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How to Remove and Install a Bathtub Drain

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  1. Terminology
  2. What You Need to Install a Bathtub Drain
  3. Bathtub Drain Installation Steps
  4. Installation Frequently Asked Questions

An important task associated with the installation of a new built-in or freestanding bathtub involves installing the bathtub drain. Assuming the main drain plumbing is already in the appropriate location for your bathtub, this can be a do-it-yourself job.

Here’s what you need to know about bathtub drain installation.

Job difficulty and cost

  • Difficult: Beginner
  • Total Time: Under 2 hours

Removing and installing a new drain is a great place to practice your DIY skills. This task is straightforward, with very few steps, so let’s begin.

Drain Terminology

There’s more to a bathtub drain than meets the eye. You’re likely accustomed to seeing finished bathtubs with a drain stopper and an overflow opening. However, there’s quite a bit of hardware behind the scenes including various pipes, gaskets, cover plates, and flanges. Let’s start with drain terminology before getting into the details of drain installation.

  • Drain Stopper — Also called a tub stopper, the drain stopper is the piece that twists or drops into position to stop water from draining from the bathtub. Once lifted, the water flows through the drain stopper and into the drain pipes. Drain stoppers are available in several standard configurations such as push and pull, popups, toe touch, lift and twist, and flip-its.
  • Drain Flange — The drain stopper you see is part of a larger drain component called a drain flange. The drain flange is also known as the drain body or drain basket. It’s a short cylinder containing the stopper that threads into place into the drain shoe.
  • Drain Shoe— The drain shoe, which is installed underneath the bathtub floor, connects the drain flange to a “waste tee” connected to the overflow and drainage pipe.
  • Overflow Pipe — The overflow pipe leads up to the overflow opening, located near the top of the bathtub. Should you leave the water running in a stopped bathtub, once the water level rises to the level of the overflow opening, it will drain through the opening and down the overflow pipe into the main bathtub drain to prevent an overflow.

Drain types


A toe touch drain is spring-loaded and designed to be opened and closed with just your toe. This drain is common because it is easy to install and use, although one drawback is that the spring will eventually wear out with frequent use and age. To remove the a toe-touch, set the drain to open and unscrew the shaft cylinder that is screwed into the drain opening. Depending on the style, you may need a screwdriver or twist it counterclockwise with your hand.


A push-pull drain opens when pulled and closes when pushed down. This drain type is easy to remove and has a long lifespan as there are no extra components. To remove one, set it to open and lift the stopper’s knob and turn it counterclockwise to remove.

Lift and turn

A life turn drain opens by turning it clockwise while lifting it up and similarly closes by turning it counterclockwise. This drain has a long lifespan and is easy to install and remove. To remove, set the drain in the open position and unscrew the knob on top of the drain stopper. Underneath the knob should be a set-screw, unscrew it, then twist the entire stopper counterclockwise until it is free from the mounting post then, use pliers to remove the mounting post.


A trip lever uses a trip lever installed on the overflow drain just below the faucet. This lever is attached to a rod that runs through the overflow drain and controls the stopper inside the drain. Due to the complicated nature of this drain, it can be the most difficult to remove. To remove, set the drain in an open position, and unscrew the faceplate mounted to the overflow drain. Pull the faceplate free, and the rest of the drain stopper should come free. Keep in mind that removing the entire drain stopper will require some patience as you wiggle it free.

How to check for leaks

  • Allow the plumber’s putty time to adhere, as the manufacturer recommends. 
  • Close the drain and partially fill the tub with water. 
  • Mark the top of the water line with tape. 
  • Wait about an hour, then return to the tub to check the fill level. 
  • If the fill level has dropped below the tape marker, you have a leak and should check to ensure that the new drain is installed correctly and sealed. 
  • If the fill level remains the same, you have successfully replaced the drain. 

Drain Terminology

What You Need For The Project

You’ll need just a few items to install a bathtub drain including the drain hardware, a few tools and putty tape.

  • Bathtub drain assembly — For a completely new installation, you may need the entire drain assembly including the stopper, drain flange, drain shoe, waste tee, overflow pipe, overflow cover, and any associated parts like gaskets and screws. If replacing an existing bathtub drain, you’ll likely use the existing drain shoe, waste tee, and pipes. You may need a new gasket, though.
  • Tools — Assuming this is a new installation, you’ll need just a wrench and flathead screwdriver as well as a drain specific “smart dumbbell” or “drain key” tool for removing and installing the bathtub drain. The type you need depends on the type of drain flanges you will be removing and installing.
  • Supplies -Make sure to have some caulk or plumber’s putty on hand to seal the lip of the drain flange. You may also want to use masking tape to cover and protect the exposed bathtub surface surrounding the drain flange.

Bathtub Drain Installation Steps

Note: These instructions assume the pipes and drain shoe have already been installed.

