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What is a Shower Drain?

M. J. Reed
M. J. Reed

A shower drain is a plumbing fixture positioned between a shower enclosure and a drainage pipe that captures water and funnels it into the sewage waste water system. Unlike a tub drain – where you may find a shower installation also – a shower drain does not normally incorporate a levered fixture which blocks the drain in order to allow water to fill the tub.

Every shower drain includes a grid, strainer, vent and trap. The grid has an arrangement of holes or slots that allow water to freely flow through them. The strainer is immediately below the grid and prevents objects large enough to clog the drain or waste pipe from entering the drain. The trap is a u-shaped pipe that traps water in order to block sewer gasses from escaping back up the drain into the bathroom. The vent is a pipe that provides air pressure in the system.

A shower drain funnels water into the sewage waste water system.
A shower drain funnels water into the sewage waste water system.

The challenge for shower drains, and all fixture-to-waste junctions, is to perform the task of moving water from one to the other without leaking and without allowing gasses from the waste system to backup into the house. This is accomplished by choosing the correct shower drain for the existing type of shower and drainage pipes, and by installing the drain system correctly.

Choosing the best shower drain. When selecting a drain, it is important to consider the type of waste pipes to which the drain will be connecting. Non-metal tubing such as plastic can use threaded, compression, crimped or solvent-welded drains. Threaded drains screw into the shower and piping using a special plumbing tape wrapped around the threads that creates a waterproof seal. Compression and crimped drains use pressure to force a tight connection. A shower drain that is solvent-welded uses a solvent compound that causes a chemical reaction that bonds the drain to the pipe. Metal pipes require drains that are either threaded or welded with a soldering metal.

Installing traps and vents. Once the correct type of drain is selected, it is then important to make sure it is installed correctly. First, a trap should be installed directly below the drain. This is a u-shaped bend in the pipe that traps water in the pipe. This trapped water acts as a block and prevents sewer gasses from escaping back up the drain into the house. Next, it is necessary to install a vent pipe above the level of the drain. The vent provides an air supply that keeps the water in the trap from being sucked out of the trap, either up into the shower or down into the waste system, by ambient air pressure.

When the appropriate drain is installed correctly, the new shower drain will handle water flow without leaking and without allowing noxious smells to enter the house.

Discussion Comments


@googlefanz -- OK, here's what you do. You said you already took off your drain grate and said you didn't see anything, but just in case, I'll start at the beginning.

Take off the drain grate and take a good, hard look with a flashlight. Clean out anything obvious (I know you said there's nothing, but again, just in case).

Now you need to take a long strip of duct tape, at least two feet long, and fold it over with the sticky sides facing up and towards the center. So fold it but don't let it attach to itself.

Stick it down your drain, leaving about four or five inches to hang out the sides so that you don't lose it down the drain.

Scrape around the pipe to get off any residual debris -- a lot of times there can be calcium or lime deposits and you might not even recognize it because it looks like part of the pipe. If any big chunks fall off, the tape will catch them.

When you're done, pull up your tape and take all your stuff out of the shower. Turn on the warm water and let it run until an inch or so of water collects (if the clog is still there and you haven't knocked it out with your scraping).

When you've got your covering of water, then you want to put a plunger on top of the drain and start to work it. You may have to do this for quite some time, even up to half an hour. You should check every few minutes to see if the clog is resolved.

The plunging will either raise the clog to the top of the drain where you can pull it out, or it will force it out of your pipes.

If that doesn't work, then I suggest you try a plumber -- there are some shower drain kits out there, but they're usually not worth the money.

So there you have it -- that's my shower drain repair wisdom. Hope it helps!


How do I fix a clogged shower drain? I have a tile shower, and the drain just clogs continually. I've poured Draino down it a few times, and I've taken up the grid to make sure that there's nothing stuck down there (there's not), so I'm kind of stuck.

What should I do?


Wow -- this was super-detailed. Thanks so much for all the information! I'm going to be installing a shower pan drain for the first time later this weekend, and was really wondering about some shower drain installation basics.

This really helped me to understand the shower system as a whole better, not just the drain part. Thanks for taking the time to write a detailed and interesting article!

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    • A shower drain funnels water into the sewage waste water system.
      By: esp2k
      A shower drain funnels water into the sewage waste water system.