How to Replace a Bathtub Drain Flange Easily

A bathtub drain flange is the finished piece found between the drainpipe and the bathtub stopper. Bathtub flanges are usually threaded on the tub drainpipe while bathtub stoppers are connected to the flange using a long screw.

If your bathtub is leaking from underneath, a faulty bathtub flange is usually the main culprit. Removing and replacing the tub flange and gasket a is sure way to fix this problem.

Prior to removing a bathtub stopper, you will first need to remove the bathtub drain stopper. There are a few types of bathtub stoppers and you will only have one of them installed in your tub.

Note: If you have a trip-lever bathtub stopper you will not need to remove it. A trip-lever bathtub is the one installed on the side of the tub and not at the bottom. In this case, you will only need to remove the drain cover with a screwdriver to expose the bathtub flange. You can however utilize this time to convert the old trip-lever tub stopper into a pop-up stopper. Read more in this post.

For other types of bathtubs, you must first remove the stopper, which is actually a very easy task. Let us look at the different types of bathtub stoppers and how to remove them:

1. Lift and Turn Tub Stopper

A lift and turn stopper is the one with a small knob on top of the drain stopper cap. To open the stopper and allows the tub to drain, you usually lift the knob and turn it to the left. To close the drain you turn the knob to the right and the stopper drops down sealing the tub.

Here is how to remove a lift and turn tub stopper:

  • Have the stopper in the open position.
  • Use one hand to hold the body of the stopper.
  • Turn the knob in the counterclockwise direction slowly with your other hand, looking for a screw on the knob.
  • Use a flathead screwdriver or an Allen wrench to loosen the screw. Note that you do not need to completely remove the screw lest it falls down the drain.
  • If there is no screw on the knob, turn the stopper counterclockwise to unthread it from the flange.

2. Push/Pull Tub Stopper

A push 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 down to close it and pull it up to open it. The stopper body is usually attached to the drain flange using a screw found under the cap of the stopper.

Here is how to remove a push and pull tub drain stopper:

  • Remove the knob at the top of the stopper. To do this, hold the body of the drain stopper down with one hand and use the other hand to turn the knob counterclockwise all the way until it is out. Sometimes the knob is too tight and won’t just come off. Wrap a rag or duct tape on the knob and use a pair of pliers to turn it.
  • You will now see a long screw that connects the stopper to the drain flange. Use a flathead screwdriver to remove it and lift off the stopper.

3. Toe Touch Tub Stopper

A toe touch tub stopper which is also known as a foot-actuated bathtub stopper looks very much like the push and pull bathtub stopper only that it is usually operated using the toe instead of a hand. It is flat at the top, with no knob. This type of bathtub stopper is spring-loaded, and normally attached to the bathtub drain flange using a screw founder underneath the cap.

Here is how to remove a toe touch tub stopper:

  • Hold the base of the stopper with one hand and use the other hand to turn the cap counterclockwise. The cap should come off but if it doesn’t and instead the whole cylinder body is turning, probably the whole assembling is threaded to the flange. Release it with your first hand and turn it to unthread it.
  • Seeing as there are several versions of this tub stoppers, some will come off easily while others will need you to use a screwdriver to disconnect the from the flange.

4. Flip-It Bathtub Stopper

A flip-it bathtub drain stopper is the easiest to remove and install. A toggle lever attached to the top of the stopper is pushed side to side to open or close it. Flip-it tub stoppers are not threaded to the drain opening and needs no tools to remove or install. The in-built O-ring holds a water tight seal round the stopper

To remove a flip-it tub stopper, hold it and rock it about gently as you pull it up. Depending on how long it has been in place, it will either require more or less force.

How to Remove a Bathtub Flange

Now that you have your bathtub stopper out, it is time to remove the drain flange. Below are the items you need for this job:

  • New bathtub flange
  • Tub removal tool
  • Nose pliers (optional)
  • Channel locks (optional)
  • Screwdriver
  • Plumber’s putty
  • Penetrating oil (optional)

Once you have gathered all the necessary items and material near the bathtub you are ready to remove the drain flange.

  • Remove the cover plate. If you have a trip-lever bathtub, use a flathead screwdriver to remove the cover plate on top of the flange. Ignore this step for other other type of stoppers
  • Remove the flange. Insert the tub drain removal key inside the bathtub drain to engage the flange slots. Grip the top of the key with an adjustable wrench or channel locks and gently turn it counterclockwise.
  • If the flange is too old and corroded and won’t just turn, spray WD-40 or any other penetrating oil around it and wait for 15 to 20 minutes. You will find that it will be far much easy to turn it after that. If you would like to buy a bathtub drain removal tool, this in one from Amazon is a particularly nice one
  • If you do not have the tub drain removal tool/key no need to worry. Insert the 2 prongs of a needle nose pliers inside 2 opposite slots on the flange.
  • Grab the 2 handles of the pliers tightly with channel locks and turn it gently counterclockwise. Once its loose remove it with your hand.
  • You will see a gasket on top of the drainpipe as well as old plumber’s putty. Although the gasket could still be in a good condition, the best thing is to replace it as well.
  • Clean the threads on the drainpipe as well as the top of the bathtub drain opening. An old toothbrush is a perfect choice for this job.

How to Install a Bathtub Drain Flange

  • Set the new gasket nicely on top of the drainpipe.
  • Roll a pencil-sized bead of plumbers putty between your hands and spread it nicely under the rim/lip of the new bathtub flange. This will help create a watertight seal and therefore prevent leaks.
  • Thread the flange gently on the drainpipe until it is hand tight. Use the same method you used to loosen it to tighten it. It is important to make sure that you see plumber’s put squeeze out from all around the rim of the flange. It is a sign of a good seal.
  • Install the bathtub stopper. Depending on the type of tub stopper you have, screw it in the flange pretty much the same way you removed it.
  • Test the new bathtub flange. Turn on the water for a few seconds and hold it for a few minutes.  Check for leaks all around the tub.

And that is how to remove and replace a bathtub drain flange. A really easy process and you really don’t need to pay a plumber to do it for you.

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