How to Replace a Pop-Up Sink Drain – Part 3

How to Replace a Pop-Up Sink Drain – install the pivot rod, reassemble the P-trap and check for leaks. This project is continued from How to Replace a Pop-Up Sink Drain – Part 2.

Pop-Up Sink Drain – Pivot Rod Assembly

Before attaching the Pivot Rod (a.k.a. Ball Rod) to the pop-up sink drain let’s look at the how it fits together.

The pivot rod consists of the following parts:

  • A tapered plastic ball washer that acts as a bearing inside the rod opening.
  • The pivot ball to enable the rotation of the pivot rod as it actuates the pop-up stopper.
  • A pivot nut with a captive washer inside.

The two tapered washers are necessary for a water tight seal and smooth movement of the pivot rod.

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Rod (Ball Rod) Assembly

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Rod (Ball Rod) Assembly

An important installation detail is the plastic ball washer fits inside the rod opening with the tapered side facing outward to match the curve of the pivot ball. If the washer is missing or installed backwards the joint will leak:

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Tapered Ball Washer

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Tapered Ball Washer

The pivot nut has captive washer holds the pivot rod in place. Tighten the nut so it’s snug and leak free but so much the pivot rod is hard to move back and forth:

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Rod and Nut Assembly

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Rod and Nut Assembly

Install the Drain Pivot Rod

The taper ball washer is inserted into the rod open in the side of the sink drain body:

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Ball Washer

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Ball Washer

The pivot rod installation steps are:

  1. Slide the pivot nut over the rod as shown below.
  2. Insert the rod at a slight downward angle to catch the pop-up stopper.
    When the rod engages the pop-up stopper, you’ll see the stopper bob up and down in the sink bowl. Give the pop-up stopper a tug to verify it has captured the end of the pivot rod.
  3. Screw on the pivot nut until it’s snug.
    Do not over tighten or you risk crushing the plastic ball washers.
  4. Check the movement of the pivot rod. The rod should move smoothly but stay in position when released.
Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Rod, Ball Washer and Nut

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Pivot Rod, Ball Washer and Nut

Pivot Rod Spring Clip

Slip the spring clip on the end of the pivot rod as shown to attached it to the extension rod. The 2nd or 3rd hole in the extension rod is normally the best choice for adjust the height of the pop-up stopper. A nice thing about the pivot rod ball joint is it can be angled to one side in case there’s something the way such as the Studor Mini-Vent® stack in the case of my sink.

Pop-Up Sink Drain Installation: Spring Clip and Extension Rod

Pop-Up Sink Drain Installation: Spring Clip and Extension Rod

Work the faucet lift handle up and down to check the action on the pop-up stopper and verify the action feels right. If the handle falls under its own weight or feels sloppy, tighten the pivot nut washer slightly for a firmer feel.

Pop-Up Sink Drain Installation: Pop-Up Stopper Height Adjustment

Pop-Up Sink Drain Installation: Pop-Up Stopper Height Adjustment

Remember to peel off the blue plastic scratch protector from the pop-up stopper.

Install the Drain P-Trap

The plastic slip washer can be reused if it’s not damaged and cleaned of all dirt and grime. I was able to clean the slip washer with soap and hot water followed by wiping with paper towels to remove the caked on scum. Also wipe off the beveled end of the PVC wall tube.

Slide the slip nut over the end of the pop-up drain followed by the slip washer with the beveled side facing down:

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: P-Trap Assembly

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: P-Trap Assembly

The J-bend installation is simple – just screw on the slip nuts to connect it to the P-trap:

Install the Sink Drain Trap: J-Bend Connected to the P-Trap

Install the Sink Drain Trap: J-Bend Connected to the P-Trap

Pop-Up Drain Leak Testing

Turn on the faucet and let the water run for a minute. Check all joints for leaks and tighten the nut(s) as needed to stop any leaks. My favorite leak detector is a piece of toilet paper to locate the smallest of leaks. Toilet tissue is an excellent leak detectors: wipe around the plumbing to find any non-obvious leaks.

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Leak Testing

Install a Pop-Up Sink Drain: Leak Testing

Recheck the joints after 30 minutes to catch any slow leaks.

Hope this saves you some money!

