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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.