Linear Drains for Custom Showers
These sleek drains open shower-design possibilities, but at a cost.
Synopsis: A conventional shower pan must be sloped on four sides toward the drain, which limits the layout of the shower. A linear drain, however, allows for much more creativity. In this article, senior editor Justin Fink discusses some of the specific advantages of linear drains: The slope is only in one direction, large tiles can be used on the shower floor, and a barrier-free entry is easier to build. He acknowledges the huge cost difference ($15 for a conventional drain vs. $500 for a linear drain), but reports that manufacturers claim that this difference will be less in the end because of the reduced labor costs incurred with a simpler one-way slope. Fink then looks at four installation styles for linear drains, each of which is illustrated with a detailed drawing: extension style, clamp ring, bonded flange, and metal flange. Photos show specific products with unique features: site-sizable drain kits, tile-in grates, debris-catching strainers, and drain bodies with a side-outlet waste.
There are no two ways about it: A site-built shower is one of the best parts of a custom bathroom. By shedding the constraints of a factory-made tub or shower unit, you expand design options. You can get creative with the shower’s size, layout, and door location, and you can include features such as niches and benches. Custom showers have always been held back, though, by the four-way fall required with a traditional, centrally located drain. Linear drains offer several design options that were previously difficult, if not impossible.
These drains may change your installation methods, though. If you’re comfortable with PVC membrane, a mortar bed, and a traditional clamp-down shower drain, rest assured that several companies make linear drains that essentially sit on top of a standard clamp-style shower drain. There are also several options for more modern…