Bob Jackson

Copyright © 2016   Reproduction strictly prohibited.

42 Responses to How to Replace a Pop-Up Sink Drain – Part 3

  1. Jon September 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    This was a super helpful post, Bob. Thanks for such clear explanations and great pictures!

  2. Ray November 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Where to purchase an 11/16th inch “tapered ball washer” that got lost in cleaning drain process?

    • Bob Jackson December 1, 2012 at 8:49 am #

      Home improvement and hardware stores will have a variety of pop-up sink drain repair kits and ball rod assemblies. If you have to buy a whole new pop-up drain just to get the correct size ball washer, it shouldn’t cost but $7 to $15.

  3. Dawn January 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Do hardware stores sell repair kits with 5 inch rods? I have only found kits with 6 inch rods and would rather not try to cut it down.

    • BobJackson January 12, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Not that I’m aware of. The spring clip is adjusted to change the effective lever arm length of the 6 inch pivot rod.

      Do you have a clearance problem where the end of the pivot rod is bumping the back of the sink cabinet?

  4. Dawn January 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Yes, I don’t have enough clearance in the back of the cabinet. The rod I am replacing is only about 5 inches. Someone else installed our new sink when we remodeled so I’m not sure if it came that length in the kit or if the installer made an adjustment to the rod.

    • BobJackson January 14, 2013 at 5:18 am #

      Use a hacksaw to cut the new pivot rod to your required length.

  5. Jim January 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    Thanks Bob, never put one in before but your hints about putty sure will help, i’m not a plumber but have done other stuff. So i guess this will be my next project.

  6. toolguy February 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Dang man. Great write up! I read another one right before I read this one that had 3 pictures and about 50 words.

    • BobJackson February 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

      Yeah, there’s a lot of web sites that crank out a huge amount of low quality content, often by writers who read about it somewhere else.

  7. Brian June 12, 2013 at 12:40 am #

    Thanks for a great how to article. This is the exact setup I am installing as new,but I am having problems with the P-trap leaking at the rubber gasket where it butts against the bottom of the sink. The gasket is not sealing and I think it is because the sink is not perfectly formed at the drain hole. I have tried alot of different fixes, but it continues to leak. I have tried tightening it normally,very tight, and not so tight. It always leaks. Really, this job is very simple and it should not be leaking… but it is.

    Do you have any suggestions for a fix?


  8. Brian June 12, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    ** This is an addition to the comment preceding this one**

    I should also mention that it leaks at the outer edge of the rubber gasket and not at the threads of the P-trap.

    Thanks again.

    • Joseph Malla October 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      I installed a pop up sink drain, and thought I did a good job. When I tested for leaks, I closed the pop up and put some water in the sink. When I opened the pop up the water wouldn’t drain. What do I do to correct this. The p trap is clear.

      • Bob Jackson October 16, 2014 at 11:05 am #

        Hi Joseph,
        I’m thinking it’s a problem with the plumbing ventilation, which is properly termed the Drain Waste Vent (DWV) system, that’s causing air in the drain pipe to hold back standing water in the sink.

        Adjusting the pop-up stopper so it raises a bit higher above the sink drain often solves the problem so the bubble can pop and start the water flowing.

        You could install a Studor Mini Vent Air Admittance Valve (AAV) for better venting if the problem persists. See about half-way down the page at the prior link. Check with your local Building Dept. to verify AAV’s are allowed in your area as a minority of jurisdictions might not.


  9. Brian June 12, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Thanks for a great write up, Bob. I just did the job using these exact same parts (the plastic version) from Home Depot. Everything went smoothly except that the sink leaks at the rubber gasket where the pop up assembly meets the sink. It leaks through the gasket at the outer edge and not at the threads of the pop up assembly. I’ve tried tightening it tighter as well as not so tight and tried remounting it,but it always leaks there.

    Any ideas for a fix?

