New “Cathedral” Grating for NDS Mini Channel

Trench Drain Systems expanded its decorative offering for NDS Mini Channel with a new pattern of bronze and aluminum grating. The design, borrowed from Chester Cathedral in Chester, England, (shown below) is heel-proof, subdued and stylish.   It adds a solemn aesthetic to the hardscape and hints of a yearning for the innocence of old.

Chester Cathedral, previously Saint Werburgh’s Benedictine Abbey, was built in the 10th century on the site of a church founded in part by the infamous Lady Godiva.  The grating shown below was probably installed during a major rebuilding that occurred in the 1900s.

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Trench Grating seen at the Chester Cathedral in England

Trench Drain Systems adds the “Cathedral” grate to their decorative grating product line, which also includes a standard slotted grate and an oblong perforated pattern known as “Raindrops.”  All three patterns are available in bronze and aluminum.


The bronze grates are available in a natural finish or a ground (polished) finish.

The aluminum grates, made from a corrosion resistant alloy, are available in 3 standard powder coatings as well as standard natural finish.   The standard powder coating colors are Sand, Granite and White.  Custom colors are available if your project requires that attention.

buy decorative grates, decorative mini channel, buy patio gratesEach grate lends itself well to drainage applications in elegant outdoor living spaces and swimming pool deck.  With two counter sunk holes allowing the grate to screw into the NDS Mini Channel, these grates are secure for even the most trafficked areas.

For involved drain designs, contact Trench Drain Systems at 610-638-1221 for help with your inquiry.  One of our trained sales professionals will be available to help you with your drainage questions.


3 Reasons Why Trench Drains Fail

A trench drain can be an expensive item to install.  First you have to invest time and energy into trying to solve a drainage problem.  Then, there is the cost of the drain itself: channel, top grating and shipping costs.

Next, there is an expense associated with the installation.  Maybe you use a contractor.  Maybe you do it yourself and end up with a sore back or smashed thumb.  You have concrete and other supply costs, as well.  It all adds up.  If it’s a home project, there is some personal frustration associated with the whole affair.  So, in the end you want the drain to actually solve the problem.

Shortcuts and misunderstanding the breadth of the problem lead to a failed trench drain.  Usually, I am brought in to consult with the project owner after the failed drain is discovered.  I have seen enough of these to lump the failures into three categories.

Improper Installation

There is a misconception that you don’t need to use concrete when installing a channel drain.  Put this out of your mind.  In most cases, you NEED to encase your trench drain in an envelope of concrete.

The only situation where you don’t need to pour concrete is in a paver patio that will never see vehicle traffic.

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Cracked polymer concrete drain in paver driveway

The example to the left shows a polymer concrete drain installed in a paver driveway.  Polymer concrete has a high compressive strength but is brittle and easily breaks when dropped or put into a dynamic force situation.

The abutting paving stones could have settled a bit in this drive.  The top edge of the trench drain became exposed to the dynamic forces of the car wheel, which broke the channel walls at the base of the drain.  The contraction and expansion of the stones freezing and thawing may also have played a role in the disintegration of the drain.

Originally, a modular trench drain was sold as a “form” which was used to when forming a drain out of concrete.  The drain body wasn’t the strength of the system, it was the shape.  When a drain is encased in concrete, the concrete takes the shape of the drain and becomes the strength of the drain.  Often, suppliers will specify a thickness of concrete needed to achieve a specific drain load classification.  Four inches are used in small automobile traffic.  Eight inches for heavier loads.

A drain can’t merely be sitting adjacent to the concrete.
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Without proper concrete reinforcement, trench drains will crack

The concrete must encase the body of the channel intimately.  In the example above, the client poured the concrete allowing a gap for the trench drain to be grouted in after the fact.  Because there was no support below or from the sides of the channel, the plastic channel body and grates were easily crushed under the weight of an automobile.  If the entire drain was supported by concrete, the weight load of the car would have been transferred to the concrete and the drain would still be intact.

“Can I use asphalt to install my drain?”

Generally, I would say “No”.  I have seen situations where the majority of the drain was encased in concrete, but the top surface adjoining the drain was tamped with asphalt.  That is doable if the contractor takes care not to crush the drain during asphalt compaction, but that is not a risk I’d like to promote.

Encasing the entire drain in concrete is preferred – and easier for the installer.  The asphalt can be compacted next to the concrete.  If there is an aversion to the contrast between the light grey concrete and the black asphalt, one could always seal coat the concrete to make it blend in.  If not, you may end up with a drain that looks like the photo below.

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Plastic trench drain installed with packed asphalt

Improper Drain Selection

You can install a product beautifully, but if you install the wrong drain you are not going to have a good time.  Such is the case when you put a plastic drain in an area that sees fork truck traffic (below).

