How can I Fix a Leaking Drain?

N. Madison
N. Madison

There are some plumbing repairs that are difficult enough to require a phone call to a professional. Fortunately, repairing a leaking drain isn't one of them. A leaky bathroom drain can be fixed in mere minutes, without paying for often-expensive professional plumbing repairs.


Pop-up bathroom sink drains may become loose eventually. When a watertight seal becomes less effective, water can trickle down the drain, making it impossible to fill the sink when you want to. To fix this type of leaking drain, squat down beneath your bathroom sink and grab the large retaining nut with pliers. This is the nut responsible for attaching the horizontal pivot rod to your drainpipe. Tighten it, being careful as you do so to avoid stripping or scratching the metal.

This repair should take just a couple of minutes to perform, leaving you free of your leaking drain. If this didn't work, however, you may need to tighten the nut just a little more. Keep in mind that you may accidentally tighten it too much. If this happens, loosen it just a little. Run some water to test the plug and see whether your leaking drain has been fixed.

Your shower drain may become leaky, and water may pool around the edge of your drain, eventually dripping onto the ceiling below it. Repairing a shower drain may be a little bit harder than fixing a leaking drain in a bathroom sink, but it is still a job that can be done on a do-it-yourself basis. To repair your leaking shower drain, you'll probably need to cut a panel in the downstairs ceiling. If your home is a rental, it may be best to call your landlord for this repair instead or at least obtain his approval before you begin.

Put a drop cloth on the floor below where you plan to work, and protect your eyes with safety goggles. Then, cut into the ceiling below your shower drain. A drywall saw can do this job. The panel should be about 1.5 feet (45.72 centimeters) square. Next, you'll need to remove the locking nut with pliers; remove the gasket too.

With the nut and gasket removed, go back to the bathroom and loosen and remove the packing nut from the leaky drain. Then, remove the drain collar, following up by cleaning all around the collar. Use a putty knife for this step, and clean the rest of the shower drain as well.

Now take a small amount of plumber's putty, less than an inch (2.54 centimeters) and put it around the base of the drain collar, pressing the drain collar back into place with a firm hand. Some of the putty will squeeze out. This is completely normal and what you want to happen. Next, tighten the locking nut once more, and then clear the excess putty from the area, putting the packing nut back in place. Follow up by using silicone caulk to keep the packing nut in place.

Test your formerly leaking drain by having someone turn a small stream of cold water on as you stand below and look for leaks. Be sure that only cold water is used to avoid burns, just in case your drain repair was not successful. If everything looks good, you'll then need to repair the drywall. If you still have a leak, you may need to call in a plumber for help.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


What about a leaking tub drain? Do you just follow the same procedure as for a leaking shower drain, or are they different in some way?

My tub has had this slow leak for about a year now. It's one of those where you push the little handle up and down to open and close the drain, so I don't know if there's something wrong with that mechanism or what.

If so, how would I fix that? Is there a way to fix it without tearing out my ceiling?


This may be a little gross, but how do you fix a leaking toilet? My toilet seems to be leaking because there's always water on the floor around it, but I can't tell if it's from the bowl or if it's from the tank.

How would I figure that out, and what can I do to fix it? Is this a type of fix that you can do at home with minimal experience, or is this one of those times when you need to just call the plumber?


Good advice on how to deal with a leaking drain pipe. I think that drain leak repair should be one of those things that everybody has to learn as a "Preparation for Life" class -- that and changing a tire. Learning how to do both of those things early in life will save you so, so much heartache down the road.

Nicely done, wisegeek.

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