Linear Drain System Specification 101 for Accessible Bathrooms and Wet Rooms

Streamlined shower design feature offers sophistication and sanitation
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Sponsored by Infinity Drain
By Kathy Price-Robinson

Linear Drains and Wet Room Showers for Maximum Sanitation

With a global heightened aware of germs, viruses, and the need for sanitation, wet room showers may well become more common. A wet room shower is unlike a typical bathroom in that there is not a distinction between the wet part of the bathroom where the drain is located (the shower area in most bathrooms) and the dry part of the bathroom where there is no drain. In a wet bathroom, the entire floor slopes toward one drain. A linear drain is ideal for such an application.

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With a linear drain along one wall, the entire bathroom can be washed down and sanitized.

In this case, the drain transitions from being a shower drain to becoming a floor drain. Having a floor drain is like an insurance policy in case there is a plumbing failure on the dry side of the bathroom. The bathroom can also be sprayed down and squeegeed for cleaning.

Wet rooms can be created in any size, from small guest baths to luxury master bathrooms. A smaller space may lend itself to including a shower enclosure with no glass partition. Or, a shower or tub could be enclosed behind the glass. For a larger bathroom, the shower and tub could be located in separate areas of the bathroom, completely barrier free. This means the space is spread out enough so that the sink or toilet will not get overspray from the showerhead.

In a wet room, all floors and walls are waterproofed and tiled so that they can efficiently shed moisture. Floors are sloped, and all water exits the wet room through a high-performing linear drain or center drain.

A barrier-free wet bathroom is likely to increase the attractiveness of a home or hotel room because of the sanitation potential and accessibility, and waterproofing benefits can help protect the area from potential water damage.

The Benefits of Curbless Showers

Stepping over the curb to get into a shower is something most clients are accustomed to, but specifying a curbless shower is also an option.

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Linear drain systems help create a curbless shower enclosure.

A barrier-free or curbless shower creates a sensation of seamless flow and presents a spa-like appearance that is elevated above a traditional shower design. It is the equivalent of creating a “great room” in the bathroom. Without the curb, the bathroom floor flows from wall-to-wall and makes a bathroom appear larger. This is especially true for small- to medium-sized bathrooms that are visually chopped up by a shower curb.

A curbless shower is a great equalizer, accommodating the needs of everyone in a home or hotel room. It offers people of all ages and abilities the freedom to safely enter the shower without the need to climb over a threshold or into a tub.

A barrier-free or curbless shower means cleaning is easier. A seamless design without surface joints means there are fewer areas where mildew and other grime that is difficult and unpleasant to clean can gather.

A barrier-free shower actually keeps the water where it is supposed to be, which is counter intuitive when there are no walls or barriers of any kind to catch the water. But barrier-free showers are built so that the shower floor is sloped toward the linear drain, keeping the water out of the bathroom and making for the most efficient evacuation of water. Of course, it is also important to position the shower head properly to keep water in the splash zone.

With a curbless shower and a linear drain against one wall, there are fewer limitations on tile size or slab materials that the designer can specify.

Linear Drain Systems and Ada Requirements

Creating a barrier-free shower is essentially what happens in most bathrooms that are compliant with the ADA. Linear drain systems are ideal in such applications.

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Barrier-free bathrooms can be sleek and elegant.

Note that the following measurements represent absolute minimums. Larger spaces increase maneuverability and ease of washing. Clients do not have to be currently confined to a wheelchair to make use of ADA-compliant shower enclosures. Homeowners designing their forever home, those who plan on aging in place, and those who embrace universal design principles can all make use of these shower guidelines. It may also be useful to put a barrier-free shower on the first floor of a multi-floor residence in case the homeowner or a guest is not physically able to ascend the stairs or step into a tub-shower.

Types of ADA-Compliant Shower Enclosures

There are three types of ADA-compliant shower enclosures. Two types allow the bather to fully roll into the shower enclosure, while the smallest enclosure requires bathers to transfer themselves to a seat in the space.

Transfer-Type Shower Compartments

The first type of compliant shower enclosure is the transfer-type shower. In this model, the bather does not need an aide and can physically transfer herself or himself from a wheelchair into the shower enclosure to sit on a seat. This is the smallest allowed shower enclosure and the only configuration that allows a curb.

Guidelines call for a minimum clearance of 36 inches wide by 36 inches deep, measured from the control wall.

Because there is a curb in the shower, a linear drain may be placed along any side. If there is no curb in the shower, the recommended drain placement for a shower of this size would be along the threshold of the enclosure going wall-to-wall.

Standard Roll-in Type Shower Compartment

A standard roll-in type shower is one where there may be an aide present helping the bather, and he or she is able to fully roll into the shower area in a wheelchair. According to guidelines, a curb along the threshold is only allowed if it is no taller than ½ inch and beveled to make rolling over easier.

The ADA guidelines indicate that a minimum clearance of 60 inches wide and 30 inches deep should be provided adjacent to the open face of the shower compartment. The recommended placement for a linear drain system would be along the threshold of the shower to create a wet room.

Alternate Roll-in Type Shower Compartment

An alternate roll-in type shower, as defined by the ADA, is also one where there may be an aide present helping the bather, and he or she is able to fully roll into the shower area. In this setup, the entrance is narrower and not as open and the standard roll-in type. As with the standard roll-in shower, a curb along the threshold is only allowed if it is no taller than ½ inch and beveled to make rolling over easier.

In this type of compartment, a minimum clearance of 60 inches wide and 36 inches deep should be provided adjacent to the open face of the shower compartment. The 36-inch-wide entrance is an important dimension to consider when designing a space with accessibility or universal design in mind.

The linear drain should span from wall-to-wall inside the shower enclosure. This will keep water from pooling under the shower seat and allow a consistent one-plane floor pitch.


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Originally published in June 2020