Linear Drain Systems for Barrier-Free Bathrooms and Wet Rooms

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

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify linear drain systems and their benefits for safe and efficient water drainage.
  2. Specify linear drain systems based on style and function, including durable waterproofing methods.
  3. Discuss the features of a wet room that can be sprayed off and sanitized.
  4. Define ADA requirements within the indoor wet area/bathroom and how it applies to linear drain systems.
  5. Discuss outdoor architectural drain design and applications for quickly and safely draining water from building exteriors, driveways, hardscaping, landscaping, and pool areas.

Credits:

HSW
1 AIA LU/HSW
AIBD
1 AIBD P-CE
ASPE
0.1 ASPE CEU
IACET
0.1 IACET CEU*
AAA
AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
AANB
AANB 1 Hour of Core Learning
AAPEI
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
NLAA
NLAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
NSAA
NSAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
NWTAA
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
 
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course is approved as a Core Course
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia

It is no wonder that the specification of a shower drain could be overlooked, especially in a high-end bathroom. Here, the designer or architect naturally focuses most heavily on the selection of tile, stone, fixtures, cabinetry, lighting, the heated towel rack, the flow of the space, and so much more. The choice of drains may well be left to the plumber. And while the plumbing contractor has deep knowledge of showers and drains, by the time this trade shows up on the job site or studies the plans, many waterproofing details that are already in place may limit the options to a standard, commonplace drain in the middle of the enclosure.

Infinity Drain

All images courtesy of Infinity Drain

Linear drain systems allow for the use of large-format tile and large stone slabs that do not need to be cut to create a central drainage plane.

However, there is another option: the specification of a sleek, stylish linear drain system that kicks the shower up to another level of sophistication.

Linear Drains and Their Benefits

For the clients of Miami-based interior designer Amber Engebretson, LEED AP, ID+C, product selection comes down to aesthetics and a high-end look.

“Clients are looking for something different and want something that sets their property or project apart from others,” Engebretson explains. “A linear drain is one of the details that does this.”

Linear drain systems can be found in many high-end projects. For example, 512 linear drain systems were customized for the TWA Hotel at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Linear drain systems were included in the bathrooms and spas at the renowned One57 building located in the center of the city. Linear drain systems can also be found at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, Florida, and the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Linear drain systems have more than good looks going for them as compared to traditional center-placed drains. As Engebretson notes, linear drain systems can eliminate the need for the difficult, time-consuming, and expensive cutting of high-end stones to create a complicated slope. They are also an essential feature in a high-end wet room that can be sprayed down and sanitized. Linear drain systems perform well in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approved showers. And they add form and function to their original use, which is in landscaping and outdoor settings.

Linear Drain Systems versus Traditional Drain Systems

To understand the basic differences between linear drain systems and traditional drain systems, consider a traditional shower enclosure. This is one where the drain is in the middle of the shower, with the shower floor sloping 360 degrees in a bowl shape toward the center. While this four-way pitch is standard in many budget or unexceptional showers, such a placement can limit flooring material choices. The typical scenario is to either specify a small mosaic tile or create the need to cut large-format tile on a diagonal to accommodate the floor pitch. In this way, the stone is pie-pieced together to accommodate the floor pitch.

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A linear drain system negates the need to create a 360-degree slope for a center drain.

With a linear drain system, the location of the drain is changed from the center of the shower to placement along one of the side or back walls or along the threshold of the shower enclosure. In this scenario, the floor is sloped toward the linear drain in one plane, as opposed to the four-way pitch toward the middle. This allows the use of large-format tile, stone slab, or any solid-surface material. And, because the floor is sloping in one direction toward the linear drain, the integrity of the tile or stone is maintained and not cut up to accommodate the dish-style pitch.

When specified early in the planning phase, the drain can become a sleek aesthetic feature rather than a lost design opportunity that is specified by the installer.

There are two ways to specify a linear drain system. One is based on form, or style, while the other is based on function, or intended use and infrastructure. One is based on visual preference; the other is based on performance. We will discuss form here and function a bit later.

Specifying A Linear Drain System Based on Form

Depending on the linear drain system manufacturer, there are typically four types of decorative top grate styles: wedge wire, perforated, tile insert, and solid, discussed as follows.

Wedge wire grate: Wedge wire grates are the sturdiest of all the grates, typically constructed of grade 316 stainless steel. This type of stainless steel is food grade and salt and chemical resistant. It contains 16 percent chromium, 10 percent nickel, and 2 percent molybdenum. The latter helps resist corrosion. Such grates may have a load rating of up to 5,000 pounds. This is an appropriate option for bathrooms and outdoor installations.

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Perforated grate: Perforated grates are typically the least expensive and may be constructed of grade 304 stainless steel. This type of stainless steel contains 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel. Manufacturers offer different patterns, but these grates are essentially fabricated the same way on a break press with the pattern either punched or cut on a laser.

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Tile insert frame grate: The tile insert frame allows the drain to blend in with the rest of the shower floor, essentially making it disappear. The tile insert tray comes empty, and the tile setter makes a mini tile floor within the tray. Depending on the manufacturer, the frame can accommodate flooring material up to ¾ inch thick. In this style, there is a ¼-inch gap between the tile frame and the linear drain channel. This is where the water drains down to the outlet and through to the waste line.

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Solid grate: The solid grate is a bit of a hybrid between the perforated grate and the tile insert frame grate. There are no perforations in the stainless steel top, so the water drains around the edges in the ¼-inch gap on all four sides into the channel. This style of top can also be fabricated in glass.

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All linear drain top grates can be removed via a hook, key, or household tool to clean or service the drain. Most also come with supplemental hair catchers.

 

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Originally published in June 2020

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