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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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Ever since the first line of plastic trench drains emerged on the market, homeowners have welcomed the convenience of lightweight, affordable drainage systems. Easily purchased and installed, plastic drains bring patio and driveway drainage systems to an accessible level.

But a lingering flaw in plastic drainage systems has been the same simplicity that made them popular. The smallest plastic drains are about 1.5” wide and, though they come in up to three colors (usually gray, sand or white), are just narrow strip drains with no ornamental grating options. Larger drains between 2” – 4” wide come standard with plastic slotted grates that offered new colors but no design improvements.

Now NDS’ design efforts allow anyone to buy decorative plastic trench grates for new and preexisting NDS drain systems. The new Botanical and Wave designs are both beautiful. (see a side by side comparison below). While the pattern options are still developing, both styles come in trademark NDS colors of sand, black, green and gray.

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These grates are available for the 3” Mini Channel and the 4” Spee-D Channel systems, and they also work with 12” catch basins. Overall, I think the new decorative grates improve the 3” and 4” NDS profile drains. Let me show you why.

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NDS Mini Channel plastic drain system

The Mini Channel and Spee-D Channel profile drains feature honeycomb chambers within the wall. Spee-D Channel drains (not shown here) have thicker walls to accommodate their greater width, but the basic construction is the same. Profile drain grates rest on a lip in the channel body and are screwed into place.

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Mini Channel with Botanical grate (left), with Gray Slotted Grate (right).

Traditionally, either system’s slotted plastic grates rest fully within the channel and do not hide its edge (see above photo, right). Gray channel edges are visible on either side of plastic slotted Mini Channel or Spee-D Channel grates, a detail frequently commented on in upscale applications.

“[The visible channel border] has been a long running criticism of the Mini Channel and Spee-D Channel,” says Mike Schreiber, District Sales Manager at NDS.

Personally, I always felt this was a design flaw on the part of NDS not only because water can gather between the grate and the channel but also because it’s not aesthetically appealing. I’m pleased that NDS is taking steps to improve on the design.

NDS’ decorative grating (see above photo, left) is thicker. The grates hang over the channel walls. Once installed, all you see of the drainage system on the left is the Botanical pattern grate.

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The photo above shows how nicely the new decorative plastic grates fit into NDS profile drains. I do like these grates better because their added thickness makes the systems more durable. It also makes the grates sit higher in the channel, which means you’ll have to use special screws to secure the grates.

At first I was concerned that the additional height would tempt the Fates and lead to broken drains. However, NDS specifications recommend profile channels be recessed up to a quarter inch to improve drainage. Recessed drains also protect the channel from snow plows, which have been known to tear up grates. If there are any issues they will probably occur in preexisting drains that were not installed in a recess. But if the existing drains were installed properly there shouldn’t be a problem.

When decorative cast iron grates became a reality for homeowners, plastic drain manufacturers realized they were missing out on a large market. Contractors and homeowners saw cast iron grates as an upgrade to basic slotted plastic worth the extra cost, but decorative plastic was unsold real estate in the trench drain market. So far, only NDS has done anything to fill the market need.

Seeing an unmet market need, NDS began developing their line of decorative plastic grates a year ago. The manufacturer conducted surveys among customers and contractors to help choose which designs would be most popular before sending out small batches for trial runs. The end result is that homeowners can now buy Botanical and Wave pattern plastic grates for their profile drains and catch basins.

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A sampling of NDS’ decorative catch basin grates

The decorative grates are making in-roads on applications where drainage systems are visible such as commercial pools, patios and sidewalks. While they aren’t driving new sales – nobody who doesn’t need a trench drain is buying the grates just to have them – homeowners and contractors lean toward decorative plastic because of its improved aesthetics.

“I’m really starting to see the decorative channel take off,” Schreiber says.

Many NDS drains have a decorative iron option available (see our blog about decorative cast iron grating here). Plastic decorative patterns are still limited at the moment, but I expect options to expand once the idea of affordable plastic replacement grates sinks into the public’s mind. NDS, now busy incorporating new acquisitions such as KBI flow control and ADS drainage systems, is going to wait before expanding their decorative offerings.

Thanks for reading! Do you like the new decorative plastic grates?

Visit DrainageKits.com to buy replacement plastic grates for your NDS profile drains or catch basins. You can also call Trench Drain Systems at 610-638-1221 to speak with a trench drain specialist or leave a comment below!

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Iron Age Designs is a Washington-based designer that embraces its Made in the U.S.A. identity as it sells decorative iron grates, tree grates and custom casting at prices homeowners can afford.

Founded in 2005 by Mark Armstrong and Craig Diamond, industry professionals who had already worked together for years designing decorative castings for landscape projects, Iron Age brought high-end design to homeowners and contractors everywhere.

“We started with the drain grates where there hasn’t been much variety at a price most folks could afford,” says Dominique Watkins, a partner at Iron Age Designs.

Making their signature decorative iron grates in the U.S.A is important to Iron Age for a number of reasons. Manufacturing domestically doesn’t just present practical benefits such as little to no language barrier, a standard currency or similar quality standards. Domestic manufacturing also allows the company to take part in a shared business culture and a sort of patriotic loyalty during each grate’s design, manufacture and ultimate sale.

“It’s just easier to pick up the phone and talk to a person in the same country,” Watkins says. “Also, I have noticed that our business partners feel like we are the same team. U.S. manufacturing has been embattled for many years, and we share a determination to work together to succeed in making things right here at home.”

Iron Age, like many Made in the U.S.A. companies, has difficulty competing with imported drain grates and tree grates. The low cost of labor in foreign countries translates to price differences that don’t favor American manufacturing. “Value engineering” – a euphemism for cutting costs by buying the cheapest option available – disregards design in favor of budgeting.

It might be better for Iron Age to scout for manufacturers across the border, but they don’t. Though the Internet makes it easier to collaborate on new trench grate designs over long distances, being geographically close has its benefits. Meetings take on a different tone in person and product development is easier to manage, for example.

“Communication is better when you are in the same room,” Watkins says. “For production, it is best when you can see the progress of the actual product and touch the prototype as a product evolves.”

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6″ Decorative Grates Installed in Residential Driveway

The grating designer sets itself apart from the competition by continually creating grating designs not found elsewhere in the industry and by embracing its Made in the U.S.A. identity.

Iron Age Designs sells more trench drain grates and catch basin grates than any other product. The designer supplies drain grates that fit a number of trench drain systems by leading industry manufacturers such as NDS, ACO, ABT, ADP, MEA and Zurn.

“Drain grates are successful because we have something really unique to say in terms of our design,” Watkins says. “Also, nobody else carries the kind of breadth and depth of decorative offering that we do.”

The product niche is very narrow, with only a handful of competitors. Many foundries manufacture their cast iron grates outside the U.S. and import. Other designers who hire domestic foundries don’t offer decorative products. Neenah Foundry, a titan in the cast iron grate industry, gears itself toward industrial projects instead of homeowners.

“That leaves only a couple who produce a variety of decorative grates in quantity in the USA, and among them we are probably the most reasonably priced,” Watkins says. “As far as trench grates and catch basins grates go we have no peer in the variety of design palette.”

Trench Drain Systems is happy to have brought you this article, and we want to know: Why do you buy American?

If you have a question about Iron Age grates or decorative grating upgrades, email us or call one of our drain specialists to discuss your application. Decorative patio drainage kits and cast iron grates are available online at www.DrainageKits.com.

 

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