laticrete_linear_drainThe wonderful folks at Laticrete sent me a linear drain to play with. And you know me – I bastardized it until it was virtually unrecognizable, ran it through the paces and did things you really shouldn’t do with nice, high-end products like this.

And it survived. Word on the street is that they read my blog, probably for comic relief and to instruct people what NOT to do with their products. So I’m sure they knew this when they sent it… I mean honestly, I soaked their grout in cherry Kool-aid for a week, how could they NOT know?

I did, however, put it to good use in a very cool shower. This is a brief overview of the installation of that drain.

Laticrete HydroBan linear drains are topical drains intended for use with the Hydro Ban liquid waterproofing membrane. They are available in 24″(61cm), 32″(81 cm), 36″(91 cm), 42″(107cm) and 60″(152 cm) lengths. They are also available with a brushed steel grate or a tile-in option.

I had the 36″ tile-in version. The tile-in version allows you to install the same tile in the grate of the drain which, when completed, allows the drain to be nearly invisible in the installation.

You can visit Laticrete’s linear drain information page for a short video on how it is (technically) supposed to be installed.

We all know that’s not what I did. Well, I did, except for one small issue. In the real world application of any product you may need to adapt or tweak something to make it fit or function as it should. This does not always happen! In fact, it rarely happens. I only point it out because with this particular installation I needed to do that with one small part. No big deal.

It usually means you’ll lose your manufacturer’s warranty, so just be aware of that. I’m also fairly certain that they knew that when they sent me the drain. See, I’m rarely a risk for manufacturers. It’s almost to the point where I lose my warranty when I open the box. That’s just how I roll…

When you do open the box you’ll notice the drain only has two pieces. That’s it! It’s difficult for even me to screw this up. Yours actually may have more than that. The drain now has adjustable feet on the grate which was not available on the one I had. So in the photos of my tile-in grate you’ll see little tab-like things sticking out from the bottom – those are the feet. Yours will have adjustable feet to enable you to move it up or down to meet the height of your particular tile.

But it has two basic parts. It has the flange – that’s the part that sits in your mud deck and has the outlet for your drain pipe. And it has the grate – that’s the part that goes in the top, currently either brushed stainless steel or the tile-in option.

With any of the photos below you can click on the picture to view the large version. The huge group of photos at the bottom do the same thing, you can also click the little arrow to view each one in order after enlarging it – you don’t need to click on each individual photo at the bottom of the page.

Here is the floor on which I’m installing the drain. The shower is a small one – 3′ x 3′, the shower door will be installed directly over the drain. The drain will be at the entrance to the shower.

You’ll notice the old drain pipe in the center (the white part sticking up). Behind that, on top of the floor is the flange portion of the drain, and laying across the front of the shower is the grate portion. See the four tabs in the front? Those will be where your adjustable feet are. Laticrete knows enough to send me products with no moving parts. :D Yours, however, will have moving parts.

The first thing I did was to lay out where the drain will be installed, mark the center of the outlet (where it hooks into the drain pipe), and drill a hole in that spot.

You can see it if you’re so inclined – just click on the pic.

I did not take photos of drilling the hole in the floor because, well, it’s drilling a hole in plywood.

Not particularly spectacular.

However, after I did that I placed the drain into the hole to ensure that it was exactly where I wanted it. It was.

If you click on that picture and take a look at each end of the drain flange you’ll see why I had to *ahem* ‘customize’ this particular drain. The drain flange fits in the bathroom – fits precisely – from one sill plate (the 2×4 at the bottom of the wall) to the other (in this case the bottom brace for the sliding door). That’s great! If you don’t want the drain grate to be removable.

You do, however, want the drain grate to be removable. Once I installed the wall substrate the grate would not fit. So my ‘modification’ consisted of simply shortening the drain grate so it would fit between the two walls once the substrate, waterproofing and tile were installed. This is NOT recommended. Just so you know…

After that you need to hook the drain up to your drain pipe. In most installations your existing drain pipe will need to be moved! This post does not describe that – I’m not a plumber. My plumber is on speed dial. Once your drain pipe (and p-trap, etc.) are moved to where you need it – THEN you hook the drain up to the drain pipe.

This is done with what is called a no-hub connector. It is basically a rubber sleeve with clamps which fits the two pieces together. You place half of the sleeve onto your drain pipe and the other half onto the outlet of the drain and clamp it down.

