All posts by HannahS

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.”

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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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Infinity Drains: A New Era for the Shower Drain?

In our previous blog on stainless steel shower drains we touched on the growing trend of rimless showers. At the time, though, stainless steel was a high end solution and out of reach for many homeowners. The economy had consumers cutting back but the needs of the baby boomers were – and are – the same. It’s been a few years, but public interest in shower drainage systems never went away. Actually, I’ve seen the demand for information on shower drains increase.

I’m excited to say that shower drains are finally becoming a standardized product line. Some manufacturers make flanged shower drains from 28” to 70” long with six patterned grates. Others are more select, showing limited lengths on their stainless channels but offering artisanal grating options. True, custom stainless steel shower drains are still around in a big way, but they are becoming less necessary as standardized drains gain popularity. The setback isn’t in finding a drain anymore but in finding which drain works best.

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One of the newest concepts within the stainless steel drain market is that drain bodies no longer have to be stainless steel. One manufacturer, Infinity Drain, had the moxie to design a series of linear drain systems for showers that combine aspects of low profile channel drains and full-bodied stainless steel drain systems. Though their drainage systems have been used in patios, pools and driveways for some time, their products make the biggest mark on bathroom and shower drainage, a market previously dominated by expensive, custom stainless steel drains. Infinity Drain has opened a huge market for residential trench drains and trench drain users by offering not only full stainless steel systems but plastic-bodied linear drain systems with stainless steel grates, too.

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Infinity Drain has an edge over the competition. Unlike traditional center floor drains, which require a pitch in the floor in four different directions, Infinity Drain products allow the shower floor to be pitched in only one direction. The drain itself can be located anywhere in the shower stall because it features adjustable outlets. Eliminating restrictions on tile size or slab material within a shower, Infinity Drain systems allow for design flexibility.

The basic appeal of Infinity Drain is its simplicity. Take a look at the photos below. The AG Series, identified by its architectural slotted stainless steel grate, and the DG Series (stainless steel perforated grate) are the same system. Infinity Drain’s plastic-bodied AG and DG Series shower drains come in two widths: 38mm (1-1/2”) and 65mm (2-7/8”). While these grates and channels can be combined or cut to create custom lengths, Infinity Drain also acknowledged the current market standard by providing their linear drains in ready-to-assemble kits at set lengths.

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Another option is to “hide” the shower drain using the TIF Series (short for Tile in Frame). Like the AG and DG Series, it uses plastic channels that can be combined for any length of drain. Again, the only real difference here is the grating option. Instead of a slotted or perforated grate, the TIF Series uses a stainless steel grate frame that sits inside the channel. The frame supports a tile or solid insert to camouflage the drain. I think the result (shown below) is pretty cool.

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To those who prefer a stainless steel channel body but want design flexibility, Infinity Drain offers the AS Series (shown below), a full-bodied stainless drain that can be adapted for custom lengths that only comes in 2-7/8” wide. At only 1” tall, the channel is considered low profile and mostly used in shower areas with thin flooring; the shallow channel body also makes the AS Series grate unique to this product line. The AS grate has tightly grouped slot openings, meaning it has relatively less open surface area for water to drain through.

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There is an air of mystery surrounding the FX Series, a 2-3/4” wide stainless steel channel and grate system that comes in complete kits with a center outlet. Designed with fixed lengths, this system can be customized to a specific length or grate pattern by the manufacturer upon request, but this isn’t a do-it-yourself drain. Where would you be if all the bases weren’t covered?

Overall, if you are a homeowner and wanted a shower drain for your home, Infinity Drain has placed your goal within reach. They have taken the stainless steel market to an affordable level so you can obtain the quality of a stainless steel drain without dramatically affecting your pocketbook.

Now that more are more options on the market, I think it’s safe to say we are beginning to enter into a new shower age. With more reasonable options, the average consumer can re-design their bathrooms and showers to incorporate the trench drain and make it more accessible.

Trench Drain Systems is happy to have brought you this article. If you have a question about shower drains or any of the Infinity Drain product lines, send us an email. To discuss your application with one of our sales professionals, call us at 610-638-1221. 

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The Next Generation Basin by NDS

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).

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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 at 610-638-1221 or email your inquiry.

