How to Fix a Leaky Shower Drain – Part 2

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How to Fix a Leaky Shower Drain – take apart the shower drain and remove the bad rubber gasket. This repair is continued from How to Fix a Leaky Shower Drain – Part 1.

Shower Drain Repair: Take Apart the Drain

Because I could see water was leaking from the shower drain and dripping off the PVC U-bend onto the drywall ceiling, the next thing to do is take apart the shower drain to see if I can find why the drain is leaking.

Working in the shower stall, remove the two screws that hold the strainer in place. Be careful not to drop the screws into the drain – not that this every happened to me! A dropped screw can be retrieved from the drain U-bend with a magnetic pickup tool.

Remove the Shower Drain Strainer

Remove the Shower Drain Strainer

The shower drain strainer and two screws:

Shower Drain Strainer

Shower Drain Strainer

The house is a bit over 9 years old and I couldn’t unscrew the strainer body by using just my thumbs. A set of channel locks is used to get better leverage and break the strainer body free. The strainer body unscrews counter-clockwise, remember: lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. It didn’t take much force with the channel locks. A shower drain tool may be needed, especially if your drain has square notches for the drain tool.

Unscrew the Shower Strainer Body

Unscrew the Shower Strainer Body

The Pasco 7099 Shower Drain Wrench is a better choice than channel locks for unscrewing the drain.

I saw several problems when I removed the shower strainer body:

  1. The plumbers putty was brittle and chalky from age.
  2. Water was seeping between the strainer body and drain body.
  3. Lots of crud had built up around the rubber gasket that seals the drain to the shower pan.
  4. Water was leaking around rubber gasket.
Shower Drain Repair: Remove the Strainer Body

Shower Drain Repair: Remove the Strainer Body

The plumbers putty is brittle and flaked off in chunks.

Leaky Shower Drain with Brittle Plumbers Putty

Leaky Shower Drain with Brittle Plumbers Putty

I pushed the shower drain body to the side with finger pressure to better see the condition of the rubber gasket. (Note to self: Don’t chew on fingernails.)

Leaky Shower Drain Repair: Wet Shower Drain Gasket

Leaky Shower Drain Repair: Wet Shower Drain Gasket

I pulled out the old rubber gasket. It was wet and the cardboard friction gasket had mostly rotted away.

I moved the drain body from side-to-side to clean the crud from the bottom of the shower pan and the rim of the drain body. This area has to be clean if the new rubber gasket to be water tight.

Leaky Shower Drain Repair: Remove the Rubber Gasket and Clean the Drain

Leaky Shower Drain Repair: Remove the Rubber Gasket and Clean the Drain

Leaky Shower Drain: Cracked Strainer Body

I cleaned the strainer body thinking all I needed was a new rubber gasket and plumber’s putty to repair the shower drain. It wasn’t possible because shower strainer body is cracked in two places along the rim. Note the V-shaped cracks at the 12 o’clock position:

Leaky Shower Drain Repair: Cracked Strainer Body

Leaky Shower Drain Repair: Cracked Strainer Body

Cracked rim of the strainer body:

Shower Drain Leak Repair: Strainer Body Cracked Rim

Shower Drain Leak Repair: Strainer Body Cracked Rim

Cause of the Shower Drain Leak

I believe the shower drain leaked when the plumber’s putty became brittle from aging, shrank and relaxed the pressure that sealed the rubber gasket. The plumber’s putty cracked away and the unsupported rim of the drain body split over time from stepping on the drain.

Note that the purpose of the plumber’s putty isn’t to prevent water from running down the side of the drain body – in fact, that’s why there are the vertical slots in the threads, to channel any water down the drain. Rather the purpose of the putty is to act as a “thread locker” to prevent the threaded drain body from working loose, thereby relieving the pressure on the rubber gasket. The rubber gasket is what makes the watertight seal between the drain and shower pan. Shower drain manufacturer’s often call for a bead of silicone caulk on the bottom of the strainer body rim to seal it to the top of the shower pan to act as a thread locker, no plumber’s putty required.

This repair is continued in How to Fix a Leaky Shower Drain – Part 3.