How to Remove the Drain

Identify the existing drain flange type

Is it a lift and-twist stopper or a pop-up? If you know who manufactured it, search for the manufacturer’s removal instructions. If not, look up removal instructions for the drain type you have.

Use the appropriate drain removal tool

The instructions will likely recommend the appropriate drain removal tool. Drain dumbbells are commonly used to remove drains with cross bars while drain keys, which expand in 360 degrees, can be used to remove other drain types.

Read the manufacturer’s instructions to remove the old drain.

Review the manufactures instructions to ensure that you are disposition of the old drain properly.

Installing a New Bathtub Drain

Step 1: Clean and dry the area around the drain completely.

You’ll want to be sure that any debris, build up, or old plumber’s putting is completely removed.

Step 2: Check the condition of the rubber gasket located underneath the bathtub.

If an existing gasket is in place, is it in good condition? If not, or if it’s nonexistent, you’ll want to use the new one that came with your drain assembly or purchase a new gasket.

Step 3: To remove an existing gasket, gently pry it off with a Flathead screwdriver.

If an existing drain shoe is in place, take care not to misaligned the drain shoe; otherwise, you’ll need to realign it.

Step 4: Install the new gasket by pushing it into place.

Place the Gasket into the proper position.

Step 5: Roll a section of plumber’s putty.

Roll the plumbers putty into pencil sized in thickness and long enough to wrap around the drain flange. Place the putty roll underneath the drain flange’s lip, wrapping it completely around. Try not to use too much plumber’s putty as an overly thick roll will interfere with positioning the flange and may cause leaks. Only a small amount of putty should ooze out as the flange is screwed into position.

Step 6: Put the drain flange in the drain hole.

Slowly thread it into the first few threads of the drain shoe by hand. Make sure it’s threading properly and not cross threading.

Step 7: Use your smart dumbbell or drain key.

Twist the drain flange into the drain shoe until it’s tight. From there, use a wrench for 25 percent of a turn to fully tighten the flange. Use care here as over tightening could break the seal or crack the bathtub. Keep an eye on the gasket to make sure it has stayed in the correct position.

Step 8: Remove this with a putty knife.

It’s not unusual for plumber’s putty to appear around the edge or the flange after you’ve screwed it into position

Step 9: Install the bathtub stopper.

Following the instructions provided with your hardware and run a quick test to make sure that there are no leaks.

Step 10: Remove the old overflow cover and install the new one (if applicable).

If you’re also changing the overflow cover, this job is usually a simple matter of unscrewing a screw or two, removing the cover, placing the new cover, and screwing it in.

That’s it; you’ve just installed a new bathtub drain. After cleaning up your project, your bathtub is ready for use.
Here are some additional questions to consider

Frequently Asked Questions when installing a drain

What are your options for sealing a drain?

For sealing your bathtub drain, you have two options: Plumber Putty and Silicone caulk.

Plumber’s putty is similar to clay and can be molded to fit various shapes, similar to normal clay. The advantage of plumber putty is that it can be used without much prep work and you do not need another chemical solution to remove plumber putty. 

Simply mold it to whatever shape you desire and apply it to the surface you are trying to seal. The disadvantage of putty is that it will fail quickly, within 2-3 years, becoming brittle and eventually cracking. 

Silicone caulk on the other hand comes in a long tube that you must apply by using a caulk gun. The caulk is a clear substance that when exposed to air for an hour, will dry and form a hardening skin.

When it fully dries, you are left with a durable sealant that won’t become brittle. The only real disadvantage to silicone caulk is that it does require an extra chemical solution such as caulk softener to remove, making it a bit more of a hassle to remove as it is quite durable.

Do you need a plumber to install a drain?

No, you do not need a plumber to install a drain. However, basic plumbing knowledge is recommended if you are attempting this install for the first time. Installing a drain requires you to clean your bathtub and deal with your plumbing system, which if you are inexperienced, can lead to flooding or permanent damage, so refer to the steps above carefully or consult a professional if you are experiencing difficulties.

Can you use caulk instead of plumbers putty?

Yes, and it is often recommended that you use caulk instead of plumber’s putty for most applications. However, for both Caulk and plumber’s putty, it is important to understand that these two are not catch-all solutions. Caulk should only be used on any surface that is not pressured and is used to seal against water intrusion, mostly the area between the bathtub and the wall. Plumber’s putty should be used on pressured areas or pipes to aid against water intrusion. Do not use plumber’s putty as a replacement for sealant on pipe joints-this is for Teflon tape. Also, do not apply plumber’s putty to join plastic pipes or use on porous material such as granite or marble as it will certainly stain those surfaces. 


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Jerry Reece
Jerry Reece
5 years ago

The pop-up, pre-installed drain (stopper) leaks, allowing water to pass in either position….up or down. What should I do to fix this problem.

Capt Dale Doorly
Capt Dale Doorly
4 years ago

My pop-up, pre-installed drain (stopper) also leaks, allowing water to pass in either position….up or down. What should I do to fix this problem.

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