A bathtub drain flange is the finished drain part that's visible in the tub. Some manufacturers refer to the drain flange as a "drain body" or "drain basket". Drain flanges come in many different finishes and have a variety of stopper options for filling the tub. Replacing the flange is a relatively simple project, but if you haven't done it before you may have a tough time knowing where to begin.
Before you dive in, it's important to familiarize yourself with a tub drain system. As the diagram at rightabove shows, the flange is held in place with a threaded connection to the drain elbow (aka drain shoe). Between the underside of the flange and the tub surface, there's a good amount of plumbers putty that seals the inside of the drain. A rubber gasket underneath the tub seals the drain elbow to the tub. That drain elbow connects to a length of pipe that then connects to the waste and overflow pipe.
- Drain Key or Smart Dumbell tub drain removal tool
- Flathead screwdriver (may be needed to remove the stopper)
- Bucket or container
- Plumbers Putty
Before beginning please note: There are many variables to consider when it comes to your home's plumbing - this guide is intended to provide a basic understanding, and may not cover all circumstances. Before attempting any DIY plumbing project in your home, know the access points to your plumbing. Many bathtubs will have an access panel behind the tub, or you may be able to access the plumbing through a crawl space in or under the home. Keep in mind when attempting to complete a plumbing project yourself that it's easy to "open a can of worms" - you need to be prepared if your simple project suddenly gets out of hand. Have a plumber's number handy, and don't be ashamed to use it!
To remove a drain flange, it‘s best to use a drain removal tool. There are other ways to remove the flange, but those methods are likely to damage your tub (or your tools!) The Drain Key and Smart Dumbell are both designed specifically for this job, and will help to prevent any potential damage to the tub's enamel/finish.
Both the Drain Key and the Smart Dumbell essentially work the same; you insert them into the drain and turn counterclockwise to release the old tub drain. However, they are slightly different. For your convenience, we offer a complete tutorial for using these drain tools.
Purchase the tub drain removal tools you'll need right here!
Drain Key Tool - $43.30
- OR -
Smart Dumbell Tool - $15.16
First, remove the stopper. There are several types of drain stopper, all of which can be removed very easily. When you remove the old stopper you may pull up hair and/or other debris, so be sure to have a container or bucket handy to place your dirty parts into since this can get messy! If it's not apparent, you can find out how to remove your stopper here.
Insert the Drain Key or the Smart Dumbell into the drain. Following the instructions for the tool, turn counterclockwise.
Keep turning drain counterclockwise until the old drain is released - it shouldn't take too many turns before the drain comes right out.
Pro Tip: If the drain is stubborn and won't budge (even with the proper tools), heating the flange with a hair dryer on high/hot may soften the putty that's sealing the flange to the tub. After a few minutes, the putty should be soft enough to try turning again.
Clean drain area, making sure to remove all old putty residue. Allow to dry before beginning installation of the new drain flange.
Underneath the tub will be a rubber gasket that creates a seal for the drain elbow. Check this gasket to make sure it is in good shape. If it's not, you'll need to replace it (available below). To do so, use a flathead screwdriver to gently pry out the old gasket. Try not to disturb the drain elbow while doing this: if the drain elbow becomes misaligned, you risk having to access the underside of the tub to realign the shoe and gasket. Squeeze the new gasket into one side of the drain, then push the other side into place.
Purchase a replacement gasket right here!
Roll a piece of plumbers putty in your hands that is about the same thickness of a pencil. Wrap this underneath the lip of the new flange, making sure that it reaches all the way around.
Place the flange in the drain hole. Slowly turn the drain clockwise to catch the first few threads of the drain elbow underneath the tub. Be careful not to cross thread!
Note: The use of thread sealers, like PTFE tape, is not needed for this application. The gasket underneath the tub helps to complete the seal between the two pieces.
Once the flange is carefully threaded into the first few threads of the drain elbow, use the Smart Dumbell to hand-tighten the flange into the drain elbow until tight. Then use your wrench to tighten, by one quarter of a turn. Do this carefully, so as not to squeeze the gasket underneath the tub out of place. The connection needs to be tight to prevent leaks, but tightening it too much risks cracking the tub or breaking the seal.
Remove any excess plumbers putty that may be squeezed out around the edge of the flange with a putty knife. Excess putty can be put back into the container to be used another time.
Purchase plumbers putty right here!
14oz. Stainless Plumbers Putty - $3.38
Install the tub stopper, if needed. Then plug the tub and run a bit of water, checking for any leaks.
Pat yourself on the back - you have now successfully installed your new drain flange! Enjoy a celebratory soak.