Installing the coupling without access.If you do not have access beneath the drain once it is in place to tighten the clamps you can cut a short length of pvc or cpe and attach it to the bottom of the drain with the connector. You’ll then have the drain with the outlet, on that is the connector and a short length of pipe. Then when you go to install your drain you simply put the adhesive on that short length of pipe and the end of the p-trap (or a stub-up piece of pipe with a coupling) and press it in there to install the drain.

The photo to the right is of a different brand of drain, but it shows the coupling with a short length of pipe exactly like it would be on the Laticrete drain. You can see the rubber coupling and the metal clamp which is placed around it and tightened down. I had access below the floor in this particular shower so I didn’t need to do that here.

Once you get the drain in the proper place it’s time to form your mortar bed. This is the sloped mud deck for your tile floor. These drains are used with a liquid topical membrane called HydroBan. It is an elastomeric liquid which is brushed, rolled or troweled onto your substrate to make it waterproof. Tile is then installed directly to the membrane.

In this particular shower I have a bonded mortar bed. That simply means that the mud bed is attached to the plywood floor beneath it. I installed the wall substrate, in this case Densshield, and cut it to fit over and into the ends of the drain flange. If you click on that photo there you can see how the substrate is cut into the drain flange at the ends.

After the mud deck cures I’ll be installing the HydroBan and tile. That, however, will need to wait for the next post. It’s late and I’m almost out of beer. I don’t want to take up too much of your time. You can see all the photos of the process below, though, if you’re impatient.

There are quite a few benefits of using a linear drain. Rather than having a shallow bowl-shaped shower floor on which you must use smaller tile which will conform to the slope, you can use as large a tile as you want. The linear drains allow you to have a flat shower floor. It will be sloped in one direction from one end to the other, but it will be flat so you can use larger tile.

With the tile-in option the drain will also nearly disappear. You can continue any pattern from your bathroom floor right into the shower floor. It all ties in together really well.

These drains are normally installed up against one of the walls in the shower. It really doesn’t matter which you choose. However (!), there are a couple of rules (aren’t there always?).

If you want it against one of the side walls, rather than at the front or back of the shower, you need to have a curb for your shower. You can not have a curbless shower if the linear drain is on one of the side walls, the mud deck will be thicker at the opposite side.

If you want a curbless shower, such as this one, you either:

  • Need the drain at the front of the shower, in which case the floor will slope from the drain up to the back wall. Or
  • Need the floor to slope DOWN from your bathroom floor into the shower to the drain at the back wall.

If you do not have the structural ability to lower your floor in the shower and slope the deck down into the shower you need to have a curb at the front, then create your mud deck to slope from the drain against the back wall up to the curb at the front of the shower.

After your mud deck cures we need to install the HydroBan and seal everything up. I’ll cover all that in the next post. Until then you can partake in my horrible photography skills below covering the entire installation.


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    Hi, thanks for all your help, I have another question, meaning my daughter and I have not started tiling this shower, yet. I have a Kerdi Linear Drain, a 32″ one. I have a shower that will be, finished size, 32″ across. I am using kerdi board on the walls and a Kerdi presloped shower pan. We have one wall of wall board up, the one with the plumbing and it looks great. I am furring out the back wall to level and then checking things with the drain and I notice that the grey foam drain body support will be exactly the width of the shower width with the kerdi board up, 33″ . But, the actual metal trough is 33 1/4″, maybe needs a bit more with it’s attached kerdi fabric. I dont have 33 1/4″ and maybe a bit more, I have 33″. The so-called kerdi technical expert for my area is an idiot, all he will say is, you have the wrong sized drain. I have exactly the right sized drain, in that I bought a 32″ drain, but I guess they spec that I should have 34″ between the wall board. And I dont, and that is not going to change. Can I notch out the wall board in the area above this drain ? If so, how should I install kerdi fix, kerdi band, etc, etc…. to make sure it is water proof ?

    This is a curbless isntallation. The first frustrating part of this project is what I figured out a few weeks ago, I originally designed this to slope towards the shower opening, that way I could easier transition to the rest of the bathroom floor. But, this drain while it would go side to side, across the whole shower opening, means that there is realy a 1/4 trim on either side of the grate, meaning water would leak out, I think, especially as the shower is small ( finished tiled interior size will be 32″ wide and 34″ deep) . I have never seen a shower with a linear drain across the opening in operation. SO, I have decided I need to make the drain across the back of the shower, which will look nice, and build up the floor in front higher and then slope it down 90′ from the area in front of the shower towards the sink and door.

