Are you a first-time homeowner on a shoestring budget? Is your bathtub drain clogged? If so, you may want to consider trying to unclog the drain yourself. It is a task that I have had to complete many times over the course of my lifetime. Here’s how to get the job done:
In order to unclog your bathtub’s drain, you’ll need to obtain a force cup plunger, a drain-and-trap auger, a roll of duct tape, a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench. You’ll also want to have some old towels handy.
Different Traps and Drains
I should start by mentioning that some homes have bathtubs with P traps and other homes have drum traps. There are also two different types of bathtub drain systems. One is called a pop-up drain system and the other is called a trip-lever drain system. How you go about unclogging your bathtub’s drain will depend on what kind of trap and drain system is present in your home. I am going to provide you with basic instructions for unclogging both types of traps.
P traps are generally found in more modern homes whereas drum traps are common in older homes. You will be able to tell what type of trap your bathtub has by its location. Drum traps are located on the floor alongside the bathtub whereas P traps are located underneath the bathtub itself.
The difference between a pop-up drain and a trip-lever drain lies in the drain lift linkage. A pop-up drain uses a spring loaded linkage system and a stopper. A trip-lever drain’s linkage system, on the other hand, utilizes a plunger and a strainer. Regardless of what drain and trap system your bathtub has, the repair job starts with the removal of the overflow plate.
Remove the Overflow Plate
Start by shutting off the water supply to your bathtub. Afterward, locate the bathtub’s overflow plate. The overflow plate is connected to the bathtub’s lift linkage system. It is generally located directly under the bathtub faucet. It typically has a lever and is held in place by two screws.
Once you’ve located the plate, carefully remove the screws and set them in an area where they are not likely to get lost. Then, lay down an old towel onto your bathroom floor. Pull the overflow plate off of the bathtub and gently lift it up and out of the tub. If you pull it out in a haphazard manner, you could damage the linkage system. Once the overflow plate and linkage are free from the bathtub, place it onto the towel. Now comes the really messy part.
If your tub uses a pop-up stopper and linkage system, you’ll need to reach your hands down into the tub and remove it. Place it onto a towel in the exact order and orientation of disassembly. That way, you won’t forget which way to reinsert the linkage system.
Use a Plunger
Continue by sealing the overflow opening with duct tape. You will want to make sure that the tape is nice and tight. Doing so will help the force cup plunger do its job and help keep the water from splashing down into the overflow plate’s opening. Once the duct tape is in place, attempt to unclog the drain with a force cup plunger. If that doesn’t remove the bathtub’s clog, you’ll need to bust out the drain-and-trap auger.
Clearing a P Trap with an Auger
If your bathtub has a P trap, you’ll want to remove the duct tape and insert the working tip of the drain-and-trap auger into the overflow opening. As you are running the auger through the pipe, be sure to periodically adjust the thumbscrew located on the auger’s handle. You’ll also want to periodically wiggle the flexible tubing from side-to-side. Doing so will help the auger’s bulbous tip become entangled into the clog. Once you have the auger’s tip embedded into the clog, slowly retract the flexible tubing until it pulls the clog free from the drain. Afterward, reinstall the overflow plate and the linkage system.
Clearing a Drum Trap with an Auger
If your bathtub has a drum trap, you’ll need to approach the problem differently. Start by locating the drum trap’s cover and use your adjustable wrench to remove it. Be sure to have an old towel handy as water may splash out of the drum trap as you remove its lid.
Once the drum trap is open, you’ll see what looks like a cup with two pipes running out of it. One pipe runs towards the tub and the other pipe runs away from the tub. In many instances, the clog is located closest to the bathtub. Therefore, insert the auger into the pipe headed towards the tub first. If the auger fails to hit upon a clog, reverse directions and run the auger through the pipe that runs away from the tub and towards your home’s main drain. After you successfully remove the clog, reinstall the linkage system and overflow plate.
If Both Methods Fail
If both methods fail to unclog your bathtub, it could mean that the main problem lies in a branch line, the sewer or the main drain. In that event, you may want to consider contacting a professional plumber.
Source: Personal Experience
Killeen Gonzalez has a history of completing DIY home improvement projects with her family.
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