Linear Shower Drain Pros and Cons
Dear Drury Design,
I like the look of linear shower drains but I’ve heard they can be problematic. I assume you install them all the time and know of the pros and cons. What advice do you have for someone considering a linear shower drain?
Michelle from Oak Park
The expert providing the answer to this week’s question is Rick Windgassen, our VP of Operations. He’s been overseeing kitchen and bath installations in the Chicago area and surrounding states for 20 years.
Linear drains are a popular choice for shower design, but like any design element, they come with their own set of pros and cons. If you’re considering a linear drain for your shower remodel, here are a few things to keep in mind…
One of the biggest pros of linear drains is the look. Instead of a center-sloping floor design with a circle or square strainer in the middle, a linear drain is rectangular and closer to the wall. It’s often a very long rectangle and sometimes there are multiple linear drains working together along different edges of the shower floor. The idea is to have more unobstructed tile define the look of the shower floor. This sleek and modern aesthetic works particularly well with contemporary and minimalist designs.
Our creative director, Gladys Schanstra, points out that shower floors are a crucial element of bathroom design. They comprise a significant amount of surface area that can work in concert with, rather than against, your bathroom’s overall design. Funny how a center-aligned circle or square drain plate can disrupt visual flow so much!
Linear drains are often used in barrier-free or “curbless” showers, which can be a helpful option for those with mobility issues. Water on center-sloped floors can stand and swirl a bit before disappearing down the drain and some folks need to minimize this as much as possible. Technically, water flowing to a particular side or sides of a shower floor with one or more linear drains should simply slide off and disappear. In reality, however, the water running to the edge of the floor must still gather until it can go down a drain. The actual relationship of the flow rates of your shower heads, body jets and shower drain are what determines drain time, not the drain style. That drain time only shortens the more clogged your drain becomes.
The biggest con of linear drains is that they are more prone to clogging than traditional shower drains. Hair and debris can clog any drain, of course, but I’ve found that most linear drains do indeed clog easier and faster. The longer the drain, the more problematic they can be. This is because the pitch of the gutter is smaller. Think of a long rain gutter on a house – the pitch is so subtle the gutter even looks horizontal. Hair and soap grime are like leaves in this analogy, gathering across a larger surface area and then creating problems as it all tries to exit through the same small hole.
Some linear shower drains have a removable grate above a long, thin drain pan. Some have tiled or natural stone panels over a drain pan that is a little wider – allowing more tile or natural stone to continue the look of the rest of the shower floor. With these, the draining happens around the four edges of the panel, making the drain almost invisible. Be aware that some designs involve raw tile edge that can get grimy pretty quickly.
When a shower drain gets clogged, you’ll find yourself standing in backed-up water. It’ll back up faster the longer you wait to unclog it, too. If you have a curbless shower, waiting too long means the backed-up water will start spilling out onto the bathroom floor and beyond.
Some customers tell us they need to clean their linear shower drains monthly. Depending on the type of linear drain, you might need a special tool to lift the strainer plate or cover off it so you can get to the debris that needs to be scooped out. The tiled-cover variety can be deceptively heavy, requiring two people to remove it safely.
As with any other design feature, the variables to consider are: form vs. function, performance, budget, and your ability to maintain what you’re getting yourself into. We have customers who considered these variables, decided on linear shower drains and love them. We’ve also had customers report that they may have underestimated a few variables in that consideration matrix. Feel free to consult with any of our designers to take a deeper dive into the makes, models and design options of shower drains that can meet the goals of your new shower.
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