  • Ted Benjamin


    I had the exact same problem and easily resolved it. I moved the linear drain about 6 inches from the front. Then just had to slope those 6 inches down from the front of the shower to the drain. Doing this you still are not standing on the drain at all as you take your shower at all. It actually was right under the foot faucet. Worked out great. See attached pics.

  • Kelly

    I am a DIYer putting in a linear floor drain. The shower is on the first floor with access to the plumping via the basement. I am roughing everything out now. Ideally, I would like to have the drain directly against the far wall. However, a floor joist is directly under where the edge of the shower floor. I am wondering if you have any thoughts or advice about how to approach this.

    • Roger

      Hi Kelly,

      You need to find a different placement for the drain. You can move it forward away from the wall a bit and have the floor behind it sloped the opposite way, put it in the center of the floor or, if an option, maybe against the wall to the left or right of the shower instead of the back wall. Unfortunately there really isn’t much you can do with a joist right there.

  • George

    Hello Roger

    Please forgive my ignorance and confusion, I readily admit to both. What are the differences between a Topical drain and a regular drain? Does the application of a Topical substance turn a normal drain into a Topical drain? Or are there design differences? Looking around I see no drains specifically marketed as topical drains.


    George Kelley

    • Roger

      Hi George,

      They are two different drains. A topical drain only has drainage directly through the hole on the top.
      A regular drain (clamping drain) has three pieces, the lower flange goes down first, then the waterproof shower liner goes over it, then the upper flange of the drain screws into the lower to clamp the membrane. The upper flange has holes in it called weep holes which allow water to drain. A mudbed is then installed and the barrel of the drain is screwed into the middle of the drain, this is the part that is seen, the ‘hole’ for the water. The reason is that any water that does not go into the main ‘hole’, the water that gets down under the tile, will soak through the mudbed before it hits the waterproof liner. It will then run down the liner and into the weep holes.

      • Roger

        A Schluter Kerdi drain and a Laticrete hydroban drain are both topical drains. There are others, but those are the main two that are readily available.

  • Steven

    Though curbless, I have a little bit of a different setup. I have a 38x 38 corner shower with two full walls ( shaped like an L ) and a center drain in a concrete slab that has been dug out for a proper pitch.

    The first time around I cut the drain pipe too much and ended up with 1.5″ pitch from the surrounding floor to the top of the drain ( which I believe surpasses the 1/2 – 1/2 code) So I cut the pipe a bit more to put a coupling on plus 3/4 pipe to connect the drain. I now have a little more than 1/2″ pitch to the drain from the surrounding floor. I am worried if this will be enough now.

    Will this pitch be ok? I had a hell of a time trying to get the right height :/ Would manipulating the pitch with thinset while installing the tile be a bad idea?

    • Roger

      Hi Steven,

      I honestly have no idea what the hell a 1/2-1/2 code is, or a 1/2″ pitch. I know what a 1/2″ pitch is, but is that over five feet or six inches? Your slope needs to be 1/4″ per foot. If the furthest corner from the drain is two feet, then a 1/2″ pitch over that area is proper. If it’s more than that then it’s too shallow.

      • Steven

        Sorry for the typo… “which I believe surpasses the 1/4 – 1/2 code” from what I have read, over 1/2″ per foot is a danger and not to code. The shower area is 38x 38 so the furtest distance from the drain is 27″ so I believe I just make the min that code requires. I just wasn’t sure if that was enough for a curbless shower.

        • Roger

          That will be fine.

