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How to Fix a Bathroom Sink Stopper?

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The sink stopper in your bathroom and kitchen is often overlooked, yet it is a crucial component. While we all know how to deal with a dripping faucet or a clogged sink, what about a drain plug that refuses to stay in place or takes a bit of maneuvering to lift? The good news is that you can easily fix sink stopper problems without breaking the bank. Just follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll be able to repair or replace your trap in less than an hour.

How to Fix a Bathroom Sink Stopper

Before You Start

Sink stopper assemblies are made up of various small parts, so it’s a good idea to have a bucket or other suitable container handy to store these parts temporarily when not in use.  Also, when you’re learning how to remove a sink plug, always remember not to use excessive force if the plug is stuck.

Applying excessive pressure could potentially damage a porcelain sink, which would complicate the situation. Instead, use a utility knife or putty knife to delicately cut through the aged plumber’s putty to help loosen the sink stopper. Don’t forget to wear protective gloves to minimize the risk of injury when handling sharp tools.

If your bathroom sink is clogged, check out the tutorial: How to Unclog a Clogged Bathroom Sink

Step 1: Remove the Current Drain Assembly

Prior to disassembling the current setup, be sure to turn off the water supply. Employ channel-type pliers to gently loosen and detach the p-trap from both the sink drain tailpiece and the branch drain.

In the case of certain traps, it’s possible to remove them manually without requiring a wrench. The procedure involves securely grasping the p-trap with one hand while using the other hand to turn the nuts counterclockwise. As there may be residual water within the trap, it’s essential to position a bucket underneath it to capture any spillover.

Remove the Current Drain Assembly

Step 2: Remove the Old Stopper

Place the adjustable spanner over the nut that secures the pop-up lever to the pop-up assembly. While supporting the pop-up drain assembly with one hand, turn the wrench to release the nut and lever. Then pull the stopper out of the drain.

Step 3: Apply Pipe Sealant

Commonly referred to as pipe dope, a pipe joint compound is used to seal and lubricate threaded connections. Its application ensures an effective seal that is resistant to both air and water ingress. When purchasing the compound, ensure that it is compatible with all types of metal and plastic threaded pipes.

Next, apply a layer of pipe dope to the top surface of the rubber washer. This will enable the washer to form a secure seal against the underside of the sink drain aperture.

Step 4: Remove the Strainer

Locate the overflow holes under the edge of the existing strainer and insert a flathead screwdriver into one of these holes. Use the screwdriver to stabilize the strainer in position. Now access the area under the sink and position the water pump pliers on the large nut securing the strainer. Unscrew the nut and gaskets from the pipe and push the strainer upwards through the sink to remove it.

Then use a cloth and multi-purpose cleaner to thoroughly clean the sink’s drain hole, removing any accumulated dirt or residue.

Step 5: Install the New Strainer

Start by taking some plumber’s putty and shaping it into a rope about ½ inch thick. Wrap the putty around the underside of the new strainer from the sink drain replacement kit. Then insert the strainer into the hole.

Working from underneath the sink, place the rubber gasket over the threaded part (making sure the flat side of the gasket is facing down) and press it firmly against the sink. Place the new drain nut over the threads and tighten with a spanner. If the strainer starts to turn, insert a screwdriver through the overflow holes.

As you tighten the nut, you may notice some excess putty squeezing out from under the strainer. Once the strainer is securely in place, you can remove the excess putty. Be careful not to overtighten as this could damage the sink.

Step 6: Install the New Pop-Up Assembly

  • Start by coating the threads of the strainer with a layer of pipe dope.
  • Place the seal in the pop-up assembly.
  • Thread the new pop-up assembly onto the strainer threads.
  • Use the water pump pliers to tighten the pop-up assembly, making sure to stop when the threaded hole for the pop-up lever is at right angles to the wall behind the sink. This is the slot through which the pop-up lever will be inserted.

If the threaded hole is not perpendicular to the wall, but there isn’t enough thread left for an extra turn, loosen the strainer nut slightly, reposition the strainer until it is correctly aligned, and then tighten the strainer nut again.

Step 7: Install the New Tailpiece

  • Position the new tailpiece to determine the length to cut. Remember that one end of the tube should be threaded into the pop-up assembly while the other end of the tailpiece must extend far enough to fit into the siphon. Use a pipe cutter to make a precise cut to achieve the correct length.
  • Apply pipe dope to the threads.
  • Carefully loosen the nut on the water trap and swing it out from under the water trap to create some clearance.
  • Place the nut and then the seal on the end of the tailpiece. Insert the unthreaded end of the tailpiece into the drain trap. Gently screw the nut onto the water trap.
  • Maneuver the drain trap back under the drain so that the tailpiece aligns with the pop-up assembly.
  • Thread the tailpiece into the pop-up assembly and tighten it until it’s snug. Also, tighten the compression nut that secures the tailpiece to the water trap and the nut on the water trap itself.
Install the New Tailpiece

Step 8: Connect the Linkage

Start with the extended end of the pop-up lever. Slide the lock nut over the lever so that it sits on the ball. Make sure the threads are facing the shorter side of the lever.

Now position the tip of the pop-up lever through one hole in the clip, then through a hole in the perforated linkage located under the tap, and finally through the other hole in the clip. Carefully push the pop-up lever back through the linkage.

Step 9: Install the New Stopper and Arm

Position the new stopper so that the hole for the pop-up lever is facing the wall behind the sink. Then insert it into the strainer.

Insert the pop-up lever into the pop-up assembly, making sure it goes through the hole at the base of the stopper.

Slide the nut over the pop-up lever and tighten it to secure the arm within the pop-up assembly. Take care not to overtighten to avoid damage.

Install the New Stopper and Arm

Step 10: Test for Leaks

Close the drain plug and saturate the sink by filling it with water. Allow some time to pass. If the water stays in the sink without seeping out, your waste plug is working properly. If, however, water does escape, continue to secure the fork and turnbuckle. Then activate the water flow with the plug in the open position. If the water drains quickly and easily, your drainage system is in excellent condition. If drainage is less efficient, you may need to modify the pivot to increase the opening of the plug to allow water to flow more freely.

Test for Leaks

About bathroom sinks, we also prepared: How to Repair a Cracked Ceramic Bathroom Basin

Final Thoughts

Ensuring the longevity of your plumbing infrastructure is critical to the proper functioning of your home. While your sink waste may not be as important as your toilet or shower head, it’s still necessary to regularly maintain, repair and, if necessary, replace these parts to prevent your sink from draining slowly. The simple steps outlined above provide the typical DIYer with an easy guide to the skills required to rectify sink trap problems.

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John Smith
John Smith

With over 15 years of experience in selling bathroom products, he has always placed customer satisfaction at the core, dedicating himself to providing high-quality products and professional guidance. His outstanding experience and expertise in bathroom products have made him a distinguished representative in the bathroom industry.

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