How to Convert a Trip-Lever To a Pop-Up Bathtub Stopper

Un-like Pop-up bathtub drain stoppers which are installed at the bottom of the tub, trip-lever bathtub stoppers are installed on the side of the bathtub. A toggle lever mounted on the overflow plate is connect to 2 link rods, which in return are connected to a plunger which is responsible for closing and opening the drain

When you flip the toggle lever up, the plunger falls to the junction of the overflow and bathtub drainpipe therefore blocking it, allowing the bathtub to fill. Flipping the lever down lifts off the plunger and the bathtub starts to drain.

A trip-lever bathtub stopper’s plunger picks up hair, soap scum and debris from the drainpipe and that is why it gets stuck very often. Mineral deposits in the overflow drain also contribute to this problem.

At times the plunger disconnects/breaks off from the link rods and falls at the bottom of the overflow drain. In that case your bathtub cannot drain and fishing the plunger out is not always easy.

Replacing a trip-lever bathtub stopper with a pop-up stopper is always a good idea. Pop-up bathtub drain stoppers have fewer problems and when they do have a problem they are easier to fix than their trip-lever counterparts.

Types of Pop-Up Bathtub Stoppers

If you want to replace your trip-lever bathtub with a modern pop-up stopper, you will have 4 choices to choose from. Here are the types of pop-up bathtub stoppers:

Lift and Turn Bathtub Stopper

A lift and turn bathtub stopper is the one with a small knob at the top of the drain stopper cap. To close this type of stopper, you usually turn the knob clockwise and the cap will drop down and seal around the drain hole. If you want to open it, lift and turn the knob in the counterclockwise direction which will lift the stopper off the drain hole allowing it to drain.

Push and Pull Bathtub Stopper

A push and pull bathtub drain stopper is very similar in design to the lift and turn tub drain stopper. As its name suggests, you normally push the stopper cap knob down to close it and pull it up to open it. The stopper is usually attached to the drain flange using a screw found under the knob of the stopper cap.

Toe-Touch Bathtub Stopper

A toe-touch bathtub stopper, also known as a foot-actuated bathtub stopper looks very much like the push and pull bathtub stopper only that is usually operated using the toe. It is flat at the top, and without a knob. The stopper is spring-loaded, and normally attached to the drain flange using a screw found underneath the cap.

Flip-It Bathtub Stopper

A flip-it bathtub drain stopper is the easiest to work with. A toggle lever attached to the top of the stopper is pushed side to side to open or close it. This bathtub stopper is not threaded to the drain hole and does not need any tools to remove or install it. To install it you just push it down the drain.

An in-built O-ring holds it in place creating a water tight seal. If you have a bathtub with type of stopper which is not holding water then definitely the O-ring is the problem.

How to Replace a Trip-Lever Bathtub Stopper with a Pop-Up Stopper

To carry out this DIY you will need a few items and materials. They include:

  • New overflow plate
  • A new pop-up bathtub stopper
  • Drain Flange
  • Nose pliers
  • Channel locks
  • Plumber’s putty
  • Flathead screwdriver

This are the steps to follow when replacing a trip-lever bathtub stopper with a pop-up stopper:

1. Remove the Old Bathtub Drain Flange

For bathtubs with a trip-lever stopper, the drain flange is usually covered with a cover plater attached to it with a screw. The bathtub drain flange is the finished part of the tub which could be made of stainless steel, chrome, oil rubbed bronze or polished nickel.

  • Use the screwdriver to remove the cover from the top of the bathtub drain flange.
  • Remove the drain flange. There is a special tool called a tub drain remover tool but if you don’t have it a nose pliers and channel locks will come in handy.
  • Insert the nose plier’s prongs inside 2 opposite slots of the tub drain flange and grab its handles tightly with a channel lock. Turn the channel lock counterclockwise to unscrew the drain. If the flange is too old, corroded and won’t just come off, spray WD-40 around it and wait for 15 to 20 minutes. It should come out easy after that.
  • Clean the drain opening. You will notice old plumber’s putty all around the tub drain opening. Grab an old toothbrush and thoroughly clean the threads as well as the top of tub. You want the new flange to form a nice seal.

2. Remove the Trip-Lever Bathtub Stopper

Removing a trip-lever bathtub stopper is actually pretty easy. This is how to proceed:

  • Remove the overflow pipe cover plate. As stated above, the toggle lever is located on the cover plate of the tub overflow. The tub overflow on the other hand is fastened to the tub using 2 screws. Use a screwdriver to remove the 2 screws. Be careful not to drop the screws down the bathtub drain.
  • Once the screws are out, pull the whole assembly out nice and slowly. Start by pulling it upwards and then outwards.

3. Install the New Bathtub Drain Flange

Here is how to install the tub flange

  • Place the gasket supplied with the bathtub flange on top of the bathtub drainpipe.
  • Disconnect the bathtub stopper from the drain flange if you bought them as such. Depending on the type of bathtub stopper you have, it will be connected to the flange using a screw on the side just below the cap or a screw on top of the knob. This will allow you to tighten the flange in the drainpipe.
  • Roll a thin bead of plumber’s putty between your hands and nicely spread it under the rim of the new tub flange. This will help create a watertight seal around it.
  • Screw the tub flange in the drainpipe. Use the nose pliers and channel lock to tighten it in place. Some putty should squeeze out from all around the flange. This is an indicator that a proper seal has formed and that you that you will not have leaks in the future. Wipe it out with a rag.

4. Install the Pop-Up Bathtub Stopper

The method here will depend on the type of pop-up bathtub stopper you decide to use. Here is how to proceed.

  • Connect the new bathtub stopper on the tub flange. Again, this will depend on the type you have but should be fairly easy. A stopper will either have a screw on the side or one at the top covered by the knob or plate. More on how to install bathtub stoppers here.
  • Test the new tub stopper. Once installed, it is time to put the new bathtub stopper to the test. Turn on the water for a few seconds then shut it off. Check if the stopper is holding the water without leaking. When you are satisfied that the stopper is working as expected, drain the water.

5. Install the New Overflow Cover Plate

A bathtub overflow plate is purely for cosmetic purposes. It prevents having the big overflow opening exposed which is somewhat ugly. It also prevents foreign substances from being through down the overflow pipe especially by kids.

Here is how to install it.

  • Choose the right orientation. An overflow cover plate has a top and bottom side. The bottom side has a slot which allows excess water to flow down the overflow pipe preventing the house from flooding. Make sure that you get the orientation right.
  • Align the 2 holes on the cover plate to the 2 holes on the bathtub and slide in the 2 screws. Tighten them in place using a screwdriver.

And basically that is how to convert a trip-lever bathtub stopper into a pop-up bathtub stopper. A plumber would charge you upwards of $80 to do it but by following this simple process you save yourself that amount.

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