Take care,

Bob Jackson

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  1. Max October 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Awesome howto!
    However I cannot unscrew the drain. Is there some special tool for that?
    I live in Canada, but the only difference is pipe material – black ABS, I guess the job is pretty much the same?

    • Bob Jackson October 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      You might need a drain wrench like the Pasco Quick Set Drain Wrench 7099. Take a look at the shower drain repair in Part 8 of the series to see if your drain body has similar notches. Hopefully your plumber did not glue in the strainer body with PVC cement.

      One reader improvised a drain wrench by grinding down a metal bar to engage the strainer body tabs and holding it in a pair vice grips.

  2. Dave May 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    I have a leak in the upstairs master shower that has just shown up. The shower was added in with our new shed dormer about six months ago. My wife and I did a test to see how long it took the water to start dripping down through the wood ceiling in the down stairs bath room. It took approximately 6 minutes to star dripping after we turned the shower on. Could it be caused by a bad shower drain, or a tear in the liner? We have a tiled shower with a vinyl liner over concrete. The plumber says its not his fault and the builder says it not his fault. We just want to get this fixed as soon as possible.

    • BobJackson May 30, 2013 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      The leak source needs to be identified to make the repairs.

      Do you have a plumbing access panel to get a look at the shower valve? The leak could originate at the joint where the shower head arm threads into the drop ear elbow.

      I doubt the shower pan liner is leaking, the liner material is very tough and water soaks through the tile shower floor slowly. A problem with the shower pan liner would very likely be at the shower drain.

      Is it possible to easily remove a portion of the wood ceiling to get a look at the shower drain plumbing? If not, you could drill a small hole in the wood ceiling to insert a goose-neck remote inspection camera.

      If shower drain is found to be leaking, replace it with a new unit and/or repair the shower pan liner around the drain. A new section of shower pan liner can be cut and glued around the drain over the original liner. Make sure the original liner is absolutely dry and use shower pan liner glue.

      Should an access panel need to be sawn in the down stairs bathroom wood ceiling, you might fabricate a matching wood access panel with MagnaPanel or install a bauco access panel.

      I’d put the builder and plumber on notice via a phone call to the company owners followed by a certified letter that they’re expected to collaborate and repair the shower within 5 business days upon receipt. Explain that if they fail to make the necessary repairs, you’ll file a complaint with the BBB, Angie’s List,, etc. and have a 3rd party licensed contractor make the repairs followed by a small claims lawsuit to recover the repair costs. Don’t lose your temper and be rude; stay calm, professional, document all conversations, find your original contracts and keep all receipts. Ask the 3rd party licensed contractor for a written statement of defects and repairs. Take lot’s of photos of the defects. Judges love paper trails.

      Let me know what happens.

  3. Chris Harris November 1, 2014 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    I removed the shower strainer body and can’t find a replacement part. It’s the same shower strainer body from the illustrations. Can you pls help me located the shower strainer body.

    • Bob Jackson November 1, 2014 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      Are there any manufacturer markings on the drain?

  4. Rich January 21, 2015 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Hi, hope someone can help I started to remove the plastic Strainer body and just above the gasket there is some sort of plastic nut ( not sure what the correct name is) but I believe you take this out first so , I use a needle nose pliers in the notches to try and turn it but it did not work and it actually chewed away at it so now I’m not sure how to,get this out to,replace and put a new the drain kit , any ideas ? Thank you.

    • Bob Jackson January 22, 2015 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Use a shower drain wrench like the BullDog or Pasco wrenches; see the mentions in the project. You may need to recut notches with a utility knife.

  5. Liz October 14, 2017 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    You are amazing! I watched a plumber replace the putty three years ago to a cost of $150.00, so when the shower started leaking again, I knew I could fix it. I wasn’t sure how to get the shower drain unscrewed when it was stuck, but I found your excellent guide and copied your wrench trick. I am off to Lowe’s to purchase putty and a new seal. Thanks so much for your helpful insight and posting it on the internet.

  6. Karen July 26, 2018 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Halfway through the project. Couldn’t get it apart. Thanks for the very helpful video. Now to find the replacement parts. Will take your advice on finding those too!!!

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