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How to Choose a Bathtub Drain Kit

Bath drain kit on white background with parts labeled
Featured above is the DANCO Touch-Toe Tub and Bath Drain Kit. See it on Amazon.

Choosing the right bathtub drain kit is important for both functionality and aesthetics in your bathroom. Here are some key terms to understand the parts of your drain assembly and waste drain kit: 

  • Bathtub drain assembly – The name for a kit that includes all of the metal and/or plastic pieces that screw together to form the overflow drain on the side of the tub or the waste drain at the bottom of the tub. This does not include the waste and overflow pipes.
  • Waste and overflow assembly – The name for a kit that includes the bathtub drain assembly plus the overflow drain pipe and the waste pipe.
  • The overflow drain – The opening in the tub a few inches below the rim that allows excess water to flow into the waste pipe. Prevents flooding.
  • Waste drain – The opening to remove water from the bottom of the tub.
  • Overflow drain pipe – This vertical tube funnels water from the overflow drain to the main drain pipe. It’s embedded in the wall behind the tub and not visible.
  • The overflow cover – The plate covering the overflow drain on the side of the tub a few inches below the tub rim.
  • The waste pipe – This pipe helps water exit from the bottom of the tub. It’s a short tube that runs vertically beneath the bathtub.
  • The tub plug/stopper – Prevents or allows water from flowing out of the bottom of the tub into the waste pipe.
  • The actuator – The metal contraption inside the drain pipe that controls how the drain stopper opens and closes.

Considerations for Choosing a Drain Assembly

 brass overflow drain kit (disassembled)

When choosing a bathtub drain assembly, you’ll want to consider: 

The assembly material Brass, ABS, or PVC
The style of the fixtureVintage, contemporary, etc.
The finish of the fixture Brushed nickel, polished chrome, etc.
The actuator type Cable-driven, trip-lever & plunger, trip-lever & rod
The type of drain plug Push and pull plugs, pop-ups, toe-pull plugs, etc.

The rest of this article will discuss each of the options above in much more detail so that you can make the best decision for your bathroom. 

Note: To ensure proper installation, you’ll need to take the overflow and tub waste measurements.

Choosing the Right Bathtub Drain Assembly

Choosing the right bathtub drain assembly is important for both functionality and aesthetics in your bathroom. The assembly includes both the overflow and the drain stopper, which work together to control the water level in your tub.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a bathtub drain assembly:

Tub Waste Pipe Material

 PVC overflow drain kit (disassembled)

Different materials are available for tub waste pipe, including brass, PVC, and ABS. These materials offer different levels of durability and ease of installation. Depending on the layout of your tub and plumbing, you may need to make modifications or cuts to fit a particular assembly. 

There are two different connection methods for these materials, and you should choose materials where the connections are complementary. To be specific, all three (brass, PVC, ABS) can be connected using slip fittings. However, you can’t connect brass pipes using glue solvents—that only works with PVC or ABS. Choose a material that’s easy to work with and compatible with your tub’s design and the existing plumbing in your bathroom.

Style and Finish

Claw foot tub with overflow drain

The assembly’s style and finish should match your bathroom’s overall look. You have various options available, from modern, sleek lines and a simple design, to more traditional ones, which have intricate details and ornate finishes. 

Consider the color, texture, and style of your existing fixtures and choose a style that complements them to bring out the beauty of your bathroom. 

If you want to mix metal finishes in your bathroom, not a problem. Just make sure you do so with intention.

The Actuator Type

The actuator type is the part of the assembly that controls how you open and close the drain stopper. These come in various materials and styles, including levers, knobs, buttons, and even touchless versions. Make sure the actuator types you choose are easy for you to use.

  • Cable-driven actuators are the most commonly used type due to their ease of use and durability. These assemblies use a cable to open and close the drain, typically located behind the bathtub. The cable is attached to a lever or knob on the bathtub’s overflow plate, making it easy to control the water flow. Installing this assembly type can be straightforward, as the cable is already in place.
  • Trip lever and plunger assemblies are popular and offer a classic look. Trip lever assemblies use a lever mounted above the overflow plate to open and close a plunger that seals off the drainpipe. The plunger is attached to rods that control its movements. These assemblies are more complicated to install, as the rods must be of the right length and properly aligned before the assembly can be secured. 
  • Trip lever and rod assemblies use rods rather than cables to open and close the drain. The rods are connected to a lever arm above the overflow plate and, when pulled back, allow water to drain from the bathtub. The rods are designed with specific bends to fit correctly and work properly. 

