How to Install Shower Drain Without Access Below

Did you know that the national average for repairing drywall is $535? This cost includes labor, materials, patching, and debris removal. Not to mention the hours required to cut, repair, and clean the room after everything is complete. So while cutting open a hole in the ceiling will make it easier to install shower drains, it is unnecessary.

In this article, we will show you how to install a shower drain without access below and without cutting open a hole in your ceiling.

Here’s what you can expect from this article:

  • What to do before you begin installing a new shower drain
  • How to install a shower drain without access to plumbing (with video guide)
  • FAQ

Note: You should follow the specific instructions that come with your chosen shower drain. This is because different shower drains have specific installation steps that you must adhere to.

Before you begin:

Prepare the necessary tools

You should prepare pliers, Phillips screwdrivers, a hacksaw, and sealants such as silicone or mortar. Refer to your specific shower drain instruction manual or contact the seller to determine the suitable sealant to use. Also, prepare a magnet so you can retrieve any tools that fall into the drain.

Conduct a leak test

Credit: Water Intrusion Specialists

If you intend to replace the shower drain because of a leaking shower, you should first determine the source of the water leakage. While water leaks commonly occur at the shower drain, they can happen at other areas of the shower system, too—for example, a broken shower tray, damaged tile grouts, or deteriorating shower doors.

You can refer to the following article on how to determine the source of a shower leak.

Read more: Why is My Shower Leaking From the Bottom?

Unclog the shower drain

Most shower problems can be solved by unclogging the shower drain. You should first attempt to unclog the drain and save yourself the effort of installing a new one. There are many ways to unclog a shower drain. You can use:

  • A wet/dry vacuum
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Declogger products such as Drano

Read on to find out detailed instructions on how to unclog a shower drain. But, for now, let’s get right into installing a new shower drain.

How to install shower drain without access below

There are several ways to install a new shower drain, even if you do not have access to plumbing. Moreover, different shower drains have specific instructions on their manual that you must follow. Finally, regardless of which drain you are using, you must remove your existing shower drain before installing a new one.

Precaution: We recommend you hire a professional plumber if you are inexperienced in plumbing. Faulty installation can lead to a leaky shower system and, in turn, costly repairs.

How to remove existing shower drain

You’ll need: Pliers, Phillips screwdriver, clean cloth, silicone caulking.

1. Ensure shower is dry

A wet shower could cause water to leak into the ceiling below when you remove the existing shower drain. To ensure your shower is dry, leave it unused for a few hours or, preferably, overnight. Then, wipe the area dry with a clean cloth.

2. Remove the old shower drain cover

Remove the existing shower drain according to its type. If it is installed with screws, then loosen them with a screwdriver. On the other hand, you can pull off friction-fit shower drains in a turning motion. You can use two pliers to grip the holes on the shower drain and pull it out. If you do not have pliers available, two screwdrivers will work too but requires some elbow grease.

When you open the existing shower drain, twist it towards the left (anti-clockwise). Remember, lefty loosey and righty tightey! Ensure to grip the drain tightly to avoid denting it or dropping tools down the drain. If you feel too much resistance when pulling it out, the drains may be too rusty for you to remove. In that case, lubricate the sides with WD-40 and resume the removal process.

3. Extract any parts in the shower drain

Once you have removed the shower drain cover, extract any gaskets or other parts that come with the drain. You can extract them by using a plier. If you dropped something into the drain at any moment, you could pick them up with a magnet.

4. Prepare the area for installation

You will need a clean area to install new sealants. Remove any existing caulking, sealant, or mortar. Wipe the area with a cloth and ensure that it is free of dust or dirt that may hinder the performance of your new sealants.

How to install new shower drain without access below

After you have removed the existing shower drain, it is time to install your new shower drain. No matter what, always read and follow the instructions manual for your specific shower drain. There is no how-to guide that is one-size-fits-all because of the hundreds of shower drains available in the market. Moreover, each shower drain has different components and sizes that require specific installation methods.

So, what you will learn in this article is a general guide on how to install most shower drains even without access to plumbing. These steps will apply to most shower drains and include pro tips that you want to follow to prevent a leaky shower. But, again, your specific shower drain instructions manual takes precedence as they could be manufactured differently and involve different parts.

You’ll need: Pliers, Phillips screwdrivers, clean rag, leveler, magnet, silicone

1. Measure and cut the assembly parts

Sometimes, your replacement shower drain may not fit your existing shower system. If that is the case, you may have to measure and cut the assembly parts to fit your shower. You may also have to cut some tiles to fit your new shower drain, depending on your situation.

2. Clean the area and pipes

You should clean the area and shower tray with a clean cloth. Any dust, dirt, or other debris may affect the sealant and cause an improper fit.

3. Assemble and install the new shower drain

Assemble all the parts that come with your specific drain assembly. Make sure to install any gaskets, screws, and drain strainer. Every shower drain has different installation methods, so be sure to follow the provided instructions manual or contact the seller if any questions arise.

Once the shower drain has been assembled per the manufacturer’s instructions, insert it into the drain. The shower drain should be flush against the floor. Some shower drains come in one complete part and do not need to be assembled. If that is the case, you may skip to the next step.