    • BobJackson June 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      If the sink drain hole was thoroughly cleaned of the old plumber’s putty, my guess is the plastic lock nut isn’t strong enough to evenly seal the rubber gasket against the sink bottom and is warping. Sometime after this project, I replaced the pop-up drain in another bathroom with the same plastic body Dearborn Brass 1-1/4″ Pop-Up Sink drain model #H756-1 and like you, could not get the rubber gasket to completely seal not matter how much I tightened it. A very slow drip was always present. I initially tightened the lock nut to what should be sufficient… it leaked. Tightened it some more, still leaked very slowly. Removed the drain, cleaned all surfaces again, reinstalled it and it still leaked, maybe a drop or two every couple of minutes. Waited a day for the parts to settle in, it still leaked and really cranked down on the lock nut until I thought I might crack the plastic. It still leaked!

      I removed the plastic drain and bought the all-metal Dearborn Brass 1-1/4″ pop-up drain Model # H759BN-3 for about $28 at Home Depot. Installed the metal drain in the normal way, no fuss and it’s never leaked.

      However, there is a trick to the all-metal H759BN-3 drain:
      The bottom section of drain pipe screws into the sand-textured center body (the center body has the ball-rod opening). The threaded pipe connection is almost invisible and you wouldn’t know it screws together by looking at it. The pipe threads are very fine and will not accept teflon plumber’s tape. When installing the all-metal pop-up drain:
      * Unscrew the lower pipe from the drain body.
      * Smear some Pipe Joint Compound on the pipe threads.
      * Firmly screw the lower pipe into the center drain body by hand.

      Many DIYers install the all-metal drain not knowing the bottom pipe section screws into the center section and if not sealed with pipe joint compound, will leak.

  10. Heather July 14, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    Please help, husband has intalled this all metal pop up drain unit 3 times now and it leaks every time at the pivot rod. Twice he has broken the plastic nut by overtightening. But that is where it leaks from so he has to keep tightening and it either breaks, and we go buy another, or it leaks. What is the problem???

    • BobJackson July 15, 2013 at 7:19 am #

      Is the tapered ball washer installed correctly with the beveled side against the plastic ball? This would be the most likely source of a leak.

      Also check the pivot nut washer is present and installed correct so it conforms to the pivot ball.

      Over tightening the pivot nut will crush and deform the plastic washers causing a leak in addition to making it difficult to move the pivot rod via the faucet lift handle.

      If it’s still leaking around the pivot rod, see my prior comment dated June 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm for installing the metal Dearborn Brass 1-1/4″ pop-up drain Model # H759BN-3.

  11. Mary December 30, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Bob, I just wonder if one could just replace the pivot rod assembly and not the entire pop up drain. I used a “Zip-it” to unclog the sink and it did, but also finished off the nearly rusted through pivot rod. The broken tip went down, I’m sure. I’m a DIY wannabe. I often make things worse and end up calling my plumber. But I would like to try this fix myself.

    • BobJackson December 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      Sure! Just replace the pivot rod assembly if that’s the only piece that’s broken. You can buy new parts at the home improvement store. Take what’s left of your old pivot rod and ball washer to verify the new parts match.

  12. Mary December 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    Great! I think I can handle that. I appreciate your website. Happy New Year!

  13. Lance May 6, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    Bob, thanks for the tip about the H759BN-3 being in two parts. I installed an H759-1 and it was leaking also. I was ready to return it to Home Depot. After I used the pipe joint compound and tightened the two parts together it stopped leaking.

  14. Camilla July 24, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    Thank you! This was supremely helpful! I only ran into one snag: the brass nut did not screw completely off (I don’t think it was designed to). I had to unscrew it enough to shove the assembly up through the sink then unscrew the flange. The replacement assembly had the same design.

  15. goldie August 8, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Does one have to take apart the entire assembly just to clean the stopper?

  16. Carolyn November 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Hi, Bob! We have tried replacing the pop up assembly twice but each time it leaks under the threaded joint and tailpiece. I bought the assembly at Lowe’s. It comes as one piece so why does it leak? Help! Thanks!

    • Bob Jackson November 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

      You didn’t mention the specific drain model #, but I’ve also had problems with the less expensive plastic drain leaking no matter how much I tightened it… and you can only tighten it so much without damaging it. I think the plastic drain just isn’t strong enough and may warp causing a leak.

      See this comment where I replaced the chromed plastic drain with an all-metal unit that fixed the leak.

