How to Remove a Tub Drain

What You'll Need
New drain kit
Basket wrench
Penetrating oil

There might come a time when you need to remove a tub drain in your bathtub. Although we tend to think of the tub drain purely as the hole through which the water disappears, it’s a more complex unit than that which consists of the drain itself, the overflow pipe and the control for the tube stopper which are all interconnected. It’s a job that doesn’t requite much plumbing skill but which can prove awkward if it’s difficult to gain access to the drain area. Although it’s not vital, it can be easier to turn off the water to the tub before beginning the job.

Step 1 - Access

Most people will not replace the tub drain unless there’s a specific need for it, such as a problem with the tub draining or fitting a new model. The first important hurdle to overcome is to have proper access to the drain area of the tub. Where there’s a crawl space behind the tub, this can be quite easy. When no such space exists, you might be forced to work in cramped conditions from the side of the tub. This will not only lengthen the job but also make it more frustrating.

Even with a crawl space, the wooden frame might limit access. If it’s old and in need of replacement, cut some of it away to offer proper access at the start of the job.

Step 2 - Drain Basket

The first part of the drain to be removed is the drain basket which is in the tub itself. While some can be unscrewed with just a pair of crossed screwdrivers, the job will be a lot easier using a specialized tool called a basket wrench which designed purely for this job. Unfortunately, it isn’t in most tool boxes. By applying the basket wrench, you will be able to unscrew and remove the drain basket from the tub drain.

Step 3 - Overflow

The next thing to do is to uncouple the overflow pipe. Use a wrench on the nut and when it’s fully loosened, ease it away from the tub overflow fitting. Pull out the old fitting. If the nut doesn’t want to turn, use some penetrating oil on the nut and wait a few minutes before trying again. It should now turn quite easily. The overflow tube behind the tub will join into the main drain pipe. Use the wrench to loosen this and remove the overflow pipe.

Step 4 - Stopper

To remove the stopper, which controls the opening and closing of the tub drain, begin by unscrewing the two screws holding it in place in the tub. Disconnect the knob from the control behind the tub and remove the stopper control from inside the tub.

Step 5 - Drain

In order to remove the drain from under the tub, you will need to disconnect the main tub drain tube at the point where it joins the house plumbing. Use a wrench to do this. When completely loose, you will be able to ease out the entire tub drain from the tub. To finish the job, use cleaner in the tub to erase the marks made by the drain basket, the overflow cover and the stopper control, especially if you're planning on replacing the fittings.