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Linear Shower Drain Pros and Cons

See our guide to linear shower drain pros and cons including its problems, how it works, and the comparison between the center drain and linear drain.
Black bathroom linear drain with ceramic tiles imitating woodIf you haven’t heard about the “wonder drain” just yet, then you really are in for a surprise. The linear shower drain has definitely completely revolutionized shower design from the time it has arrived and from there on out. It’s versatile and extremely slick and the best part about it is that it can completely disappear. 

You have to understand that although you haven’t really thought much about your shower drain and how it’s designed or how it functions just yet, it can definitely make or break your overall bathroom experience. 

As opposed to the typical central drain, a linear drain is narrow and long. It’s basically a single line in shape and it will change your showering experience forever.

It maximizes the water flow towards a single exit port that’s marked out in a line as opposed to the usual circular drain and this maximizes how all that water is technically drained out. 

It has been around for quite some time now in commercial plumbing but it has started to also make its rounds in the residential scene as of late. It’s both aesthetic and construction-wise.

What Is a Linear Shower Drain

Drain with blue mosaic floor tiles

A linear shower drain is basically an enhanced method for drainage that offers a seamless and minimalist look to your shower, or to any shower, for that matter. It is somewhat put up under the category of luxury plumbing because a lot of hotels have made the switch to linear shower drains. 

This is mainly because it’s a remarkably efficient and aesthetic way of getting rid of excess water. It’s the perfect upgrade to not only your shower’s style but to its overall functionality as well.

Let’s check out all the pros and cons before we make the switch. 

Advantages of Linear Drains for the Shower

Installation is fast and easy.  Get this, despite how efficient and aesthetic it looks, a linear shower drain can be installed almost anywhere and everywhere. To get this installed, the shower floor just needs to be sloped in one direction towards the drain as opposed to center drains which need to be sloped evenly from all 4 corners of the shower area. 

Contractor installing drain on the floor

It’s important to know that this is a skilled job and you need to hire out specialized labor to get it right. The measurements need to be exact.

You don’t have curbs to worry about! Stepping over a curb or stubbing a toe or hitting an ankle somewhere after we shower is fairly commonplace for regular showers but never for showers with linear shower drains because there is no need for a curb at all. 

This is even more appreciated by people who have had injuries or are recuperating from them or from older people who find it a challenge to lift their feet up. 

Newly installed drain on the shower floor

This makes linear shower drains compliant with the American Disability Act and can make the lives of countless individuals so much easier. People in wheelchairs, for example, can wheel in and out of the shower without difficulty.

They are versatile. Because linear shower drains have long lines, they are so versatile that they can be placed almost anywhere. You don’t have the same kind of freedom with center drains since as the name suggests, they always need to be placed at the center.

It’s extremely aesthetic. Design wise, linear shower drains are a dream to have for the shower area. They can be tiled in. This means you can use the same tile as with the rest of the bathroom, achieving a fluid and seamless look that doesn’t have any visual obstructions. See types of bathroom showers here.

Bathroom with floating vanity table, toilet, bidet with glass partition for the shower

It feels like luxury. It’s a small modification but it definitely makes your bathroom feel like a spa. It’s mainly because of the drain’s openness and because you see it so much in luxury hotels and spas as well.

Disadvantages of Linear Type Shower Drains

Cleaning and maintenance can be a drag. Longer drains mean that the velocity of water for draining out will also turn out to be slow. You need to be regularly on the lookout for grime or hair or dirt or just about any other particle that could slow down your shower drain. It’s not exactly something a lot of people look forward to doing.

Water containment is an issue. Unlike regular showers where there’s a curb to keep the water in, this isn’t the case with a linear shower drain as it’s just open but sloped. If the drain isn’t installed properly, you might end up having water all over and that’s not a good experience. 

Some ways to remedy this would be to get a rain head shower fixture installed so that the water direction is more controlled.

Beige bathroom with large rectangular mirror and storage cabinet

You will end up missing your sense of privacy. Showering is an extremely intimate act and usually something that you would prefer to do alone. This isn’t the case if you get a linear shower drain installed in your bathroom. 

These showers are generally “open”. So anybody who walks in will well, walk in and see you. If you have an open door policy in your household, then this shouldn’t be that much of an issue but if you have a growing family with different needs and you’re all sharing the same bathroom, this might not be the best option for you to go for. Read more about walk In shower designs here.

Issues of a Linear Water Drain in the Shower Area

Installation needs to be precise. A linear shower drain can only work well if it will be able to allow water to flow through the drain and into some sort of trough or channel underneath the shower floor. It then proceeds to enter the main drainage system.

Water drain int he shower box installation

This means that its installation needs to be very specialized or exact or it will never work. This requires additional money on top of its already high price tag.

Another major problem of a linear shower drain is that it performs unpredictably. They are too much of a hassle to clean and they clog up easily as opposed to center drains which go straight down to the main drainage system. 

Linear shower drains need to have water travel through a trough which gunks up over time and is quite difficult to get into to clean regularly.

Linear Vs Center Drain

If you’re looking on the side of practicality and not aesthetics, we would have to vote on center drains all the way. They’re inexpensive. Some could be as cheap as only $10 whereas the priciest ones could be at $100. 

This is still pretty affordable compared to the linear drain which starts off at $100 per inlet yard in the minimum but could stretch out to outrageous rates of tens of thousands of dollars.

Chrome metal gutter next to the shower head on tiled floor

Installing center drains are a breeze as any basic tile guy knows this like the back of his hand. Linear drains, on the other hand, require specialized labor that obviously charges so much higher than your basic tile guy.

Center drains require little to no maintenance at all as they basically self-drain and are extremely fast while linear drains take up a lot of grime, hair and dirt and are at times quite difficult to clean.

Are Linear Drainage Systems for the Bathroom Better?

Bathroom with separate shower and toilet areasIf you want a showstopper for your shower floor area, nothing could really argue with the huge advantage of linear shower drains. 

And although it may be true that these drains can be crazy expensive, if they are something you can afford, it might just be worth your while. They’re gorgeous additions to the bathroom.

Theme and tile continuity is everything if you have linear drains and it really achieves that minimalist look for your bathroom, making it look so classy and sophisticated at the end of the day. See our gallery of gorgeous bathroom floor tile ideas here.

Again, we would like to reiterate that it isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive and is truly painful to clean but then again, if you can afford it, its aesthetics and overall effect can be so satisfying.

How Well Do Linear-Designed Drain Systems Work?

Technically, with exact installation and the proper grating and trough installed, with just the correct angle for the slope, a linear shower drain should work just fine. 

It really functions pretty much the same way as a center drain does; it just has a lot of pre-drain aesthetics going on before it drains everything out. Under regular circumstances, they function just fine and can work extremely well. 

For more related ideas see our gallery of the infinity shower drain page.