, though they work passively.


The mechanics of an old floor drain are simple: water moves from the house to the drain via gravity. For a floor drain to work properly, it must be installed at the lowest point in a floor that is sloped toward the drain. Once the water reaches the drain, it is dropped into a sewer system that carries it away from the house. No matter your home’s system, floor drains are essential in keeping things running smoothly.

Even homes with septic tanks need floor drains to prevent flooding. Newer models of floor drains may also come equipped with pumps to move water when necessary.

In short, floor drains are vital to any home plumbing system. Without them, homes would quickly become flooded with water each time it rains or there is a major spill.

Waste Traps

p trap and s trap comparison
p trap and s trap comparison

For a floor drain to function correctly, it must have a trap. This trap is similar to the ones used under kitchen and bathroom fixtures and helps to prevent noxious sewer gases from entering the home. The trap is filled with water, which allows for proper drainage and maintains neutral air pressure in the system. For the floor drain to work properly, it is important to have a vent to the outside air.

Cleanout Plugs

Cleanout Plugs
Cleanout Plugs

Most floor drains have cleanout plugs. The cleanout plug is a rubber stopper secured with a bolt and wing nut. A cleanout is an aperture in the floor drain through which blockages may be dislodged.

The cleanout is generally kept plugged. Corrosion can cause the plugs to rust and break, necessitating their replacement. The plug must be changed if this happens in some drains. In-floor drains with a bypass for the U trap, and the cleanout bypasses the U trap, so the end of the drain must be kept clear to keep sewer gases out of your home.


Unclogging a floor drain isn’t much different from unclogging any other sewage pipe. A plunger can be used to clear clogged floor drains in certain situations. In some cases, it may be necessary to use the cleanout plug. More expert techniques might require the assistance of a plumber and related tools. Inserting a water hose as far as it will go into the drain and turning it on may sometimes be enough to flush out debris.


Commercial Floor Drain Maintenance From FloHawks

Floor drains can get clogged just like any other kind of drain. Because they are on the floor, dirt and debris tend to gather, and they might become blocked more frequently than different drains. That garbage often makes its way into the drain.

Many homeowners don’t consider floor drain repair until too late because they’re frequently overlooked. Many floor drain problems may be prevented with advanced planning and essential maintenance. These simple maintenance activities will guarantee that your floor drains perform their job when needed, preventing floods and costly water damage.


Overflow from sinks, toilets, tubs, water heaters, and washing machines is collected by indoor floor drains. During and after intense rainstorms, outdoor floor drains rapidly remove water from surfaces. Whether indoors or outdoors, floor drains are intended to effectively and safely transport water to a sewer or municipal storm drain, keeping the floor dry and rooms from flooding. Trap traps prevent sewer odors and gasses from passing through the drain and into your home. Check your traps at least once each day, if not more frequently. If you don’t clean these drains regularly, they won’t work effectively. Pour one gallon of water down your home’s floor drains to ensure they work correctly. The water will fill the trap and form a barrier between your home and its sewer system.


If you catch a clog early on, clean it as soon as possible to reduce the risk of flooding. If it doesn’t work, try pouring a baking soda and vinegar solution down the drain. If you have a drain auger, insert the cable down the drain until it encounters resistance, then spin the cable and try to reel back whatever is obstructing the drain.


Check your drains for debris at least once a quarter and clean them using a safe, liquid drain cleaner if necessary. Arranging professional drain cleanings once a year is also a good idea to avoid obstructions and keep your drains working smoothly.

Following these simple tips can avoid many common problems with floor drains. By staying on top of maintenance and watching for potential issues, you can keep your floor drains working properly for years.

Where Should a Floor Drain Be Placed?

  • Except in a dwelling unit, toilet rooms with two or more water closets or a combination of one water closet and one urinal are prohibited.
  • Regarding food service and commercial kitchens, comply with Section 704.3.
  • Laundry rooms in commercial structures and common laundry facilities in multi-family residences.
  • Boiler rooms.

To handle runoff from activities or use, floor drains must be placed in a room or space at the lowest possible point. You might need to install multiple floor drains in a work area or large room. Regarding drainage in a business setting, such as a brewery or food processing factory, floor drains may not be the most effective solution, and slot drains may have to be installed around the workstation. The shape of the working area can determine the best type of drain for your needs.