Trip lever and rod assembly systems require more precise measurements and installation than cable-driven assemblies and can’t be fitted on-site. Additionally, they usually require more maintenance due to their complex inner workings.

Overflow and Tub Waste Measurements

man in hard hat measures bathtub

While the overflow drain and tub waste are purchased in standard sizes, there are other measurements to consider that are specific to your tub. 

These measurements include the tub height, the depth of the tub overflow, the distance between the overflow and drain, the depth of the tub waste, and the diameter.

Carefully measuring these components is essential for a successful installation, as undersized or oversized parts could lead to water overflow and other issues.

What is the drain stopper?

Toe touch plug in white bathtub, labeled

The drain stopper plugs the drain to hold water while you are using it and releases water when you want to drain it. The overflow drain and tub waste work together to control the water level in your tub. 

When the drain stopper is open, it allows water to escape down the main drain and prevents the water level from rising too high. When the drain stopper is closed, it holds water in the tub and prevents it from draining out until you open the drain stopper.

There are different types of drain stoppers, including:

  • Push and pull plugs are the most basic type of drain stopper. They feature a simple design that allows them to be pushed down to seal the drain and pulled up to open it. 
  • Toe touch plugs are lift and turn stoppers that can be operated by simply pressing down on the top with your foot. This can be a convenient option for those who have limited mobility.
  • Lift and turn plugs feature a knob or handle to lift the stopper out of the drain. This type of stopper is typically more durable than push and pull plugs, and it can be more difficult for children to open.
  • Pop-up plugs feature a stopper attached to a rod that can lift the stopper out of the drain. They are often used in bathroom sinks and can be an excellent option for those who want a more modern look.
  • Flip-it plugs are a newer stopper type with a small lever that can be flipped to seal or open the drain. They are easy to use and maintain and can be a great option for those who want a simple yet modern look.
  • Trip lever plugs are similar to pop-up plugs but feature a lever that can lift the stopper out of the drain. They’re typically found in bathtubs and showers and are popular for those who want a more traditional look.

Separate Plumbing Parts

white, drop-in bathtub with wood surround. V-Top Tub Stopper is in bathtub.
Featured above is the V-Top Tub Stopper. See it on Amazon.

If you want to just replace a particular piece of your drain assembly and you don’t need a whole kit, below are some recommendations:

V-TOP Tub Stopper

The V-Top Tub Stopper is an excellent option for those who want a reliable and easy-to-use stopper. It features a large, 6-inch (15.24 cm) silicone stopper that can easily be pushed down to seal the drain and pulled up to open it. This plug is also designed to be a flat suction cover, so it can easily be removed for cleaning or to access the drain. 

I highly recommend the V-TOP Tub Stopper for anyone looking for a simple and easy-to-use drain plug.

XAJOON Bathtub Stopper

The XAJOON Bathtub Stopper is a great option for those looking for a versatile, stylish, and durable drain plug. This stopper is made of high-quality silicone and is designed to fit most bathtub drains.

Overall, the XAJOON Bathtub Stopper is a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable and stylish drain plug.

DANCO Bath Tub Overflow Plate with Trip Lever

If you’re looking for a reliable and efficient overflow drain, I highly recommend the DANCO Bath Tub Overflow Plate. This plate is designed to fit most standard bathtub drains and comes with a trip lever for easy operation. It’s made of durable, corrosion-resistant metal and is designed to last for years. 

Can You Replace the Overflow Drain Yourself?

Fragment of a luxury bathroom with a detail of bathtub.

You can replace an overflow drain if it’s damaged or if you want to upgrade to a different style or finish. Ensure that the new overflow drain you purchase is the correct size for your bathtub, as an incorrect size can cause leaks or other damage to your bathroom.

Note: Replacing an overflow drain requires some plumbing skills and tools. Use proper tools and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific model of overflow drain you are replacing. It’s also advisable to have a professional plumber do the job if you aren’t comfortable with plumbing.


Tags: Actuator Type, Bathtub Drain Assembly, bathtub drain kit, Choosing a Drain Assembly, drain stopper, how to choose a bathtub drain kit

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