Choose the Best Pop Up Drain for Your Bathtub in 2023

Having a functional and reliable bathtub drain is an essential yet often overlooked aspect of any bathroom. The humble drain not only deals with keeping water flowing properly, but also prevents leaks, overflows, and other problems that can cause extensive damage over time. This is where a high-quality pop up drain can make all the difference.

Pop up drains are a popular upgrade option for bathtub drains of all kinds. Unlike old-fashioned plunger-style drains, pop up drains utilize a stopper mechanism that seals closed when the tub is in use, and “pops up” open when you’re ready for the water to drain out. This provides much more reliable water retention compared to standard drains. Pop up drains also come in a wide range of finishes and styles to match any decor.

But with so many options on the market, how do you choose the best pop up drain for your needs? This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key factors to consider when selecting the ideal tub drain upgrade.

pop up drains for bathtubs

Types of Pop Up Drains

The first decision you’ll need to make is choosing what type of pop up drain mechanism you prefer. There are a few main options:

Toe-Tap Drains

As the name suggests, this style of pop up drain can be operated hands-free by simply tapping on the drain with your toe. A lever mechanism inside is triggered by the downward pressure, allowing the stopper to pop up and water to empty from the tub. Toe-tap drains provide easy, feet-free operation while bathing.

Trip Lever Drains

Trip lever drains utilize a manual lever located near the rim of the tub. Flip the lever down to open the drain or up to reset the stopper seal. The long lever makes it easy to operate the drain from a standing position.

Push/Pull Drains

These pop up drains use a knob or handle installed through the tub wall. Simply push or pull the knob to control the drain. Push/pull knobs provide slightly more control than a toe-tap and are also operable by hand.

Touch-Toe Drains

Touch-toe drains are motion activated and can sense when your foot or hand approaches the drain. This opens the seal automatically without having to tap or push anything. Touch-toe drains provide maximum hands-free convenience while bathing.

When choosing a pop up drain type, consider your bathroom setup and personal preferences. Do you want foot, hand, or even touch-free operation? Factor in ease of reach as well. For example, a tub positioned near a wall likely won’t accommodate a trip lever drain.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Drain

Beyond just the basic operating mechanism, there are several other key factors that come into play when selecting the best tub drain for your home.

Bathtub Material

What material is your existing bathtub made from? The drain you choose must be properly suited for your tub material. Most drains accommodate fiberglass, acrylic, porcelain, and cast iron tubs. Make sure any adhesive sealants or mounting hardware included are chemically compatible with your tub to avoid damage.

Drain Size/Dimensions

Tub drain holes come in standard 1.5″ and 2″ diameter sizes. Measure the diameter of your drain opening to choose the properly sized replacement drain. Pay close attention to dimensions like flange width as well – an oversized flange can prevent the drain from sitting flush or sealing properly.

Finish and Color Options

Select a drain finish that matches your existing bathroom hardware and decor. Standard finishes include polished chrome, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, and matte black. Mixing finishes can make your bathroom look mismatched, so aim for consistency.

Ease of Installation

Consider DIY installation versus hiring a plumber. Many pop up drains aimed at homeowners have self-explanatory instructions for simplified installation. If you aren’t comfortable doing the work yourself, seek a professional plumber for a seamless replacement process.

Durability and Longevity

Choose a drain made of durable, corrosion-resistant materials to stand the test of time. Look for solid brass construction and reinforced stoppers made of plastic, neoprene, or silicone. Avoid cheaper plastic models that can crack or warp.

Price Point

Pop up drain prices range from about $15 to $200+ depending on the quality, features, and materials. Plan your budget accordingly. Though inexpensive drains seem appealing, spending a bit more guarantees better durability and performance.

Bathtub Drain Sizes

To reiterate an important point, measuring your bathtub drain size is mandatory for choosing the right pop up drain replacement. There are two main standard drain diameters:

1.5″ Diameter Drains

1.5″ drains are designed for smaller, residential style bathtubs. This is the most common size for basic alcove and freestanding tubs. Ensure you have at least 1.5″ of open clearance for this size drain.

2″ Diameter Drains

2″ drains accommodate larger and heavier commercial, ADA, or accessible bathtubs. Check for at least 2″ of open drain clearance. 2″ drains have higher water flow capacity as well.

Use a measuring tape to check your bathtub drain hole size. 1.5″ and 2″ are by far the most typical, but sizes can sometimes vary outside the norm. To be 100% sure of fit, it is best to purchase your pop up drain from the same manufacturer as your existing tub.

Material and Finish Options

Pop up drains are available in a range of material types and finish options to suit the style of any bathroom.

Brass Drains

Solid brass drains provide premium durability and resist corrosion better than many other metals. Polished chrome and brushed nickel are common finishes.

Plastic Drains

Affordable plastic pop up drains are available in chrome and other solid color finishes. Look for reinforced polymers or ABS plastic instead of lower grade plastic.