In-home situations, floor drains are typically installed in showers or areas where water runoff might collect. A gradual slope for these drains is frequently straightforward, and situating the drain in a central area is often sufficient. The form of the space may also influence the style of your drain. Point, linear, rectangular, and slotted drains are available in shower applications.

The drainage type you choose can significantly influence the drain’s overall function. The positioning of various drain designs is crucial to their functionality. Point drains must nearly always be installed in the center of a gently sloped area, although linear and slot drains can be installed at the margins of space with a slope running down to them from a central high position. There are several approaches to developing the best drainage solution for your needs. Still, you must be aware of the restrictions of each drain type and arrange them appropriately to maximize their effectiveness.

Do Floor Drains Need Vents?

Floor drains need a vent to ensure balanced airflow and proper drainage. Water may produce suction or a vacuum without a vent, and sewage gas can leak into your house or company. This is most commonly seen in shower floor drains, but vents may be utilized in various applications.

Most vents must be situated eight feet vertically away from the drain; however, a shorter distance of five feet is required in other cases. The typical vent size for shower drains is 1 ½ inches, but it can be extended to fit your installation and drainage setup.

Many drainage solutions employ a trap and a vent, so you get double protection from sewer smells and runoff. This can be critical when delivering wastewater to a catch basin or sump. Check code requirements in your area before deciding which prevention measures suit you. Some states or counties require specific combinations of measures related to sewer gas and runoff.

What Are The Kinds of Floor Drains?

Floor drains come in various types, each suited for a different purpose. The four most common types are grate, channel, trench, and floor sink drains. Each type has a specific use, so knowing which one is right for your needs is important.

Box Floor Drain

Removable lift hook drain
Removable lift hook drain

If you ask someone to name a type of floor drain, they will likely describe it. It has a grate that is either rounded or square, and it goes over a box that collects water until it moves through the pipes and becomes wastewater.

sizes of floor drain
sizes of floor drain

Many of these drains come with a filter that strains out any bigger pieces of debris so they don’t clog up the drainage pipes. You usually see this in home showers and bathroom sinks. They’re really easy to unclog and maintain yourself–all you have to do is clean out the filter occasionally.

Baseboard Floor Drains

Baseboard floor drains are linear drainage solutions commonly installed in basements and large areas with much runoff water. This drain collects water in a channel and sends it to other drainage piping and the sewer.

This drain style rests at floor level and relies on the slope built into it to remove water effectively. While it can be difficult to maintain if not installed ideally, it is not the preferred drainage method for most commercial or home uses.

Foundation Floor Drains

Foundation Floor Drains
Foundation Floor Drains

A storm drain is a maintenance hole that directs water away from a home or business’s foundation and into the sewage system. Groundwater may accumulate when significant rain or storms hit; this drain is used to eliminate it.

This is not a drain that requires much upkeep every year. Though this drain needs to be cleaned a few times annually, it is not considered a high-maintenance drainage issue on your property.

Floor Trench Drains

Floor Trench Drains
Floor Trench Drains

Trench drains are widely used in both residential and commercial settings. They are the finest choice if you have a large volume of water. They’re easy to maintain and clean and the best option if you have enough water to deal with. These drains come in various sizes and depths and different grating types, allowing water to flow into them at various paces.

Floor drains are an essential part of any home or business. They allow water and other liquids to be drained quickly and safely, preventing accidents and damage. There are many different floor drains, each with its unique purpose. Some are designed for use in commercial settings, while others are more suited for residential applications. Whatever your needs, there is a floor drain that will fit the bill.

Trench drains
Trench drains

Floor drains come in various materials, so you can find one that meets your needs. Stainless steel is a good option if you need a heavy-duty drain for a commercial setting. If you need a drain that is lightweight and easy to install, plastic may be a better choice. Whichever material you choose, select a grate or slotted cover to keep debris from accumulating in the trench.

Wrapping up

Various floor drains are available on the market, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. It is critical to examine the requirements of your specific space before selecting a floor drain, as different drains are better suited for various applications. In general, floor drains should be installed in areas with high water runoff to prevent standing water from becoming an issue. When choosing a floor drain, it is also critical to examine the slope of your floors and the flexibility of your current drainage system. You can avoid the nuisance and dangers of standing water in your home or business by properly caring for your floor drains and using them correctly.

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