  • John

    Hello Mr. Floor Elf

    First let me apologize for all the trouble I caused in Ft. Collins a few years back. I really did try to leave town via E. Mulberry St. to the interstate. It’s just that every time I got to the edge of your lovely city there was a no u turn sign, so I did. And you what? There the same sign on W. Mulberry St. too. So I did. Also a few no trucks allowed signs on the streets down there too. Suffice it too say the fine officers at the Ft. Collins police department were a bit unhappy with me. But after paying the fines for all that they directed me to N. US 287 and told me too make a right turn in Laramie WY. Now that brings me to my personal apology too you. You have a very nice tile truck but even I know that US 287 sign means, us do 287 mph or as close as possible! Had I known you were just cruising around looking for new beer, I mean Pepsi joints most certainly would not have tail-gated quite as close. I’m sorry. Still not sure if the color change in your face was my fault or if you had just gotten back from an 18 month visit to the Big Elf at the north pole. I’m always up for checking out new beer, mean Pepsi joints. Hope you accept my apology. Anyways on too my question. I need to put in a new shower. Then old one isn’t looking so well after I hard-wired my 8-track into one of those shower niches so I could listen too the Beach Boys in the shower. Things didn’t work out as well as I would have liked. My wife video taped me for a half hour unconscious and dancing before calling 911. And I think, but can’t prove that the EMT people recorded me also on those I-Potty thingies. And all this time I thought I-Potties were rest areas on the interstates. Anyhow I called my son the engineer over to help me with the new shower. Told him after reading your posts that it needed a slope so the water would drain out. So he set about figuring out all that using something called Alge Bra. Think it’s a new language or some lady’s name or undergarment, I didn’t understand any of it. Than after his mother showed him the video they had a good laugh, he left. No help at all. So my question is for the mud bed can I use those Goof Proof stick thingies I see advertised all over the place to make a mud bed for a linear drain? If so, do I use the Pre or Post sticks or can I mix and match? I’m leaning towards the mix and match in order too get a wave action in the mud bed. No need too concern yourself as I won’t be putting an 8-track in this one. I learned my lesson. All ready have a hole cut out of the back wall and trimmed in for my RCA b&w console TV. Plan to waterproof it with a coat of HydroBan, a coat of the red stuff and a coat of that other one. Waterproofed and I get too watch re-runs of Baywatch in color. Sorry for being so long winded, it gets a bit boring out here on the road only being able too talk to the other voices in my head. Since I’m not much good at the math and if it’s alright too use those Goof Proof stick thingies for the mud bed, maybe I can make a nice shower. Have a mighty fine day and an even better one tomorrow!


    No.U.Turn John

    • Roger

      Hi U-turnless,

      Yes, the goof-proof sticks work well. You want to use one or the other, if you use both you’ll end up with double the slope – unless you want that wave thing, that would be SWEET! (send photos…)

  • Trace

    Project: Replace old tub with a freestanding clawfoot tub w/ shower kit ~ instead of the shower surround curtain I want to tile the walls and floor (where old tub is set in) so water can go down the wall and into a floor drain.

    I am exploring linear drain options… they seem quite pricey what with all the brands and their exclusive waterproof methods. The subfloor will be plywood, tar paper, deck mud (sloped towards back wall from existing tile), kerdi membrane and ideally the new surface tile is level to the surrounding existing tile =)

    The pipes are accessible from below in the basement. Most will be replaced anyway since the new taps will be moved to the other end.
    Is only a kerdi brand possible, or can i go with a Laticrete, Tru-line, or , ahem, cheaper option?

    Can I kerdi just the the shower floor? And go trad with the 2 walls?
    The one wall is exterior: it is insulated behind 3/4″ x 7.5″ tongue ‘n groove boards attached to the studs. Tar paper covers the insulation (between the boards and insulation), The other wall is interior, empty b/t the studs, covered with tar paper then boards.
    Do I
    a) plastic over those boards and tack on the hardi board, then tile?
    b) replace the boards with plastic, then hardi board, then tile?
    c) hardi-board right to the t ‘n g, then kerdi, then tile?
    d) just buy yer manuals for god’s sake


    PS: Thank-you for inspiring me to git goin with all of the info I have gleaned from reading so far!

    • Ted Benjamin

      I just completed a new shower install using the Trugard waterproofing membrane and shower tray which all worked perfectly for me. Also used their linear drain which is designed without a vertical lip above the drain flange which I think is a major design flaw in some other shower drains. Discovered that the Hardie Board on the shower walls also needs to be waterproofed which I did using the Trugard membrane. See pic attached.

    • Roger

      Hi Trace,

      You can go with any topical drain (laticrete, schluter, etc.). It is VERY difficult to use a traditional waterproofing on what is essentially a no-curb shower floor with a linear drain. You can not use traditional walls with topical floors – the water will run under the floor. All other questions are moot since it is not a viable option.

      Also – you’ll have a clawfoot tub sitting on a sloped floor… :D

      • Trace

        I had thought to put the linear drain in the middle so to have even clawfeet and have decided to go regular topical =)
        Kerdi up the walls – check!

        Read ya later!