      • Carolyn November 23, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

        Thanks so much for your prompt response! It’s called the Lavatory Pop-Up Brass Polished Chrome Finish by The Keeney Manufacturing Company, model #1688K. It’s not plastic and the part that is leaking, where the threaded joint meets the tailpiece, is not a part you tighten. The piece comes assembled already. This is my second attempt and the second time that the piece has leaked in the same spot. I’m baffled.

        • Carolyn November 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

          Oh!!! I see what you’re saying in that comment. Brilliant! I will try that!

  17. becky January 24, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    I have a vanity sink with the drain hole in the center of the sink. The pivot rod is not long enough to reach back to where the strap attached to the pull up rod.
    Is there an easy solution?

    • Bob Jackson January 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

      There is an easy solution – a pivot rod extension:

  18. Rajan Anand August 11, 2015 at 6:12 pm #


    Looks like the Delta products are all starting to give trouble at their decade anniversary. The Lewiston faucet drain has started to rust at the flange. I thought the entire flange is chrome plated and there are no abrasions so why would it rust. Do I need a new pop up?

    • Bob Jackson August 11, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

      If it’s not leaking and you don’t mind the rust there’s no reason to replace it.

  19. Rajan Anand August 11, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    No leak but the rust on the left side is severe and starting to stain the faux marble. Are the pop ups iron core with a finish on top of is this water dissolved iron?

    • Rajan October 2, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      Wanted to add that the old flange had no caulk and underneath was a red growth of bacteria slime. Removed it and caulked and added the tailpiece. With the delta replacement it is a one piece and be careful when tightening to keep it straight. When slightly off center there was a small leak.

  20. Kathy Henion September 12, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    Hi there, Bob.

    Thanks for such clear, easy to follow instructions.
    There’s one more thing you may want to consider mentioning.
    Many times people installing a sink drain will apply too much plumber’s putty, to the point that they block the drain opening for the sink overflow.
    Later, when water fills the sink and flows into the overflow hole(s), it is trapped and cannot drain out. The water can then stagnate and cause a bad odor.
    It’s not only important to avoid blocking the overflow drain opening with plumber’s putty, but also to make sure that the opening is clear in case it was blocked previously.
    I suggest you mention this because I’m afraid it happens more often than people realize.
    I discovered this problem because of a bad smell in the bathrooms of our house that was driving me crazy.
    It turns out that the previous homeowner had done this on all on all four lavatory sinks in the house.
    I’m so thankful to be rid of this problem that I’d like to help other people avoid going through the same thing, if possible.

    Thank you again for all that you do. It helps so many people.
    Best wishes.
    Kathy Henion

  21. Mike January 4, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    Hello SIr – Nice thread! I have two sinks in my bathroom. Last week I installed a new P-trap and installed a Keeney Model #: 82070PBK plastic drain from Lowes. Worked like a charm. Today, I completed the second sink with same parts. It drains great, however when stopper\plunger is closed, even when I apply pressure with my thumb seating it tightly down, water seeps right out and drains the sink. I’m not overly concerned, since I live alone and use the other sink primarily, but I just cant figure out what gives! Feel like rubber gasket around top of stopper is maybe a hair small, allowing leakage. Any ideas or input? Thank You so much for helping others, speaks volumes about you! Mike in Maine

    • Bob Jackson January 4, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

      Hi Mike,
      I’ve had the same experience with other plastic drains. One works fine, no leaks. The next one always leaks no matter what I did. I switched to an all metal drain and it never leaks.

      My belief is the plastic drain with a plastic lock nut isn’t strong enough to evenly seal the rubber gasket against the sink bottom, the lock nut warps and the gasket leaks.

      See my explanation in this comment dated June 12, 2013.

      The all metal drain is about $30 compared to $16 plastic drain but well worth it.


  22. Kate D January 29, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    This was wonderfully helpful! I wish all repairs had something like this available. Thank you!

  23. Kathy B April 30, 2016 at 11:23 pm #

    Great details. So often explanations leave out finer details, resulting in disaster. I could not figure out why my drain leaking, until I read about those little plastic washers around the ball thing. Thank you!

  24. Ken O'Dowd July 14, 2016 at 9:52 pm #

    This was a model presentation. Thanks for going the extra mile!

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