The Grate Seal Story - How it all began
Hi everyone, Tony (me) and Ronnie here and together we’re the creators of Grate Seal. We are also both fully accredited, qualified and experienced plumbers who know first-hand the difference it can make to your home or work environment when nasty drain odours are never an issue. Because when is an issue, it can be a seemingly overwhelming one.
Ronnie and I own Impact Pumbing and are based in Sydney and on the South Coast of New South Wales in Australia. When we first created the Grate Seal, Ronnie was my apprentice and we were involved in construction plumbing for large companies including Mirvac, Hansen Yuncken and Kell & Rigby (K&R). We were also helping everyday people living and investing in apartments and homes, new and old, and working in factories, bakeries and almost any other business you can think of. It didn't matter if it was large or small, we had one simple goal – make that job a good job.
In early 2008 we were contacted by K&R to help solve a problem with a new development they’d just completed called the Paddington Green. K&R had just finished the redevelopment of the old Women’s hospital in Paddington and there were a number of units experiencing foul sewer smells emanating from floor drains in their bathrooms. The original plumbers who performed the installation couldn’t solve the problem, nor could any of the maintenance plumbers they brought in.
K&R found themselves in a difficult situation that could potentially have contractual (legal) problems and they engaged us to fix the issue – and do whatever it takes.
We put our heads together to come up with a solution. We couldn’t just rip up the installed plumbing, as this would be astonishingly expensive in such a massive development, and set back their plan by months (at best!). We also couldn’t just seal the drains over as the only thing worse than a smelly drain is one that doesn’t work at all!
This was the lightbulb moment for Ronnie and me – why wasn’t there something simple out there that could let water through one way, and prevent gas coming back the other (venting)?
We immediately started experimenting with some flexible rubber and old plastic caps we had lying around our factory, and with no small amount of work came up with the prototype of the Grate Seal. When we installed this (extremely crude!) device into our test drain, the odours vanished and we knew we had stumbled onto a pretty simple, elegant solution to a very un-subtle problem.
We as quickly as possible, refined the design and moved into production. As soon as the Grate Seal was installed the sewer odours disappeared and thank you letters from the owners of the apartments, who had lived with smelly drains for many months, arrived.
We felt happy, proud and humbled all at the same time.
Word spread quickly after this initial success and we were soon installing the Grate Seal for many different builders. Word spread further and suddenly we were not just servicing companies but the wider public as well.
However, it was a down-turn in our plumbing business following the GFC that turned our full attention to changing the Grate Seal from what was a made to order, bespoke product, into something anyone could buy and install themselves. In early 2009 we moved into phase two.
First we located an Australian rubber manufacturer that could come up with the correct rubber compound, that was both flexible and durable enough, and also with the capacity to make the product in sufficient volumes. We then took out a patent on the product and trade-marked the name. Once our commercial prototype was ready, we sent it to get watermark approval and tested by VIPAC.
Now that we had a product that worked, the real ‘fun’ started – getting retailers to stock it. We hit the phones, sent emails, contacted friends of contacts’ friends; went to lunches, organised demonstrations, called in favours from other plumbers and pretty much begged people to take the product on.
Within a year we had signed up all major plumbing supply merchants in Australia to consider stocking the product. A word of advice to any other inventors looking to market their idea out there – stick with it and don’t listen to the nay-sayers!
The next phase was to increase the volume of sales. Just because a merchant agrees to add your product to their mix doesn’t mean they agree to consistently stock it or market it for you.
To do this we built our reputation further by visiting hydraulic consultants and engineers. Some of them knew what the product's purpose was soon as we handed it to them. They couldn’t believe nobody had come up with as simple a solution to drain odours as this one durable piece of rubber. Armed with out expert recommendations and after more and more calls, emails and lunches, the Grate Seal became a fixture on shelves.
A couple years have now passed and we've recently passed a sales milestone that we never thought possible - we've just sold our 100,000th Grate Seal!
Our ‘Grate’ adventure has only just begun and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us along the way. From the experts who evaluated and tested Grate Seal, to the awesome retailers and stockists who took the product on, as well as the many businesses and consumers who have placed their faith in us. Above all, we’d like to thank our families for putting up with us. Without you, we wouldn’t be here.
How can the Grate Seal Help you?
If you have drain odour problems in your home or business or have mosquitoes and other insects entering your premises through your drains the Grate Seal can be the solution to your problem.
We have a number of sizes of Grate Seal available that will fit most shower and floor drains. Installation is super simple - just take the drain cover off, measure the width of the drain, replace the cover and order the correct size Grate Seal (here). When it arrives, remove the cover and slot the Grate Seal into the drain and replace the cover and you are done! You can watch a quick video on the installation here.
Please note one of our Grate Seal models can be easily tailored to fit either 4"/100mm or 3"/80mm drains.
Get great tips from the Grate Tips blog
We've recently launched our own blog page, Grate Tips. Ronnie and I have years of experience at all levels in the plumbing industry and we want to share this knowledge with you. From plumbing troubleshooting to tips on cleaning to making your home or business a nicer, healthier place, we'll be regularly posting our anecdotes and ideas for your own use. We hope you enjoy reading them and feel free to send us feedback!