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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 toll-free (866)570-2333 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 at sales@trenchdrain.biz 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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Over the past couple years we have posted several articles discussing catch basins and catch basin installation. More specifically, we have found ourselves focusing on the broad selection of catch basin products for yard and downspout drainage manufactured by National Diversified Sales (NDS).

This article is devoted to one of my favorite NDS catch basin products called the Next Generation Basin, or 1200 NGB. The 1200 NGB is a unique 12” x 12” catch basin that allows you to adjust the invert elevations of the catch basin without changing elevation at grade (at the grating). No other residential grade catch basin has this feature!

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Take a look at the 1200 NGB catch basin kit (above), which contains two open adjustable wall panels. The round openings in the basin’s wall panels are specifically designed to accept one of NDS’s universal outlets.  So, not only are the inverts for the 1200 NGB adjustable, but it can fit a variety of piping options, too.  In the photo below, a 1243 pipe adapter is shown alongside a panel wall.

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If only one outlet is needed for the catch basin, the 1266 plug adapter can be inserted to seal up the wall.  NDS also offers a solid wall panel (or plug side) can be inserted to close the open side (see photo below).  Still, the plug side does offer a knock-out for a pipe adapter if you later change your mind about having an outlet at that location.

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The 1200 NGB system was developed to make catch basin installation easier and more convenient. You can see in the photo below that it has three snap off side-outlet options, each changing the slope of drainage slightly. The lowest setting eliminates most sitting water from the basin, leaving less room for a sump to catch debris but draining the quickest. The center setting is the standard and connects with the middle of the catch basin. The highest setting gives the catch basin more elevation for drainage that needs to travel a longer distance. Depending on the situation, each of these outlets can be just what is needed to complete the job.

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The 1200 NGB basin also gives you options in bottom discharging. In the bottom of every basin is an adapter knock-out (similar to the plug side knock-out), which can attach to solid a PVC pipe that feeds off your drainage system.  By attaching the bottom outlet to a perforated pipe, you can create a leaching system uses storm water to recharge the ground water.   Small “weep hole” knock-outs are also located in the bottom corners of the catch basin for those who are just trying to rid the basin of standing water.

The fourth option offered by the Next Generation Catch Basin is a total bottom cut-out, which allows the maximum amount of storm water to be put back into the ground. As the ground becomes saturated, excess water reaches the pipe elevation and is taken away in the drainage system. Though this option maximizes the water that remains on site – a popular choice among those interested in water sustainability – it is not the best option next to home foundations.

One of the best things about the 1200 NGB system, though, is the amount of grating options available for it. Standard plastic grating comes in 4 colors: black, sand, green and gray. Also, there are bronze, brass, galvanized steel and cast iron options. Below are examples of the  standard slotted cast iron grating (left) and the black plastic grating (right).

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Other ornamental cast iron grating options are manufactured by Iron Age Designs are also available for this catch basin. Below are four gorgeous patterns that are popular in patio and downspout catch basins. Clockwise from the upper left, the pattern names are Interlaken, Locust, Sun and Oblio.

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These grates fit perfectly with the 1200 NGB.  What makes the designs so fantastic is how each one incorporates a different image of nature into what would otherwise be a simple work of cast iron. The Interlaken Grate on the top left has a beautiful yet strict design; it must be a representation of the solid form of earth.  On the top right, the Locust Grate provides a breezier feel; the leaf patterns soften the harshness of the material until it seems to flow.  With the grate pictured on the bottom left, the Oblio Grate, you can get a sense of water in the concentric circles; the grate is reflecting the distorted surface of water during a rain.   At the bottom right, the Sun Grate exudes warmth and intensity; the sun seems to pop out of the plain background of circles.   Consider painting this grate in bright colors prior to installation.

Thanks for stopping by our blog to learn about the Next Generation Basin, the catch basin that does what no other residential basin can do!  All of the products mentioned in this article are available from Trench Drain Systems.  Call them toll-free at 877-570-2333 or email your inquiry to sales@trenchdrain.biz.

 

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