Installing a Bathroom Sink Pop-Up Stopper: An Easy DIY Guide

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A pop-up stopper isn't the only kind of bathroom sink drain stopper, but it's probably the most convenient, which is why it's also the most common. The main problem with this type of stopper is that the pivot rod that lifts the stopper intersects the drain, and it's a hair magnet. Hair and soap buildup can result in a drain clog or in the failure of the stopper to open or close.

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Far from being a job for a plumber, fixing clogs is a fairly easy DIY task, but you may prefer to install a new pop-up drain stopper if your current one is cracked or broken or if you buy a new bathroom faucet that comes supplied with a matching drain stopper. Replacement isn't always necessary because even if something is broken, you can find generic replacement parts. These parts, particularly the stopper and lift rod, probably won't match your current faucet, and that's often enough motivation to replace the entire bathroom sink stopper assembly.

The Parts of a Pop-Up Drain Assembly

Although it's a fairly simple mechanism, a typical pop-up stopper assembly includes 12 separate parts, and each one is necessary for the mechanism to work properly. These parts are:

  • The ​drain plug​, which is the actual sink stopper that fits in the drain opening. It's attached to a long, plastic plate with a hole on the end.
  • The ​pivot rod​ is a metal bar that fits through the side of the ​drain body​ and hooks through the hole in the bottom of the stopper. It has a plastic ball on the end that allows it to move up and down without breaking the drain seal. A ​retaining nut​ holds it in place.
  • The ​flange​ is a flat metal ring attached to the mouth of the drain body. It seals the gap between the sink and the drain body.
  • The ​lift rod​ fits through a hole in the back of the faucet and connects at its bottom end to the pivot rod. You pull and push the lift rod to move the drain plug.
  • The ​clevis​ is a metal or plastic strap that connects the lift rod to the pivot rod. It typically has five or more holes to allow for adjustment. After inserting the pivot rod through one of the holes, you use a metal ​spring clip​ to prevent the clevis from falling off. The clevis also usually has a ​setscrew​ to hold it to the lift rod.
  • The ​tailpiece​ is a length of plastic or metal pipe that extends downward from the drain body. This is what you attach to the P-trap.
  • A ​lock nut​ and ​rubber gasket or washer​ secure the drain body to the sink.

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Tip

Pop-up stopper assemblies come with or without drain holes just under the flange. You need these holes if your sink is porcelain, ceramic, or a solid surface material and has an overflow hole because they allow the overflow to drain. Your stopper shouldn't have these drain holes if you have a single-wall metal sink without overflow holes.

Simple Pop-Up Stopper Repairs

When a bathroom sink pop-up stopper gets stuck in the open or closed position or the drain is clogged, the repair is simple — even for home improvement novices — and rarely requires a plumber. It does call for working in the dark, confined space under the sink, so a headlamp is a definite asset.

If the stopper doesn't move when you operate the lift rod, the setscrew holding the clevis to the lift rod is probably loose. To fix it, lower the pivot rod as far as it will go to open the stopper and then tighten the screw onto the lift rod with a pair of pliers. Don't rely on finger power; it will probably slip again.

If the drain is clogged, slide the spring clip off the pivot rod and remove the clevis. Unscrew the pivot rod retaining screw and remove the pivot rod so you can pull out the stopper to clean the drain. When reassembling the stopper, make sure you insert the pivot rod in the hole at the end of the drain plug before you replace the retaining nut and reattach the clevis to the pivot rod and lift rod. Adjust the height of the clevis on the lift rod with the stopper in the fully open position.

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Things You'll Need

How to Replace a Pop-Up Assembly

You can replace a pop-up assembly without replacing the sink faucet, but if you want a matching set, you should replace both at the same time. If you replace the faucet, complete that procedure before installing the drain assembly.

Step 1: Disconnect the P-Trap

Put a small bucket under the sink and unscrew the nuts holding the curved section of the P-trap to the drain tailpiece and the horizontal section of the drainpipe that extends to the wall. Remove this curved section, turn it over, and empty the water into the bucket. If the trap is full of grunge, this is a good time to clean it.

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Step 2: Disconnect the Stopper Assembly

Slide the spring clip and clevis off the pivot arm, unscrew the setscrew holding the clevis to the lift rod, remove the clevis, and lift the rod out of the top of the faucet. Unscrew the pivot rod retaining nut using your fingers or slip-joint pliers and pull out the pivot rod.

Step 3: Remove the Drain Body From the Sink

Loosen the lock nut holding the drain body to the sink using tongue-and-groove pliers and remove the nut and washer. Push upward on the tailpiece and drain body to free the drain flange from the sink and then pull the drain body out of the sink from above. Clean away all the old plumbers' putty from the drain hole using a putty knife and a rag.

Step 4: Drop In the New Drain Assembly

Compare the lengths of the tailpieces on the old and new drain assembly and cut the new one to the same length as the old one using a hacksaw. If the new one is shorter than the old one, you can lengthen it with a tailpiece extension.

Pack the underside of the drain flange with plumbers' putty. Place the flange over the sink hole from above and press down the flange to seat it securely into the putty.

Step 5: Secure the Drain Body

Thread the drain body into the drain flange until it stops turning. Slip the rubber washer up along the threads of the drain body and then screw on the lock nut. Use the pliers to tighten the nut enough to make putty ooze out from under the flange. Clean off the excess putty with a putty knife and rag. Make sure the hole (for the pivot rod ball) on the drain body points directly to the rear of the sink.

Step 6: Connect the P-Trap

Slide the slip nuts and plastic washers for the trap onto the tailpiece and waste arm and then fit the trap onto these pipes and tighten the nuts to hold it. Hand-tighten only. If the trap leaks while you're testing it, you can tighten these nuts with pliers, but that might not be necessary.

Step 7: Install the Pivot Rod

Drop the drain plug into the drain opening, insert the pivot rod into the hole in the side of the drain body, and hook the rod to the hole in the bottom of the drain plug. Screw on the retaining nut and tighten it finger-tight.

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Step 8: Install and Connect the Lift Rod

Drop the lift rod through the hole in the back of the faucet. Slide the clevis up onto the other end of the lift rod and push down on the pivot rod to raise the drain plug to the fully open position. Slip the pivot rod through the nearest hole on the other end of the clevis. Pinch the spring clip and slide it onto the pivot rod to secure the clevis. Finish by tightening the setscrew onto the lift rod using pliers to make sure it's tight.

Step 9: Test the Drain and Stopper

Lift the rod to close the drain plug and then fill the sink with water and check for leaks from the drain flange. If there aren't any, open the stopper and check for leaks from the P-trap while the sink drains. Tighten any connections that leak with the pliers.

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