Stainless Steel Drains

For a sleek, modern look, stainless steel drains add an eye-catching accent. They easily match other stainless appliances and hardware.

Oil-Rubbed Bronze Drains

This rich, dark antique bronze finish warms up bathrooms with a traditional decor. Use oil-rubbed bronze drains to create a cohesive, polished look.

Matte Black Drains

For contemporary bathrooms, matte black drains pair perfectly with black tub and shower fixtures and accessories for a stylish monochromatic look.

Be sure to choose a finish that complements your faucet and other existing bathroom hardware. Mixing and matching metals can make the space look disjointed.

Ease of Installation

Pop up tub drain installation involves removing your old drain, seating the new drain flange into place, securing with a watertight seal, and connecting the tailpiece. This basic DIY project takes 30-60 minutes.

What’s Needed for Installation:

  • Measuring tape
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Plumber’s putty
  • Rag
  • Bucket
  • Flashlight

Key steps include:

  1. Clean old plumber’s putty from drain hole
  2. Apply new putty to form seal
  3. Insert and align new flange in drain hole
  4. Secure flange bracket and mounting hardware
  5. Attach pop up rod, lift arm and stopper
  6. Connect tailpiece/P-trap
  7. Check for leaks

The convenience of snap-in, slide-on, or twist-and-lock drain mechanisms also speeds up installation. If access below the tub is an issue, models with above-floor installation are available.

Professional Installation

For complex replacements or tricky access issues, hire a professional plumber for worry-free installation. Though pricier, you are guaranteed a smooth installation process and workmanship warranty.

Maintenance and Care

Like any fixture, pop up tub drains require regular maintenance to stay in top shape. Follow these tips to keep your drain working properly for years:

Routinely Remove Debris and Buildup

Over time, hair, soap scum, minerals and other gunk can collect in the drain mechanism and stopper seal. This can impede water flow. Every few months, wipe down the drain and use a zip-it tool to clear out debris.

Replace Worn Out Seals and Gaskets

The seals and gaskets around the stopper create the watertight seal. If leaking occurs, remove the stopper and replace any cracked or worn out gaskets to prevent leaks.

Unclog a Stuck Stopper

Use a coat hanger or specialty tool to remove hair clogs if your stopper gets stuck. For severe clogs flushing with very hot water or using a drain snake can help clear the blockage.

Repair Any Leaks

If leaks occur around your drain despite new gaskets, the tailpiece or connections may be cracked. Have a professional assess and replace any faulty parts that could be causing water to leak.

Top Pop Up Drain Models for 2023

Here are 5 top-rated pop up drain options for bathtubs on the market this year:

1. Kohler K-7271 Brass Toe-Tap Drain and Overflow Kit

This solid brass toe-tap drain has a handsome polished chrome finish. Kohler’s durable metal construction and leak-free design make this an excellent choice.

2. Jones Stephens J500-0150 Drain and Overflow

A budget-friendly option, this plastic drain has a chrome finish. The push-to-open stopper provides reliable sealing. Great for DIY’ers.

3. Danco Snap-In Basket Strainer Drain

Danco’s innovative snap-in drain installs from above the tub for easy access. The concealed overflow is discreet yet functional.

4. Dawn USA tub-DF001A Touch Toe Drain

Luxury meets high-tech with this state-of-the-art touch toe drain. It automatically opens when your foot touches the sensor.

5. Pfister Push and Hold Bath Drain

Pfister’s unique push-button mechanism allows you to hold the stopper open for hands-free bathing convenience.

Be sure to compare warranty coverage between models, as better brands offer longer assurances in case of defects.

Choosing What’s Right For Your Bathtub

With all of the information provided in this guide, you now have a detailed understanding of the key considerations when selecting a replacement pop up tub drain. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Accurately measure your existing drain size for a proper fit
  • Match your desired finish to your bathroom’s decor
  • Factor in ease of installation and access
  • Choose durable, leak-proof materials like brass, ABS, or stainless steel
  • Determine the type of pop-up operation best for you
  • Don’t neglect regular maintenance for longevity

Investing in a high quality, reliable pop up drain ensures optimal tub functionality for years to come. Avoid leaks, overflows, and other headaches with improved drainage. And don’t underestimate the difference little touches like a stylish new drain can make in elevating the look and enjoyment of your bathroom.

Follow the tips in this guide to pick the perfect pop up bathtub drain. With a sleek new upgrade, you’ll be one step closer to your dream bathroom.

Replacing an outdated or faulty tub drain with a new pop up drain is one of the simplest ways to improve your bathroom’s functionality and appearance. With so many types, sizes, finishes and features to choose from, take the time to make sure your new drain suits your exact bathtub needs and complements your decor.

By understanding the key factors covered in this guide, from accurate sizing to the benefits of different mechanisms, you can feel confident selecting the ideal drain. Investing in quality materials and proper installation will ensure your new pop up drain performs flawlessly for years of reliable bathing pleasure.

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