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Mini Channel is a popular 3 inch wide profile channel drain manufactured by NDS.  It is produced in Fresno, CA and stored in one of the four company warehouses and multiple distributors across America.  It is arguably the most versatile channel drain in its class on the market today.  Here’s why:

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    Mini Channel Extrusion Process

    The extruded, PVC cell-core construction of Mini Channel makes it inexpensive while also sturdy enough for popular residential applications, including pool decks and patios.

  2. The 3″ wide and 3″ depth dimension makes it large enough to handle most patio run-off scenarios while still being small enough to be inconspicuous.
  3. The straight wall construction of Mini Channel makes it compatible for most paver projects, while also being great in poured concrete decks.
  4. The grating selection of Mini Channel is one of the largest in the industry.  At last count, this mighty channel boasts of over 30 different grating options (All available at Trench Drain Systems)

Currently, there are four companies that produce grating products for the Mini Channel.  The color, material and design options are widespread making this system virtually perfect for any home decking or patio project.  Check out the selection below.

NDS

plastic drain grates, 2.75 grates, 3in plastic grates, nds channel grates,Of course, the manufacturer of Mini Channel will have some grates to use with their system.  They originally began with a six color plastic slotted grate offering and two brass grates (polished and brushed).  After competition in the marketplace proved that decorative grating was a viable option, NDS developed two decorative patterns of their own: “Wave” and “Botanical.” They began offering these two patterns in four colors (plastic) and in cast iron.  In all, NDS has 18 different grate selections for the Mini Channel.

Trench Drain Systems

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“Raindrop” (top) and “Slotted”

The most recent contributor to the Mini Channel grating selection is Trench Drain Systems.  Their contribution has been centered on providing simple, time tested, patterns in bronze and powder coated aluminum.  Currently, the patterns they offer are slotted and raindrop.  The bronze selections are sturdier than the NDS brass grates, having 50% more mass and capable of higher loads.  Bronze grates are available with a natural and brushed finish.

The bronze grate selections are sturdier than those offered by NDS for two reasons.  First, bronze is structurally a stronger material than brass.  And second, the grating offered by TDS have 50% more mass.  In comparison to the NDS product, they are heavier, sturdier and capable of higher loads.

nds mini channel grates, aluminum mini channel grates, 3in aluminum gratesLikewise, TDS makes the aluminum grates are available in the same two patterns but with the added feature of being powder coated.  The color choices are Caramel Beige, Textured White and Granite Grey.  The coated aluminum grates are popular around custom pools.  The aluminum grate won’t rust, as will the cast iron grates.  Also, the aluminum isn’t susceptible to deterioration in UV light and won’t break when the foot of a chair is placed on it.  Forget about needing to replace your plastic pool grates every third season.  For large projects, custom powder coatings are available for an added cost.

Iron Age Designs

Iron Age Designs popularized the idea of making decorative grates for the standard, off-the-shelf drains like Mini Channel.  In fact, their “Minione” cast iron grate was the first of 5 decorative grate patterns made for the Mini Channel system.  They also offer their decorative products with a baked on oil finish.  Iron Age’s success in capturing a portion of NDS’s trench drain grate market led to the development of the previously mentioned NDS deco grating products.

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Jonite USA

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Baby Pebble grate by Jonite USA; Mini Channel by NDS

Though not a newcomer to the drainage market, Jonite USA is new to the Mini Channel band wagon.  They manufacture a unique material, called Jonite, which is made from the re-constitution of ground granites and other natural stones.  The product is reinforced during the forming process to meet the engineered property requirements of the application.  Their Baby Pebble (shown here) and Interlace patterns are available in Desert Beige and Charcoal Black.  The grates are made to ride on top of the Mini Channel and are meant to be used in paver applications.  The thickness of the grate extends far beyond the top edge of the Mini channel.  The paving stone is installed just flush with the top of the channel/grate combination.

As this is a new company to the US Market, they haven’t quite gotten their distributorship established.  Nothing is stocked in the United States as of print.  Lead time on an order is about 4 months, as it will be coming to you on a boat from Singapore.

If you want more information on the NDS Mini Channel and how it can be designed into your next pool or hardscape project, call Trench Drain Systems at 610-638-1221.  You can also send an email request to sales@TrenchDrainSystems.com

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In 2012, NDS rolled out an improved channel for the 5 inch Pro Series. The 5 inch Pro Series is the workhorse of the Pro Series line, which ranges from 3” – 12” wide. The 5 inch Pro Series is sold in hardware stores around the country, though only in kit form. If you want to buy special grates or additional components, you’ll need to find an online store.

