How to Replace Bathtub or Sink Stoppers and Spouts

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
Steps for replacing sink stoppers and bathtub stoppers. Types of bathtub spouts.

How often have you seen a bathroom lavatory that is missing the stopper? Probably quite a few and some of them have been in your own home. The fact of the matter is that when the stopper slips on the rod, most people are content with just pulling out the stopper. The bad thing with this is that a lot of debris and other items can fall down the drain; this is a certainty when you have children.

The other common problem in home plumbing fixtures is leaky bathtub diverters and stoppers. They can waste quite a bit of water when you are taking a shower or bath. Hopefully this article will be able to simplify their repair and replacement.

Lavatory Stopper Adjustment

Sink stoppers, also known as “pop-ups”, work when you lift the control rod behind the faucet; the control rod is attached to a lift rod that moves the pivot rod (Horizontal Rod) which pushes the stopper closed so the sink basin holds water. The most frequent problem with pop-up drains is that the screw connecting the control rod and lift rod slips and fails to move the pivot rod.

If the stopper has been removed from the sink, reinsert it before realigning the pop-up mechanism. Some stoppers simply twist onto the pivot rod, but others require removal of the retaining nut. Accomplish this with a pair of pliers and loosen it by turning counter-clockwise. Pull the control rod down so the stopper pops up. Completely unscrew the retaining nut and slide it onto the pivot rod. Hold on to the stopper with one hand and reach under the sink and pull the pivot rod out of the pop-up body until the stopper comes free.

Be careful not to damage the bushings on each side of the pivot ball, these provide the seal to prevent water from leaking out from the horizontal pivot rod. Drop the stopper into the sink and slide the pivot rod into the bottom hole of the stopper. Tighten the retaining nut and adjust the pop-up mechanism as shown. Mark the location of the setscrew with a permanent marker so that you can make future adjustments.

Push the control rod all the way in and then lift it up about 3/4 inch and use a rubber band or tape to the faucet to hold it in place. Loosen the setscrew so the control rod slides freely through the lift rod linkage. Push up on the lift rod until the stopper is all the way down, and then tighten the screw down with a pair of pliers.

Note: If your original stopper has been removed and is damaged or lost, then you can usually buy a universal stopper for a few dollars. Sometimes the drain opening is slightly different in size so it is a good idea to measure the diameter of the drain opening.

Bathtub Spouts and Stoppers

I am a big fan of the new style stoppers that don’t use the old lever and linkage that is fished into the overflow pipe. They are difficult to use after a few years and can get coated with soap scum, hair, and dissolved minerals in the water. Whenever possible you should replace the lever stopper with a lift-and-turn stopper or pop-up stopper. The base of these stoppers screw into a drain stopper body that will have to be installed. This is the hardest part of the job. You will need a hammer, cold chisel, and mini hacksaw to cut a portion of the old drain body and install the new one. This is necessary because you will need a place to screw the new stopper into.

Unscrew the overflow plate and pull the upper linkage out of the overflow pipe. Lift out the drain stopper and remove the lower linkage through the drain. You may need to use a little extra force to free both parts of the linkage because they may bind inside the overflow pipe. You can pour a little vegetable oil into the overflow and drain pipes to help lubricate the path.

Cut a small notch in the old stopper body with a mini hacksaw. Be careful not to cut into the tub. Place a 3/4-in. cold chisel into the cutout slot and pound counterclockwise with a hammer to free the stopper body while being careful not to scratch the tub surface. Completely unscrew and remove the stopper body.

Place the new gasket on the tub and roll a small bead of plumber’s putty around the underside of the new stopper body rim. Use the jaws of a pair of pump pliers to thread the stopper body into the drainpipe.

Now thread the stopper into the center hole of the stopper body.

Replacing a Tub Spout

The bathtub spout can leak over time from normal corrosion or the seal can wear out from use. They can also break from leg shaving in the shower.

There are four types of tub spouts, three that are screw on, front-end threaded and rear-end threaded and telescoping. The third type of spout is a slip on spout that uses a set screw to hold in onto the pipe. The telescoping spout is usually adjustable up to 1 inch.

Slip-Fit Tub Spout

The slip-fit tub spout is designed to slip onto a 1/2" copper water tube (CWT) without the use of any threads. When using this type of spout, the end of the copper to be inserted must be free of burrs or rough edges.

Front End Threaded Spout

A front end threaded tub spout can be used with either a tub valve without a shower, or with a tub valve that has a shower diverter built into the tub valve.

Rear End Threaded SpoutThis spout offers added convenience because it can be connected to a shower nipple (1/2" or 3/4") at the wall end of the spout with a bushing. Rear threaded spouts can be used for either new or remodeling construction.

Adjustable Diverter Tub Spout

Also known as telescoping spout, it provides flexibility in any installation by allowing an adjustment of up to 1" to be made for the finished wall. The telescoping spout attaches to either a 1/2" or 3/4" nipple with the use of a reducing bushing.

Many older homes will have a nipple screwed into an elbow fitting inside the wall. If the threads of the old nipple are corroded, replace it with a new nipple, brass is best and the original is probably black iron or galvanized. To save time, pick up a few different sizes so have what you need on hand and return them the next time you have to pick up items for your next project.

Unscrew the old nipple with a small pipe wrench. If there is not enough room to get a good grip, purchase an internal pipe wrench which fits inside the nipple and opens up when you turn it. They cost from $5 to $10.

Internal Pipe Wrench

Add Teflon tape on the end of the threads of the nipple and install it. Then follow the directions for installing the new tub spout. After it is in place, seal the perimeter with a matching color or clear silicone caulk.