While they may seem an insignificant detail in bathroom design, drain grates can have an enormous impact on the overall appearance and workability of a shower space.

A poorly selected drain grate can cause all manner of issues for your client. The cosmetic qualities of particular styles may be apparent, but cleaning concerns and drainage inefficiency are often not discovered until the shower is being used regularly.

While there are many different products on the Australian market, there are essentially only two types of drains used in domestic shower applications:

Linear Drains

Also referred to as strip drains or line drains, linear drains are – as the name would suggest – long and narrow, and available in a range of lengths. They’re most commonly located along the wall parallel or perpendicular to the shower entrance (depending on where the plumbing has been aligned). The floor ‘falls’ in a singular direction towards the linear drain, allowing shower water to flow efficiently to the waste.

In some instances, installing the linear drain at the threshold of the shower will prove advantageous. While this takes a little more planning from the tiler (with falls required from within the shower and from the surrounding bathroom area), it does eliminate the need for a raised threshold. If your client has mobility challenges (through age, injury or disability), this may be an option worth considering.

Linear Drain Pros

Directing fall to a linear drain requires fewer tile cuts than would be necessary for a point drain. This makes it an ideal option for large format ‘hero’ tiles.
Fewer cut tiles mean fewer grout lines: if your client is wary about keeping grout clean, this may help them make their decision.

On the subject of cleaning, a linear drain that can be easily removed will appeal to homeowners with long hair or spoilt fur-babies (are your clients planning to wash their dogs in the shower?).

Linear drains with tile inserts received 57% of votes from KBDi Members when they were asked to nominate their most-often used drains. Members love the clean, seamless aesthetic lines of this option, as you can see in the examples below.

Linear drain with a tile insert (bathroom designed by Paul Coulson, QLD)

Linear drain with a tile insert (bathroom designed by Sari Munro, NSW)

Linear drain (in shower) and point drain (main floor area) with a tile insert (bathroom designed by Sonja McAuliffe, ACT)

Linear drain with a grate (bathroom designed by Alan Nasrallah, GIA Bathrooms & Kitchens, VIC)

Linear Drain Cons

A linear drain may not be suitable where existing plumbing cannot be relocated from a central area to a wall.

A poorly specified linear drain may not allow for the volume of flow required in an open or double shower. Ensure that the specified drain meets the flow capacity of the shower/s.

Linear drains with grate inserts (as opposed to tiles) may seem harder to clean for some clients. Ensure that you specify the highest quality stainless steel version to allow ease of maintenance and long-term appeal.

Point Drains

Point drains are traditionally located in the centre of the shower area. The floor in the shower recess must fall towards the (generally) 100mm square or round drain from all directions (i.e. from all four walls/screens). This fall allows the gentle funnelling of water into the drain, but may require significant tile angles and cuts to ‘meet in the middle’.

Point Drain Pros

43% of KBDi members use point drains in most of their projects, predominantly with a tile insert. They cited cost efficiency and ease of cleaning as their primary reasons, and we consider both of these factors to be ‘pros’ for the point drain.

Point drain with a tile insert (bathroom designed by Eliesha Paiano, NSW)

Point drain with a grate (bathroom designed by Teresa Kleeman, VIC)

Point drain with a tile insert (bathroom designed by Teresa Kleeman, VIC)

A high-quality, well-designed, removable unit is essential: always consider the finish (grade of stainless steel) and flow capacity, and consult with your plumber to make the best decision for your client.

Point Drain Cons

As indicated above, your tiler may need to make significant cuts to get the appropriate fall to a point drain. If you’ve picked a premium large format tile, consider how these cuts may compromise your design.

It’s not surprising that you’ll get what you pay for when it comes to point drains. If a low price means a compromise in quality, remind your client that they’ll lose that cost efficiency if they’re replacing the unit in a couple of years or less.

Have your own opinion about drainage grates and inserts? We’d love to hear your thoughts – feel free to share below.