How to Remove and Replace a Bathtub Drain and Stopper

If your bathtub stopper isn’t working or is outdated, replace it with a new one. Drain assemblies are available in many different styles with one that would compliment almost any style of bathroom. Better yet, this project can be completed by almost any homeowner with some basic tools and plumbing knowledge.

When working in the bathroom you should be cautious not to accidentally chip the bathtub or lose important parts down the drain. A rubber bathmat is an excellent, if not essential, item to place in the bottom of your bathtub to protect it in case you accidentally drop a tool. A bathmat placed over the drain will also prevent anything you set on in the tub from rolling down the drain.

To begin, you must remove the original bathtub drain assembly. You should do this by turning the bathtub stopper lever to the open position. You should then be able to pull or twist the stopper out of the drain opening. Have a bucket in place to put the discarded pieces; drain stoppers are often covered with hair and other debris.

If you cannot remove the stopper easily, use penetrating oil like WD-40 and spray it on the stopper arm. Wait a few minutes and try again. The oil should reduce any friction from preventing the stopper from being removed.

With this piece removed, you should now focus on removing the bathtub lift assembly. The lift assemble is the part where the lever that operates the bathtub stopper is located. Most are attached to the bathtub with two screws. Remove the screws and pull off the bathtub lift assembly.

If the drain assembly and stopper are in good condition and you like the style, you may consider just cleaning and reattaching these parts. Household white vinegar and an old toothbrush should remove all but the most stubborn corrosion. If you do decide to do this, just continue with the newly cleaned assembly and follow the recommended adjustments to restore working order.

Most problems with your drain stopper assembly come from the length of the lift rod. If you have a new drain assembly, install it according to the manufacturer’s directions. If it does not operate correctly, you will have to lengthen or shorten the bathtub lift rod. You do this by rotating the striker, located on the bottom of the lift rod to shorten or lengthen the useful length. Remember, you should lengthen the lift rod if you want to raise the stopper higher and shorten the lift rod if you wish to create a better stopper seal.

If you can’t find a comparable drain stopper assembly, you can replace the drain flange and the drain stopper with a system that does not require a lift assembly. To do this you must remove the drain flange as well as the stopper. A pair of pliers can be used to grab a hold of the inside grate of the drain flange to twist it out.

If you’re replacing the drain flange, you’ll need one with similar threads. Clean your flange and go to a hardware store to make sure you have a good match. Once you have the new flange and stopper, all you need is a small amount of plumber’s putty to work it into place. The plumber’s putty should go underneath the lip of the new flange and then the flange can be screwed into place. Then screw the stopper into the flange.

If you previously had lift lever in your bathtub, you can buy a plate to cover the hole in your bathtub where the lift lever once was. Just screw it into place to cover the hole. This also allows you the option of replacing the bathtub assembly.

Figuring out how to work with and repair your bathtub drain and stopper is an easy job that can yield many rewards. Keep in mind that a lot of stopper and flange problems are caused by drains that are not regularly cleaned, so take the time every few months to remove the stopper and clean the flange and pipe underneath. Of course, if you don’t have the time or inclination for this project, a handyman or plumber should be able to clean and fix any bathtub stopper problems you might have.

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