For applications where a drain is going to see repeated automobile, delivery truck or fork truck traffic, a heavier duty drain is required.

I recommend drain bodies made from HDPE or polymer concrete with grating recesses that are supported by embedment concrete (i.e. the grate is wider than the channel opening).  Channel bodies capped with a metal frame and heavy duty grating are more preferable.

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Lightweight Spee-D Channel failed to support forklift traffic

Some drains are meant to be used in light duty, residential applications only.  Those little plastic drains you buy at the big box stores (Lowes, Home Depot, and Menard’s) are meant for use in a patio or maybe a driveway with little automobile traffic.  Often, the channels are made from extruded cellular PVC and the structural support on which the grating rests is made entirely of plastic.  The light duty construction of these channels will have a tendency to break under heavy loads or due to the freeze-thaw episodes seen in the winters up north.

Another improper drain selection situation is when you install a drain that will see a larger amount of water than it can handle.

The drain can be installed perfectly, but if the drain is overrun with a deluge of water, it is not serving its purpose.

A Pipe Size Calculation is nice to do prior to selecting your drain just to double check that you have a drain that can handle the water flow anticipated.

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Improper Grating Selection

An incorrect grating selection can also lead to trench drain problems.  The most common problems arise when the grating either has:

  1. Insufficient load rating or
  2. Insufficient chemical resistance
Load rating problems are common.
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Class A winery grate after forklift traffic

The cheaper grates generally have a lower load class.  Class A load gratings, for pedestrian applications, are sometimes used where automobile traffic is frequent thus leading to grating failure.  I’ve seen contractors or engineers choose a lower class grating because it met the budget of the project.  Later, of course, the owner of the project would have to replace the grates anyway.

This is the case for the example to the left.  A winery had stainless steel slotted grates installed that had Class A loading.  The application actually needed a grating with a much higher load rating.  As stainless steel is expensive enough, the project settled on the cheaper stainless grates only to come back later looking to replace the grates with the appropriate stainless steel product.  Money could have been saved by making this decision during the initial installation.

Insufficient chemical resistance is also a common example of an improper grating selection.

We don’t always think about the quality of the water or environment that the drain is going into.  Sometimes it just slips our mind.  Additionally, we may want to ignore the chance that the drain is in an aggressive environment because that will force us to consider more expensive, chemical resistant grating options.

Consider those folks that live near the sea coasts of Florida, California or Washington.  The salt water atmosphere plays havoc on cast iron and galvanized steel.  Eventually, trench covers corrode and need replacing.  For coastal environments, it is wise to consider a stainless steel, HDPE or fiberglass grate when possible.

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Likewise, in dog kennel applications, galvanized steel grating eventually corrodes from the dog urine and harsh cleaning chemicals used.  This leads to a premature replacement of the grates.  For non-profit organizations, who are always looking to cut costs, it is tempting to use a low cost galvanized steel grate for the kennel application.  It would be better in the long run to use a stainless steel or perforated HDPE grating so to avoid expenses later.

The photo below shows how a galvanized steel grate can corrode and deteriorate in a kennel application.

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Much of these problems can be summed up to poor workmanship.  Here are a couple take-aways:

  1. Make sure the contractor installing your drain knows what he is doing. Is this his first trench drain installation or has he had a number of successful products?
  2. Don’t leave it to the contractor to find you a drain. He might just go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and come back with a plastic drain that is incorrect for the application or aesthetically displeasing.
Contact the drain experts of Trench Drain Systems to get help with your drain selection. Send us an email or call now at 610-638-1221.


Finally, a Installation Guide for MEArin 100!

If you’ve been looking for a MEArin 100 installation guide, you’re in luck!

Trench Drain Systems partnered up with a customer last month to create an accurate install guide designed specifically for the MEArin system.

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I love MEArin 100. I worked with it for years, and I’ve found that it has some great things going for it, especially for homeowners who need an affordable drain around the house.

  1. Versatility. MEArin 100 is the right size for a patio or pool situation, yet it’s tough enough for driveway applications.
  2. Cover Selection. To quote a coworker, MEArin 100 comes with “billions and billions of grating option.” While I don’t think it’s quite so high, MEArin 100 does
  3. DIY Friendly. All the parts assemble easily in MEArin 100.  And, installation doesn’t require technical expertise. It’s great for the residential do-it-yourselfer!

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Here’s how it happened:

When we asked MEA to send us an accurate install bulletin for MEArin 100, they sent us the same incorrect one we’d been using for years. They didn’t have an installation guide for the system, either.

We wouldn’t send contractors off to install commercial drains without a bulletin, so why were we doing it to homeowners with less experience? It wasn’t acceptable. So we decided to make our own.

