HPAC Magazine

Discover New Opportunities With Linear Shower Drains

December 1, 2013   By ERIC CARSON

In the ultra-competitive world of architectural building products it is remarkable that manufacturers and designers can continue to create and develop new ones. But somehow there always seems to be another lightning-hot product or system that jolts the building design and construction industry from top to bottom.

In truth, even if the only benefit of linear channel drains was faster, easier custom shower installations, they would be popular with owners, developers and general contractors for the time and labour savings alone.The most obvious reason is that architects and interior designers like the look and freedom available to them in commercial building projects that include custom showers. The process of installing linear drains can be faster and simpler than the one used to set the traditional round-centre drain. The mortar bed slopes down ¼ in. per foot in one direction toward the linear drain, as opposed to the round-centre drains that require the mortar bed to be sloped equally in four different directions toward the middle.In North America, decorative linear channel drains for custom showers has been that product. The drains have been experiencing explosive growth across the board and borders. Whether it is in a single home or for the grandest of all commercial projects, the drains have several different features that appeal to decision-makers.

SHOWER ACCESS

The drains can be used to create wheelchair accessible, ADA-compliant showers, which are required in several of the most important and profitable segments of commercial building, such as hotels and hospitals. The specification of linear drains allows a new level of freedom for designers since the drain can be placed anywhere in the shower layout. The visual appeal and faster, easier installation process has fueled the product’s rapid growth with residential contractors, as well as architectural design firms.

“As soon as linear drains gained approval, or UPC listing for commercial buildings in North America, the category has continued to rapidly grow each year, or for that matter each quarter,” said Joe Phillips, president of LUXE Linear Drains.

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In a most unusual development, many of the several thousands of well-established, five-star hotels across the country have made the decision to undergo full-scale tub-to-shower conversion renovations for every guest room shower on every floor in an effort to remain current and relevant.

This explosive demand for decorative linear channel drains has in some ways taken North America by storm, spreading so fast that it has caused some confusion for contractors and other interested parties in the mix. The confusion that might exist in the new category for commercial building is the result of slight differences in how the process shakes out in Canada as opposed to the U.S., specifically who installs linear channel drains for residential and/or commercial projects: the tile contractor or licensed plumber. The official answer is both. And it is different in the U.S. and Canada.

In both countries, the demand and popularity of linear drains and tile tray inserts, as well as square replacement drains in both styles, is being driven by manufacturers of tile and stone surfaces. And no matter what country you are in, the installation of linear drains has everything to do with the materials and methods used by the installer. For one custom shower at a private residence, or 250 custom linear showers in a new hotel, the technical installation specifications remain the same.

In the U.S., each state has adopted California plumbing codes and standards, and Canada has adopted U.S. codes. In America, and thus Canada, the specifications for installing linear drains or linear tile tray insert drains adhere to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) details. ANSI details focus on the characteristics of the installation materials being used in accordance with the steps required for installing tile or stone in wet areas. 

Where it might be tripping some of us up and causing confusion between contractors is that every single code or requirement concerning the installation of linear drains in custom baths are pulled directly from the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) standard-issue handbook. This makes perfect sense in Canada since all drain installations, linear or otherwise, must be done by a plumber.

THE ROLE OF THE PLUMBER

In Canada, plumbing contractors play a much larger, more important role than they do in America. This explains why in Canada “ticketed plumbers” must install every linear drain, residentially or commercially, while in America the tile contractor is always in charge of every custom shower installation. So what you have here is just that certain aspects of U.S. and Canadian building codes are handled differently.

That does not necessarily clear up all the confusion in North America, since things can get a bit dicey with all the codes, requirements, governing bodies and acronyms that need to be identified and then met in both countries. In addition to ANSI technical installation specifications, manufacturers of linear drains must earn UPC listing through IAPMO R & T, which is also acceptable or transferable to the Canadian marketplace and denoted as cUPC.

In fact, U.S. and Canadian linear drain manufacturers in either country hoping to do business in both, must imprint or engrave their UPC/cUPC listing identification on the body of the actual product itself. In addition, U.S. manufacturers must also earn certification from the National Plumbing Code of Canada, the International Plumbing Code (IPC), International Building Code (IBC), as well as the International Residential Code (IRC). In every scenario, application or building type in the U.S., the tile contractor is always the one responsible for the installation of linear drains for modern, stylish custom showers in private homes or large-scale commercial projects. <>

Eric Carson is director of Blueprint Global Media. 

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