Architectural Linear Drains for Indoor and Outdoor Use

Different product offerings suit many situations beyond bathrooms
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Sponsored by Infinity Drain
By Peter J. Arsenault, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP
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Door Areas

When interior spaces open through a doorway or open onto exterior ones, there may be a desire to keep the floor surfaces level with each other. This could be for general design and appearance reasons or to comply with barrier-free accessibility between the two spaces. Many door manufacturers, particularly for sliding doors or folding operable wall systems, recommend that attention be paid to drainage at the door. That is because, in most cases, the threshold is not guaranteed to handle severe weather or water conditions. This is particularly true with a recessed or flush threshold, which is commonly designed for use only in a protected or covered condition.

A very elegant and appropriate solution in this case is to run a linear architectural drain along the outside of the door. This protects the entrance and replaces the role of the threshold as the source of water protection. More importantly, it also allows for the interior floor, the threshold, the drain, and the exterior surface to all be flush with each other, thus keeping everything consistent and accessible.

Photo courtesy of Infinity Drain

Linear drains used along the exterior edge of sliding or folding door panels protect the threshold and the building from water penetration in an elegant, flush, and accessible manner.

Drainage For Indoor Spaces

Moving from outdoor spaces to the indoors, there are many locations beyond the bathroom that often require attention to drainage. This includes any room that has plumbing in it for washing, cleaning, toileting, or cooking. In some cases, a floor drain is required by code, in others, it is simply a good idea to prevent damage if a plumbing fixture overflows for any reason. The codes don’t dictate the design of the drains, of course, just the performance criteria. Therefore, architects can work with plumbing engineers to incorporate architectural drains that meet the code requirements and work well with the overall design of interior spaces.


As noted previously, linear architectural drains are often used in showers. However, not all restrooms require showers but still do require floor drains. Floor drains near toilets and urinals, for example, usually require depressions in a floor with a central drain. It is often easier to design and install a slightly sloped floor that uses a linear drain located away from the toilets and sinks, but close enough to still be effective. Similarly, linear drains can be placed parallel to a bank of sinks to collect and remove water that may be splashed there. Again, sloping the floor in one or two areas is usually easier to achieve than a central recessed drain. This arrangement makes it easier for cleaning and maintenance of the restrooms, with excess cleaning water easily drained away. In all, restrooms benefit by being more hygienic and more visually appealing by using linear floor drains.

The case can also be made for increased ease of maintenance in restrooms when linear drains are installed. By having a linear drain along one wall, it is easier to hose down the floor and direct the water off the floor surface to one side rather than directing it to multiple center drains.

Locker Rooms

Similar to restrooms, locker rooms in athletic facilities, schools, clubs, and resorts can all benefit from using linear architectural drains. Locker rooms usually include showers, so the linear drains can be considered and used there. But outside of the shower areas, the same benefits apply to toilet, sink, and changing rooms, where water may be splashed or accumulate and needs to be drained away. It also helps with the floor cleaning to combat athlete’s foot or other ailments related to such facilities.

Fitness Clubs

Health and fitness clubs are popular and prominent throughout the United States, whether private, public, or part of an academic institution. All these facilities have any combination of restrooms, showers, locker rooms, or other spaces that need plumbing and floor drains. In many cases, the appearance of these facilities is a key requirement, either because of an interest to be differentiated from competing facilities, or to remain consistent with the quality of design found in affiliated buildings or institutions. Linear architectural drains work well in these cases, since they can be readily integrated to work with the larger design goals.

Indoor Pool Areas

Not all swimming and therapy pools are located outdoors. Many are found indoors, particularly in colder climates or facilities that serve older populations. All of the same concerns about containing water are present in indoor pools as are found in outdoor pools. In fact, those concerns are often more critical when the pools are indoors since there may be smaller walking space around the pool and adjacent interior construction may be more vulnerable to displaced water. Linear architectural drains should be considered for all sides of an indoor pool to help alleviate all of these concerns, protect the building, and maintain safety for people using the pool.


Specifying architectural drains in a building project can provide appealing, well-performing solutions for many different project requirements. Successful design begins by understanding the nature and type of architectural drains available including the options for design and performance characteristics. Then, all of the areas that require drainage can be assessed for sizing and type, including outdoor travel paths, outdoor spaces, and indoor spaces. In doing so, it becomes abundantly clear that architectural linear drainage systems provide a design option that improves the overall, integrated appearance of drains while still meeting all of the needed code, performance, safety, and operational needs of many different types of building projects.

Peter J. Arsenault, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP is a nationally known architect, consultant, continuing education presenter, and a prolific author advancing building performance through better,


Infinity Drain Infinity Drain is the leading manufacturer of premium quality decorative and architectural drains. Innovations such as the Site Sizeable™ linear drain are ideal for residential and commercial applications. Proudly made in the USA.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in June 2022