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DIY Guide: Steps to Replace Your Bathtub Drain

Updated: Nov 4, 2023

A rusted bathtub drain
Rusted bathtub drain

The bathtub drain is a crucial component of your bathroom plumbing, responsible for allowing water to flow out after a refreshing bath. Over time, these drains can rust, develop leaks, or simply become outdated. If you are experiencing issues with your bathtub drain or looking to upgrade to a more modern design, replacing it yourself can be a rewarding and cost-effective solution.

In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of replacing a tub drain. There are multiple types of drain fixtures, so take the time to read through this article to pinpoint yours so that you can proceed to do a proper replacement.

There are a few special tools that may be required, but if you are a determined DIYer your overall cost will be much less than paying a professional to do the job for you.

Materials and Tools:

Before you start, gather the necessary materials and tools:

  1. New tub drain kit (What you will need is shown below)

  2. Adjustable pliers

  3. Screwdrivers (Phillips and flat head - Both may be required)

  4. Plumber's putty

  5. Drain tool

  6. Tub drain extractor tool (If needed for removal of old drain)

Step 1: Remove the Drain Stopper

There are a few styles of drain stoppers. This video will describe how to remove the common styles.

If you do not have a drain stopper then you should have a small handle in the center of the clean out cover which is on the tub wall directly above the drain. Below is a drawing of the configuration of the type of trip lever assembly which is attached to the small trip lever handle. The drain cover pictured will have to be removed to get to the drain. There is no stopper on this type of configuration.

Drawing of a trip lever with plunger
Trip lever with plunger

As you can see in the image above there are multiple parts in this assembly which can be pulled out, cleaned up and replaced if necessary. If everything is in good working condition a new cover with handle, a drain, gasket and new drain cover (strainer) can be installed. A simpler solution to avoid future problems with this type of assembly is to discard the entire assembly from the lever to the plunger and replace with a simple drain kit which includes a new clean out cover as well as any type of drain stopper introduced in the first video above. This again is up to you.

Step 2: Choosing the Correct Drain Kit

There are two standard drain sizes. You need to determine which one you have as well as a few other things before going any further.

Grab a ruler or a tape measure. The 1 3/8” drains measure around 1 ½” across the opening of the drain. The 1 ½” drain measures closer to 2” across the opening of the drain.

After determining the size drain you need, you can order your drain.

Click HERE to see a 1 3/8” drain and accompanying clean out cover HERE .

Click HERE to see a 1 1/2” drain and accompanying clean out cover HERE.

Note: The clean out cover is also described as an overflow face plate.

To make things much easier for you, there are kits available which will accommodate both drain sizes. These kits include the drain, the new clean out cover as well as the screws and the gasket. HERE are a choice of kits. You will notice that some of the kits have coated plastic parts rather than coated metal parts. For longevity, the metal parts would be preferable.

Step3: Choosing the Replacement Stopper

It is possible that your stopper may not need replacing even though the drain is in poor condition and is in need of replacement. If you do need a new stopper here are a selection for you to choose from:

Toe Touch Drain

Push-Pull or Lift-Turn

(Coarse thread on the accompanying drain is always for the 1 1/2" drain size)

Push-Pull or Lift-Turn

(This stopper can be used for either size drain diameter)

PresFlo (Flip Top)

(This one comes with the drain in 1 1/2" drain size only)

FlipIt (Rather unusual- check the reviews first!)

Step 4: Removing the Drain

The interior of the drain body in your bathtub can look like this:

A bathtub drain with 2 crossbars
Drain with 2 crossbars

Or like this:

A bathtub drain with 1 crossbar
Drain with 1 crossbar

If your crossbars are in fair condition (i.e. not rusted badly or too thin) a regular drain tool is recommended. These work extremely well.

Notice that one end works for the 1 3/8” drain and the other for the 1 1/2” drain. The drain tool can be used to remove the drain assisted by one of four different tools shown below:

1. A screw driver through the hole in the center of the drain tool body.

A drain tool with a screwdriver
Drain tool with screwdriver

2. An adjustable wrench:

A drain tool with an adjustable wrench
Drain tool with adjustable wrench

3. A ½” rachet:

A drain tool with a 1/2 inch ratchet
Drain tool with 1/2 inch ratchet

A pair of adjustable pliers:

A drain tool with adjustable pliers
Drain tool with adjustable pliers

If your drain body has no crossbars, it will look like this:

A bathtub drain with no crossbars
Bathtub drain with no crossbars

This situation requires a drain extractor for easiest removal without tearing things up…

HERE is the drain extractor.

There are two types of drains remaining:

One type of drain that is actually the easiest to remove is the pop-up drain that opens by a twist knob. See the picture below. The drain can be closed by twisting the knob or simply pushing down on the drain stopper. The drain stopper lifts straight out allowing you to check for hair in the drain. This type of drain does not usually need replacing but can be disassembled and cleaned as shown below. The putty does dry out at times and can be replaced when needed.

A bathtub pop-up drain and twist knob
Pop-up drain and twist knob
A socket for a nut removal
Socket for nut removal

A 6 point socket for nut removal
6 point socket

A bathtub drain assembly removed
Drain assembly removed

Reinserting bathtub drain
Reinserting drain

The final type of drain is a second trip lever drain pictured below:

A drawing of a bathtub trip lever assembly
Trip lever assembly

This type of trip lever is similar to the trip lever assembly shown earlier. It adds an extended mechanism that moves a stopper up and down. You need to examine the entire set up to determine what you want to replace. Again, these trip lever assemblies can be discarded and simplified with a new clean out cover and drain kit. If you have the patience and time to work with this type of assembly you can remove everything, clean them up, replace your drain and put everything back together.

Step 5: Clean the drain area

Remove all of the old plumber’s putty or silicone. Especially remove any debris from the threads in the drain fitting. Use a small wire brush if necessary. This will facilitate installing the new drain. Remove any hair or debris in the drain as well.

Step 6: Prepare the New Drain

  1. Apply Plumber's Putty: Roll plumber's putty into a snake-like shape and place it around the underside of the new drain flange and press firmly in place.

  2. Insert the Drain: Insert the new drain into the opening and carefully begin threading BY HAND.

  3. Tighten the Drain: Finish the re-installation with the tool of your choice from those shown above and tighten carefully. The excess plumber’s putty will be squeezed out from under the sides of the new drain and can be peeled away after the drain is tight.

Step 7: Test the Seal

  1. Fill the Tub: Run water in the tub to check for leaks around the new drain.

  2. Inspect for Leaks: Watch for bubbles and check for any water escaping around the drain; if you notice leaks, the drain may not be tightened enough.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

  1. Clean Excess Putty: Wipe away any excess plumber's putty with a damp cloth.

  2. Replace the Tub Stopper: If you removed the tub stopper, ensure it is correctly reinstalled.

  3. Enjoy Your New Drain: With the new drain in place and leak-free, you can now enjoy your bath again.

Check out this very helpful video on the whole procedure. Keep in mind it does not include every drain that is shown above, but this is a very helpful lesson on replacing a drain.


Replacing a tub drain might seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and a methodical approach, it is a manageable DIY project. By following this step-by-step guide, you can not only address any drainage issues but also give your bathroom a fresh update.

Remember, if you encounter difficulties or are unsure at any step, consulting a professional plumber is always a wise option. Now that your tub drain is replaced, get ready to relax and enjoy your revitalized bathing experience.

Please don't forget to leave us any comments or questions in the comment section below!

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