Rebar Connection

The first striking difference between the new and old design is the rebar attachment feature. (See below.) In the original rebar attachment design, a hole in the channel’s supporting foot allowed the installer to thread a piece of construction wire to connect rebar. The new rebar attachment design features a plastic clip that affixes to a No. 4 rebar (1/2”) without a tie wire.

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New channel design (left) vs. Old design (right)

Enhance Ribbing

The new 5 inch Pro Series model also sports a new rib design. The ribbing was originally designed into the system to define the location where the channel could be cut during final channel length adjustment. Compared above, one can see how one of the ribs in each pair has been extended. The extended rib has three purposes.

  1. It acts as a guide to assist in manual trimming of the channel,
  2. It gives more rigidity to the channel body, and
  3. It is part of a new, snap-fit tongue-and-groove channel connection design.

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There is a fourth purpose of the rib re-design, shown above. Three of the extended ribs have pedestal extensions, which are great for leveling the channel during installation on a tamped gravel surface. In the previous 5 inch Pro-Series design, the bottom outlet prevented the channel from setting level on a flat surface. The new design eliminates this issue to improve the overall installation experience.

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Improved Channel Connection

Probably the best outcome of the 5 inch Pro Series redesign is the new channel connection snap fit. Above, one can see both designs are still a tongue and groove fitting. The big difference is in the small “snap housing” at the top of the new design (left channel). Upon completion of the tongue and groove connection, a tab on the male end of the channel makes a “snap fit” with this housing and secures the assembly.

With the previous design, PVC glue was used to secure the channel connection. Though, PVC glue would make the joint between the two channels water tight, it’ application was sometimes an afterthought and made for a more complicated installation.

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 Different Plastic Composition

You may have noticed a slight color difference between the two channels in comparisons above. That’s because NDS altered the plastic composition of the channels. The early version was made of a Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) composition while the new channel is made from Poly Ester (PE). The grates used in the system have not changed. They are still as reliable as they were in the past.

There are property differences between the two plastics. However, these differences may be more significant to the manufacturer than the customer. Two helpful observations I’ve made between the two plastics:

  1. You can’t use PVC Glue to connect your new 5 inch Pro Series channels. It doesn’t work. You’ll have to find another product other than “good ol’” PVC glue. I initially learned of the new channel design from an irate customer complaining that he couldn’t glue these new channels together. At that point, NDS still had an old installation data sheet circulating. Oops!!
  2. If you freeze and drop PVC components, they will crack. I learned this after receiving a January shipment of NDS PVC catch basins. The product arrived in the box shattered due to poor handling by the trucking company. If it was July, they probably wouldn’t have been broken.

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Channel Weight

The final difference between the two 5 inch Pro Series designs is the channel weight. The new channel weighs 15 percent less than the previous channel. This may be due to the actual density of the plastic itself. Or, it could be related to some reduced channel dimensions. My gut feeling is that the weight change is an inherent property of the plastic rather than reducing the amount of plastic in the design. In fact, with the added features of the new design, it seems that NDS has “beefed up” on the volume of this channel. Again, this is my gut feeling and not based on any technical evidence.

NDS’s design change to the 5 inch Pro-Series hasn’t changed the width or length, but new design features make installation easier. Some installation problems may crop up if one is trying to make a construction blending the two designs.

I’ll miss the old design because we spent so many years together. However, I look forward to working with this new channel. Good job NDS, Inc.!!!

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Mini Channel, the 3” plastic channel drain that has long been one of NDS’ most popular systems, now offers slotted plastic grates with a smoother, more decorative appeal.

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New mold die (top) next to old plastic grate (bottom)

NDS overhauled the design of slotted Mini Channel plastic grates following the release of decorative plastic grating for the 3” channel drain in 2013.

The new design eliminates hard edges and flashing made when using the old injection mold die. The new die gives the grates a smoother look and the Mini Channel system a cleaner appearance.

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Supporting ribs on new slotted grate (top) vs. old grate design (bottom)

The new Mini Channel grate pattern isn’t just for appearance’s sake, either. The new mold lengthens the plastic grate’s supporting ribs, which run perpendicular to the trench’s length (think hamburger, not hot dog). Supporting ribs increase a grate’s longevity under traffic and serve to make the plastic channel grate sturdier. The better a grate’s support structure, the less vehicle stress will affect it.

While the updated look on the Mini Channel won’t increase the channel drain’s overall load bearing capacity, it does make the grate more rigid.

It is important to point out that this improvement didn’t increase the cost of the Mini channel grating.  For an estimate on a Mini Channel system for your patio application, request pricing from one of the specialists at Trench Drain Systems today.

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