There are several reasons that might make you consider removing the bathtub drain. For instance, the drain fitting may be having a strainer that’s preventing you from accessing the drain with a plumber’s snake to clear some stubborn clogs.
Or maybe you’re planning to upgrade the drain stopper with a better one. It’s also likely that the current design of your drain is made of chrome and an update requires a drain made of brass.
Whichever the case, replacing a tub drain demands the removal of the drain flange. The flange is the drain’s visible part.
You’ll find most parts making up the bathtub drain assembly under the bathtub. Luckily, you won’t come across many challenges when replacing a drain flange.
In case you’ll have to replace the entire bathtub drain, then you’ll need to work under the tub area. In some tub designs, you can only access the drain by lifting the bathtub.
In most cases, removing a flange is relatively easy. It’s something you can easily do from within the bathtub.
Tools You’ll Need To Remove The Bathtub Drain
The flange is typically screwed into the tailpiece of the drain. The tailpiece is sometimes referred to as the tub show. The tailpiece is the piping beneath the tub and is connected to the main drain pipe within the bathroom wall.
The exterior part of the flange is usually threaded. The threads are threaded into the drain’s tailpiece. When removing the flange, you’ll simply unscrew it gently from the drain’s tailpiece.
You might be lucky to remove the flange using the tools you already have at home. However, that might not be very easy.
For instance, if the drain has some crossbars, then you can use a sturdy screwdriver between the crossbars and turn the screwdriver to unscrew the flange.
However, the main challenge with this method is that a screwdriver might not make a tight contact onto the crossbars.
If so, you’ll be unable to apply enough torque to turn it. Some plumbers can successfully use a regular hammer to remove the drain, but this is only possible with certain hammers and drains.
It’s much easier to remove the drain by using tools that are specially designed to remove drains. For instance, one such tool is a dumbbell. A dumbbell looks like a key and fits well between the crossbars in the flange.
You’ll simply turn it using a screwdriver or wrench as the lever. In case your drain design doesn’t feature a crossbar, then you’ll need to use a sturdy drain extractor or drain key.
Drain keys or drain extractors come with reverse-thread systems or expanding wings that grip the flange firmly from the inside.
Once the tool grips the flange, you can use a wrench to turn it. You can find any of these drain removal tools from your local plumbing or hardware store.
Start with removing the tub drain stopper
The first thing you should do before removing the flange is to detach the tub drain stopper. The kind of drain stopper mechanism you have will determine the procedure you’ll follow to remove it.
In case your bathtub comes with a lever at the back, then you’ll simply lift it to detach the stopper. In this case, simply grasp the lever and pull it upwards, then pull it backwards to release the lever rocker arm.
You might need more effort to remove other stopper designs. Here’s how to remove stoppers depending on their designs:
Push-pull drain stopper
To remove this stopper, grasp its head with your hand when the stopper is in the closed or open position. Then rotate the knob counterclockwise.
In case it’s stuck, wrap a dry rag or piece of cloth around it. Next, turn it using a pair of pliers. Once you remove the knob, use a sturdy screwdriver to unscrew the crossbar post.
Toe touch drain stopper
For this stopper, you’ll need to open it by first grasping the head using one hand and grasping the shaft using a wrench or with your other hand.
Next, rotate the head in a counterclockwise direction to detach it fully from the crossbar. The head may easily pop off to expose a screw. You can use a screwdriver to loosen the screw.
Pres-flo drain stopper
Pres-flo stoppers are the easiest drain stoppers to remove. If your stopper is the pres-flo type, then you’ll simply grasp the stopper knob (if any) or the stopper itself and pull it up. Doing so will make the stopper pop out.
Lift and turn drain stopper
With this type of drain stopper, you’ll need to rotate it until a setscrew becomes visible on its knob. Take a screwdriver or hex wrench and use it to loosen the stopper setscrew.
Once the screw is removed, you can detach the knob. Next, lift the drain stopper from the post. Then unscrew the drain post. In case you don’t find a setscrew, unscrew the whole stopper unit using a wrench or your fingers.
Removing the Bathtub Drain Flange
You’ll need the following tools for the job:
- Screwdriver or wrench
- Putty knife
- Short pipe (Optional)
- Household cleaner
- Zip-It type of drain tool
- Smart dumbbell or drain key
Step 1: Start with cleaning the opening of the drain
To do this, clean any hair and soap scum that may have accumulated on the drain. Remove the gunk around the tub drain.
Next, take a sponge and use it to clean the interior of the flange. Once clean, you’ll be able to see the bathtub drain opening and flange clearly.
You’ll be able to remove any hair that may be stuck within the drain upon removing the flange to access the inside.
Step 2: Locking the tool for removing the drain
Next, take the drain key and insert it into the tub drain opening. Then take a wrench and clamp it onto the key. You’ll find a nut on the key and this is where you’ll clamp the wrench.
Once done, use the wrench to turn the drain removal key counterclockwise. Continue turning the key counterclockwise until its wings touch the inner drain.
At this point, you feel it’s challenging to continue rotating it. In case you are using a dumbbell, you’ll need to insert it through the drain.
Next, engage its tines with a strainer or crossbar. Once done, take a screwdriver and insert it through the dumbbell to work as a simple lever for easier operation.
Step 3: Turning the drain flange counterclockwise
Turn the drain removal tool in a counterclockwise direction to unscrew the drain flange. This may be something challenging to do, especially due to hardened putty and calcium deposits that create resistance.
Lubricating the threads would be almost impossible. Thus, the best chance you have is applying more force.
In case it’ll be necessary, slip a steel pipe on the wrench or screw handle to extend its length. The pipe will assist in creating more leverage to unscrew the drain flange.
If you’re unable to turn the flange, use a hairdryer to apply heat on the flange for some minutes. Doing so will soften the putty that may have hardened within the threads, thereby making it easier to turn the flange.
Step 4: Cleaning the tub drain opening
Use a flat type of screwdriver or putty knife to remove old putty from the drain opening. Next, use your household cleaner to wipe off any rust or gunk.
Clean the tailpiece threads with a toothbrush. In case the drain is blocked, you can remove the hair using the zip-it drain tool. Finally, install the new flange.