At the same time, one of our customers who had purchased MEArin 100, offered to send us photos from his installation. A retired engineer, he even took the time to make suggestions for our new installation guide based on his experience installing the drain.

We’re proud to have an installation guide that is easy for DIY homeowners to reference. Use it for your own MEArin 100 installation – or as a basic guide for any driveway installation.

Need professional advice? Give Trench Drain Systems a call at 610-638-1221 or send a request to our estimating department!


Q&A: Retrofitting Plastic Patio Drains

Last week we had a reader email us with a patio drain question. Namely, how could he replace the worn plastic channels of his patio drain, which was separating from the concrete floor?

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Curiosity about the drain itself aside, I am more concerned with the installation’s integrity. As you see in the photo, he pulled up some of the drain. No trench drain – not even a plastic patio drain – should pull up so easily.

A patio drain installed in concrete should be “gripping” the concrete. As plastic drains age they tend to separate, letting water between the edges. Ultimately, this deteriorates the concrete and creates troublesome moisture within the patio floor. For more information on sealing damp concrete, this helpful article by The Concrete Network has more detail.

buy patio drains, buy plastic channel drains, buy pro series drainsThis is why most new models of plastic channel drains feature some sort of rib or ledge. Extra surface area gives more “grip” and lends the drain more longevity it wouldn’t otherwise have.
The NDS Pro Series channel drain product line prides itself on this feature.

I see two solutions to the underlying problem here:

  1. Using a concrete saw, cut a minimum 4” on either side of the drain. Remove the old channels and concrete. Pour concrete around a new patio drain of the same size – but one that has more “grip.”
  2. Without widening the trench, remove the current patio drain. Secure and install a smaller channel drain in concrete. Since the channel is smaller, you may need an outlet adapter to meet the old piping hook-up (e.g., a 2” outlet to 4” pipe adapter).

I hope this gives you a couple ideas about how to fix separating patio drains. Still have questions? Send me an email at For purchasing questions, give Trench Drain Systems a call at 610-638-1221.


Mini Channel Grating Expose’

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.


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 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.


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


NDS Revamps 5 inch Pro Series

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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.!!!


Mini Channel Plastic Grates are Prettier, Sturdier than Ever!

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.


5 Questions to Ask Before Installing Plastic Trench Drain

This is how you choose a plastic trench drain:

When I started my career with trench drain, I didn’t know the benefits of using plastic trench drains on drainage projects.  Since then, I’ve seen enough projects to tell the difference between good and bad trench drain systems.  From what I learned, all trench drain is good as long as you have the proper product for the application. Here’s how you get it right.

1.  Is the drain located in an area with extreme freeze/thaw?

NDS Photos 007 - prPlastic is more susceptible to freeze-thaw than other materials (such as metal or polymer concrete) used for trench drains.  Plastic trench drains can separate from the concrete that holds them in place during extreme temperature changes.  Also, PVC becomes brittle in the extreme cold and could crack under impact at those times.  So, be aware of environment factors before you choose your trench drain material.

2.  Is the drain being installed in a paver surface or in a pour concrete floor?

Mini Channel, Zurn Z880, plastic channel drain, channel drain for paver patio,Trench drains used in paver patio applications usually are straight walled  so to accommodate the close proximity of a paving stone.  Plastic drains that have built-in pedestals or an exaggerated grating seat impart greater strength to the drain and are best suited for concrete installations.

3.  Are the aesthetics important? 

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4.  What are the load requirements for the drain?

Not all residential-grade plastic trench drains are built with vehicle traffic in mind.  But some applications, such as driveways, require load bearing drains.  Small plastic channel drains are designed to incorporate the strength of the surrounding to achieve higher load standards.  Often, these systems offer cast iron grates and reinforcing frames to assist in transferring the load away from the plastic channel.  This allows the plastic channel to achieve industrial-grade load ratings.

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5.  Is the drain being installed by you or a  contractor?

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Superior trench drain design promotes easy installation.  Engineers thought through the installation process to design easy-to-install trench drains.  Plastic trench drains are lightweight and easier to handle.  Still, some of the larger plastic systems can be unwieldy in inexperienced hands, especially when being installed in concrete.

This list of considerations is by no means exhaustive. Maybe you have some other ideas. If so, let me know by leaving a comment below.

Need a price quote? Have installation or replacement questions? Feel free to speak to one of the professional sales staff at Trench Drain Systems by calling 610-638-1221.


Decorative Plastic Trench Grates Exist!

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 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!


Made In America: Iron Age Designs

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.”

driveway drains, trench drain for driveways, channel drains for driveways, catch basin, decorative grates, iron trench grates
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