Making Sure Stylish Shower Drains Actually Drain

Installation tips vary for styles from linear to round or square.

Though a critical component of any well-functioning shower, the shower drain has long been regarded as mere utilitarian necessity. With the introduction of linear drains and decorative accessories, however, shower drains are becoming much more. Whether ornamental or camouflaged, they enhance the design of a shower in both aesthetics and performance. But a successful installation requires understanding some key fundamentals.

Floor-slope requirements

There are two types of shower drains, the point or center drain and the linear drain, notes Barbara Kratus, sales & marketing director for Infinity Drain. The former, the more familiar of the two, requires the shower floor to be sloped on four sides at 1/4 in. per sq. ft. to ensure proper drainage and tends to be less expensive. Traditional center drains come in multiple sizes to accommodate different flow rates from 8 gallons per minute (gpm) to 21 gpm and, because of the floor pitch, preclude the use of large-format floor tiles.

Linear drains work with a one-plane pitch of 1/4 in. to 1/8 in. per ft. and therefore allow tiling in a variety of formats. Available in different widths, lengths and flow rates, they should be installed wall to wall to prevent pooling in shower corners, according to Josef Erlebach, tech support for QuickDrain USA. To this end, some linear drains come in custom sizes while others are sizable on site. Longer lengths require multiple outlets for effective water evacuation.

Floor-slope requirements

Know the flow rate

Although most companies list the flow rates of their shower drains, proper drain selection depends on a variety of factors. These include water pressure, drain line size, the number and type of showerheads and sprays, and, as Kratus notes, "whether you can turn everything on at once." Local codes and flow rate restrictions will help determine what is appropriate, but where restrictions are few, adding up the flow rates of the different shower features will give you a rough idea. While a drain with a 2-in. outlet can handle more than 15 gpm, "the bottleneck will be the P-trap and the horizontal line beyond it," Erlebach says. "We recommend one outlet per 10 gpm."

proper drain selection depends on a variety of factors

Waterproofing considerations

An important consideration is whether the shower is barrier-free. According to Kratus, linear drains are particularly well suited to curbless installations where the flooring material inside the shower is continuous with the rest of the bathroom. Locating the drain at the point of entry creates a wet room, but necessitates waterproofing the floor on both sides of the drain. In addition, the floor area on the dry side of the shower should be slightly pitched.

The type of waterproofing to be used will influence the choice of drain channel and should be communicated when you’re purchasing the drain, Kratus says. Conventional waterproofing methods use a clamp down floor drain and include liners in different sheet materials, lead pans, copper pans and hot mop. Less mainstream but gaining in popularity, roll-on liquid membranes and fabric sheet membranes can be directly tiled without mortar and therefore require a flanged channel.

Waterproofing considerations

Finishing touches

Both drain types can be outfitted with decorative covers and grates to enhance visual appeal. Those who prefer not to see their shower drains can opt for covers with tile inserts. For traditional point drains, square grates not only lend a cleaner look, but also simplify installation by reducing the need for additional tile cutting.

With so many options available, today’s shower drains present another opportunity to add style and personality to the bathroom. Don’t miss out on it.

Install a decorative cover or grate to enhance visual appeal