4. Apply sealant and tighten the shower drain

Credit: Amazon

Depending on the shower drain you bought, you may have to use silicone, mortar, or plumber’s putty. Usually, the small and round shower drains (shown above) use silicone. Alternatively, you could use a plumber’s putty rather than silicone according to your preferences. Nonetheless, both silicone and plumber’s putty will get the job done.

You may head to the FAQ section below for more information about the differences between silicone and plumber’s putty.

You should be generous when applying the silicone under the drain flange. While you can clean excess silicone easily, insufficient sealant will cause leaks in your plumbing. Following the instructions manual, insert the drain into the shower pan while pressing it evenly. Next, tighten any screws to secure the drain to the shower pan floor. Then, check if the drain is level with the floor.

5. Clean excessive sealant

Once you have installed the shower drain, clean off the excess sealants. Then, check if the drain is level before proceeding to the next step.

Silicone: Wipe off excess silicone with a cloth and wash the cloth with soapy water.

Mortar: Scrape off excess mortar and wipe with a sponge.

Plumber’s putty: Wipe off excess plumber’s putty with a cloth and wash the cloth with soapy water.

6. Install the strainer cover on the top flange

After installing the drain flange, the only component left is the strainer cover. You can install the strainer cover by snapping it onto the flange. If the cover has screws, then tighten them with a screwdriver. Then, test if the drain is level with the shower pan.

With that, you have now successfully installed your new drain assembly. However, your work is not done yet.

7. Conduct a leak test

You may use the shower after letting the sealants dry for at least 24 hours. However, it is recommended to conduct a leak test to ensure that your shower is not leaking in any area. To do so, plug the shower drain and fill up the shower pan with water. Mark the water level with a pen and leave it overnight. If the water level is unchanged, then you are good to go.

If there is a leak, contact a professional to inspect your shower and repair it before further damages occur.

Video guide

Here is a video guide on installing our recommended shower drain, the WingTite Shower Drain, even if you do not have access to plumbing.

Credit: WingTite

When to replace a shower drain

If you maintain your shower well, shower drains can last a pretty long time. However, you should replace your shower drain if it becomes extremely rusty or when there are water leakages. When left untreated, rusty shower drains may rust and compromise the entire plumbing system. This will eventually cause water leaks and expensive repairs.

How to maintain a shower so that it lasts long

You should clean your shower once a week. This includes scrubbing tiles, tile grouts, shower tiles, walls, and shower drains. Moreover, you should know the common culprits of a clogged drain: clumps of hair, soap scum, and other debris. These obstructions are common causes of blocked drains in the shower and also kitchen sinks.

Another inexpensive yet effective tip is to squeegee your shower walls and doors after every use. For less than $10, this handy tool will remove moisture, and soap scum left behind after showering. Spend a few minutes squeegeeing after each shower, and you will save yourself years of headache as you prevent mold and mildew growth.

FAQ

Which shower drains can you install without access to plumbing?

Our recommended shower drain is the WingTite Shower Drain. It does not require you to cut a hole from the ceiling below and is easy to install, even for plumbing greenhorns. Moreover, it is quite affordable, and its round, simple design is versatile for any bathroom design.

What factors should I consider when buying a new shower drain?

You first have to consider the materials of the shower drain. Stainless steel drains are great for any home because of their ability to withstand rust, hard water stains, and soft water (hard water softened with salt). You should also consider the shape: square drains look great with square tiles, but round drains will do just as fine. Finally, some shower drains are complicated and require the help of professionals and access to plumbing.

What is the difference between silicone and plumber’s putty?

While there is an ongoing debate on whether silicone or plumber’s putty is better, both ultimately get the job done. We would recommend using silicone as it is easy to use, dries more quickly, and can be used on plastic. However, do note that silicone requires some elbow grease to remove once it has hardened.

Are there other ways to unclog a shower drain?

In the article, we mentioned using a wet/dry vacuum to unclog a shower drain. If you do not have a wet/dry vacuum, you can use a plunger, baking soda and vinegar, or a plumber’s snake to unclog the drain. These tools are worth investing in because you can also use them to unclog other areas of your home.

Key takeaways

You do not need to cut a hole in the ceiling below to replace your shower drain. There are several drains available that are affordable, durable, and easy to install. While different shower drains have different installation specifications, you can ensure that your new drain is properly installed by following these simple, general steps.

How to install shower drain without access below:

  1. Remove the existing shower drain
  2. Measure and cut the assembly parts
  3. Clean the area and pipes
  4. Assemble and install the new drain
  5. Apply a sealant and tighten the shower drain
  6. Clean excessive sealant
  7. Install strainer cover
  8. Conduct a leak test

Do you know of any pro tips that will be useful for others who want to replace their shower drains without access to plumbing? Let us know in the comment section below!

Written by Jason Beischel

Jason Beischel is a Remodeler by profession and is always ready for the challenge and surprise that the next remodeling job throws at him. And given his extensive knowledge in real estate, contracting, and interior design, he provides actionable DIY tips online and has consolidated extensive excerpts with details on how to go about the various home repair activities. Enthusiasts will also access information on the best products that they can use in the process. Jason leads a team of renovators, he loves traveling and does not shy away from challenging opportunities that present away from familiar ground. According to Jason, every human deserves a comfortable home from where they can build their future.

September 30, 2021

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