Shower drains, when installed and waterproofed properly, will do their job for the life of the installation. When not done properly, the results can be catastrophic—especially when installed over a wood subfloor. That’s when one of the definitions for “drain” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary will first come into play for the tile setter (“to exhaust physically or emotionally”) followed by another definition (“to empty by drinking the contents of, such as to drain a mug of beer”) after finding out their drain leaks (Photos 1-4). In many cases, these types of failures are slow to manifest themselves and can take months before they’re noticed, and that’s why wood subfloors may need to be removed and replaced along with an entirely new pan, tile install and even sheetrock and paint work.
With curbless/barrier-free showers becoming more and more popular, and with larger tile finding its way into showers (Photos 5-8), we’re seeing more linear drains being installed. If tile setters are having concerns with 4” to 6” drains, just think what a 48” drain will do if not properly installed and waterproofed. Be aware that there are quite a few manufacturers of linear drains, with differences in their construction. Some have been designed with the installer in mind, making it easier to waterproof. Others can be a challenge.