Last Updated on May 20, 2021
While many people will mostly consider appearances while designing their shower, proper function is actually more important. Unless you want to be standing in dirty water that’s quickly accumulating with nowhere to escape, a drain is one of the most important components of your shower. But there are many different types of shower drain assemblies, and they’re not all applicable for every situation. If you make the wrong choice, you could end up dealing with unwanted consequences such as leaks that cause mold and mildew under your shower floor. This would be an expensive fix that’s better avoided by using the proper drain in the first place.
The Two Main Types of Shower Drains
There are several different types of shower drains, but they fall into two main categories: point drains and linear drains. Both are equally effective at draining water from your shower, but they look and function quite differently. They’re also placed in different areas of the shower, so the shower floor must be designed around the drain placement.
1. Point Drains
Point drains are the most common type of shower drain that all of us should be familiar with. This is a small drain that usually sits in the center of the shower floor. The floor must be sloped down towards this drain from all directions to ensure the water drains adequately. These are often rounded, though you can also get square-top ones that will likely fit better with square tiles. Point drains are small and inexpensive, but they still provide plenty of drainage for any shower.
Because the floor must be sloped from all directions with a point drain, you’ll be more limited with what kinds of tiles you can use. Generally, you’ll need to stick with smaller tiles to work with the slope. This type of drain is used in showers with a curb, and it’s not the best option for curbless showers.
2. Linear Drains
A linear drain is a long rectangular drain that will span the width of an entire wall of your shower. It’s generally placed directly against the wall and the whole floor slopes in one direction towards the drain. This means you have more freedom with what tiles you use because the slope only moves in a single direction. Large tiles work well with linear drains, but smaller tiles still work great also. These are a great choice when building a curbless shower since the whole floor can slope away from the opening and water won’t drain out of the shower and into the bathroom.
Drains for Different Types of Shower Floors
We’ve discussed the two main categories that shower drains fall into. Within these categories, there are still some different types of drains to pick between though. Which one you should choose is dependent on the type of floor your shower has, and the type of floor it’s built on. The following three drains are point drains that are intended for specific circumstances.
3. Three-Piece Drain
When building a shower on a wood floor such as on the second story of a house, a shower liner must be used to protect the wood beneath from any water that could cause mold, mildew, and even rot. A three-piece drain is meant for installing a tiled shower floor on a shower pan or pan liner, on top of a wooden subfloor. The bottom piece goes into the drainpipe directly on top of the wooden subfloor. The middle piece goes over the shower pan or liner, and the final piece screws into the top with an adjustable height to match the tile you’ll be installing.
4. One-Piece Drain
This is the simplest type of drain to install since there are so few pieces. It’s meant for showers with tile floors that are built on top of concrete. It’s not a big deal if the concrete gets wet, so they don’t have to be as robust. A one-piece drain simply screws into the waiting drainpipe below so the top of the drain is just under the top of the tile. A strainer is then screwed on top of the drain.
5. Multipiece Shower Drain
Multipiece shower drains have the most parts, but they’re installed on the simplest shower floors. These are used with one-piece shower stalls and pre-molded shower bases. Most of the parts go below the shower floor, installed to the drainpipe on the subfloor. Then the shower base is added on top, and the threaded drain body is screwed into the waiting flange below.
While there are many different types of shower drains available, they all fall into two main categories. Point drains are the most common type of small, often round, shower drains that are present in most showers. They’re generally installed in the center of the shower with the floor sloping in from all directions. Linear drains, on the other hand, are long and rectangular, installed against one of the walls of the shower, usually spanning the whole length of that wall. These are less common than point drains, but you’ll almost always see them used in curbless showers.
Featured image credit: Brilliant Eye, Shutterstock
David Slone runs the TapIt Water blog. He first learned about water filtration and the impact it has on the world in college. Ever since that day he has worked towards making the world a better place. He writes to inform you about water filtration, the consequences of plastics, bottled water, and how we can do things better.
He loves to spend time with his beloved wife, 3 kids, and dog when he’s not writing.