At the first sign of trouble that your tub drain is leaking, it is time to take action. If you leave the leak alone, you run the disk of damaging your home. HomeAdvisor cautions that a leak left unchecked can rot the wood underneath it, discolor the ceiling below it and encourage mold to grow from the constant moisture.
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If the bathtub drain leak is problematic because of the plumbing that's located below the drain, such as pipes and fittings, American Leak Detection recommends calling a plumber for this type of repair. But if the leak is caused by a failing seal at the drain assembly, fixing the leaking bathtub drain typically is a simple task that almost anyone can master.
Step 1: Remove the Drain Plug
Remove the drain plug or bathtub stopper. Some drain plugs will simply lift out while others need to be unscrewed from the cross-hair piece. If you're not sure how to do this, check the drain manufacturer's website or consult the user manual that came with the drain.
Step 2: Use Channellock Pliers
Unscrew the bathtub drain. Take some channellock pliers and insert the grippers into the bathtub drain. Fit each handle into the space of the x-shaped cross hairs. Sometimes the cross hairs are missing. If that is the case, then you need a drain key. The drain key internally grips in a 360-degree pattern as it expands against the sides of the drain so you can screw it out. You can find this tool at almost any home improvement center.
Step 3: Use a Screwdriver With Pliers
Place a screwdriver between the teeth of the channellock pliers. Turn the pliers counterclockwise to remove the drain.
Step 4: Soften the Old Plumber's Putty
Turn on a hairdryer to the heat setting, after making sure there is no water in the bathtub. Aim the hot air at the old plumber's putty until it softens enough to remove.
Step 5: Scrape and Remove the Putty
Clean the old putty away. If the putty has turned hard and crumbly, scrape it away using a plastic putty knife. If you use a metal putty knife, you may scratch the finish in your tub.
Step 6: Apply New Plumber's Putty
Remove a chunk of plumber's putty from the container. The putty should be the size of a silver dollar. Roll the plumber's putty between your hands for one to two minutes to soften. Roll the material into a rope about the size of a pencil. Don't worry if you get too much. Simply remove the excess that squishes out from under the tub drain with a putty knife and put it back into the container. You can use this again for another project.
Step 7: Tighten the Drain Lip
Tighten the drain lip back in place. This will fit over the putty you just applied.
Step 8: Clean Excess Putty
Clean away any excess plumber's putty with a damp rag.
Step 9: Check for Leaks
Engage the drain and fill the bathtub with water when you've finished to check and see if the drain is still leaking. If you still have a leak, remove the drain again. Scrape the putty away and reapply it as described in Step 6. Once you have the leak stopped, you can use the drain as usual.
Gail Delaney is a writer in South Dakota and has articles published online at various websites. She is the garden editor for BellaOnline, with years of gardening experience. Being the caretaker of her parents led her in the direction of medical issues, especially natural remedies.