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Mini Channel’s Decorative Grating Options

National Diversified Sales (NDS) is a plastic trench drain manufacturer based out of California.  They have a fantastic selection of plastic trench drain systems that are used in residential and commercial applications.  The 3 inch-wide Mini Channel is popular because its honeycomb design and inexpensive price appeals to contractors and homeowners.  However, a big part of the drainage system’s popularity comes from the number of complementary grating options offered. 

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The standard grate offered with the Mini Channel is still a 3 foot long plastic grate, which is offered in six colors (gray, white, green, black, red, and sand).  Gray was the go-to color in the past, but customers are now branching out for colors that blend with the hardscaping; sand and white plastic grates, especially, are gaining popularity.

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For those with a more discriminating taste, NDS offers two slotted brass grating options.   The 1 foot long brass grates come in a satin or polished finish. Besides being simple, shiny, and elegant, they contain chamfered holes for optional screw placement, which helps keep the grates secured in the channel.

Another option available for Mini Channel customers is decorative cast iron grates.  These aren’t the ordinary slotted grates of yester-year; the cast iron grating product lines below illustrate the beautiful side of a functional product that was previously considered a necessary – and ugly – evil by many homeowners.  (Note:  these grates are shown with a baked-on oil finish unless otherwise specified but come standard in an unfinished cast iron.)

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Currently, five styles of cast iron grates work with NDS’ Mini Channel system: the Acanthus, Interlaken, Carbochon, Locust and the Minnione.  There are a few basic differences between these four Mini Channel grates.  The Interlaken is an intricate geometrical pattern while the Minnione has a flowing design.  The Locust pattern evokes the feel of leaves blowing in the wind.  Meanwhile, Carbochon’s open area is only accentuated by its bold pattern.

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Style aside, the most noteworthy difference in the grates is length. The Interlaken (11″ long) is an inch shorter than the Minnione and Locust grates (12″ long).  The Carbochon (14” long) outdoes all three grates by inches.  I think the length of the grates is important because it determines what you can do with the design of the run.  Unfortunately, it is often overlooked during the planning stage and leads to extra work later on.

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Another difference in the grates is how they fit into the Mini Channel.   Take a look at the photo above. Minnione, the thinnest grate, does not rest in the channel with the same depth that Interlaken, Locust and Carbochon do.  While the other grates are cast with tongues that fit snugly into the Mini Channel’s patented “flying buttress” lip, one gets the feeling that the Minnione sits on top of the drain rather than resting inside it.

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The foundry uses cast iron as the standard material when making these decorative grates but also manufactures cast brass, bronze and aluminum grating for an additional cost. We should note that cast iron grates are uncoated (raw) and will form a rust coating over time.  The rusting process, when reproduced artificially to save time, is called a baked-on oil finish.  I find the resulting patina charming.

If your application doesn’t support this view, though, consider painting with an epoxy or powder coating. The powder coating process smoothes out the natural texture of the cast iron grates, giving them a softer, less metallic look.  You can really feel the difference between the painted and baked-on oil finishes; the process encased these grates in paint rather than changing their outer layers.

Let me just demonstrate the difference between the two available finishes in another way.  Look at the Interlaken grates shown below:  in terms of color, they are very similar.  But, if you look closer you can see the different shine, the thickly coated surface of the grate on the right.  It’s been powder coated.  The grate on the left, though, has a baked-on oil finish.   I’ll leave you to decide which one you like better.  For additional information on cast iron grating finishes, visit our “Cast Iron Finishing Options” blog.

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Cost is all in a person’s perspective, especially when talking about trench drain products. A simple plastic grate that comes in six basic colors is available for a very low price per foot. NDS’ brass grate, a beautiful, no-hassle solution for those still worried about rust or decor, is the most expensive. The cast iron grates, which add style and variety, come for the more moderate price that falls somewhere in between and have beautiful finish options. They are the true extra mile, the art to efficiency, and are the balance if a cost-efficient and stylish grate is desired.

For cut sheets and literature on the products discussed here, download the available drawings embedded throughout the article.  If you’d like a quote on a Mini Channel drain system or decorative cast iron grating, contact Trench Drain Systems (TDS) at 610-638-1221 or send an email.

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