How to Install a Pop-Up Drain Stopper in a Bathroom Sink

You may need to install a new pop-up drain stopper when you purchase a new sink. You may also need to replace an old or faulty stopper if the drainage system begins to leak. A pop-up stopper is a key fixture in any bathroom sink. The pop-up stopper can become faulty with material (hair and soap) that gets caught between the pivot rod that lifts this stopper and the drain, leading to clogging. Repairing a faulty drainage system and installing a new pop-up drain stopper is simple -It is something you can do without requiring the services of a professional plumber. However, due to variations in the drain fittings, it can become a bit complicated. This article offers a guide on how to install a pop-up drain stopper in your sink. 

Bathroom sink and stopper installed.

Should I always replace a pop-up drain stopper?

If the stopper is not cracked or broken you can solve the problem by removing the material clogging the drain. Start by giving your sink a good clean and checking for drain clogs. If none are present and the sink still won’t plug or drain properly you’ll likely have to replace the pop stopper. Sometimes you can find replacement parts that can save you money. If not, then be ready to replace the entire bathroom sink drainage system. You can get a matching drain stopper when purchasing a drainage system or buy one from your local hardware stop. Read the instructions that come with your drain carefully to understand how to fix the stopper. 

Universal bathroom sink drain stopper.

How a sink pop-up stopper works

Before we learn how these stoppers work, we need to understand the parts of a drainage system as we shall be referring to these parts often.

Parts of a pop-up drain system

Every drainage system in every sink inside your home has several parts:

The drain plug

This is the top, visible part of the drain system. The drain plug holds the sink pop-up stopper that fits into the drain opening you see at the bottom of your sink. The drain plug is attached to a plastic tube inserted into the drain system to allow water to pass through from the sink. It is rare to find drainage problems in the drain plug. However uncontrolled use and dumping of material such as hair can lead to clogging of the drain plug. You can solve this problem by getting rid of the clog to allow the water to flow freely into the drain trap (learn more about drain traps here).

The P-trap

The P-trap lies beneath the sink and connects to the drain plug. This is the curved part of the drainage system. It gets its name from the shape of the curve (shaped like the alphabet letter ‘P’). The purpose of this section is to hold still water. This standing water seals the drainage system and prevents sewer gases from rising and finding their way back into your home. Once water passes the p-trap, it flows into the drainage pipes and the sewer system.

Drainage pipes, toilet traps, clothes standpipes

If you look at your toilet from the side you will notice a curved section (almost similar to the p-trap). This section serves the same purpose as the p-trap on your toilet drainage system. The drainage pipes from your bathroom sink should be large enough to allow the water to flow away from the sink. Other pipes (such as washing machine standpipes) remain hidden but they also contain the p-trap sections that facilitate drainage.

Supplies needed

  • new drain stopper
  • wrench
  • pliers
  • bucket
  • pipe joint compound

How to remove and install a sink pop-up stopper

Time needed: 1 hour

  1. Remove the tailpiece that holds the pop- up stopper

    Before you go beneath the sink to remove the tailpiece that holds the pop-up stopper, investigate to see if you can remove it from the top of the sink. Sometimes it could be a crooked plug that requires a little effort to remove. Do not force the plug out as you could lead to more damage. Some pop-up stoppers are threaded which makes it easy to unscrew them and remove them from the tailpiece.

  2. Loosen the P-trap

    Loosen the P-trap using pliers or a wrench while positioning a bucket below to catch the water inside this section. The old drainage plug will become exposed and easy to remove after this stage. Use the pliers to unscrew the plug from the sink. Clean the sink and ensure there is no debris.

  3. Assemble new drain stop

    The new pop-up drain stopper system may come assembled or not. If not, follow the assembly instructions given. Ensure the components push down to lie on top of the mounting block.

  4. Apply pipe joint compound

    Apply a pipe joint compound to create a strong seal between the washer and the sink. The pipe joint compound/glue will also prevent leakages where the washer meets the sink by creating a water-tight seal against the drain. To enhance this seal, apply putty on the underside and let it dry. The putty will firmly connect the washer to the underside of the drainage sink and seal all possible leaks. 

  5. Connect drainage parts

    Connect the drainage parts by pushing the pop-up drain part against the drainage opening. Fix the drainage ring from the sink above by hand before tightening everything together. 

  6. Tighten the plastic mount

    Use the pliers to tighten the plastic mount beneath the washer while holding everything in place by hand. Ensure this section of the drainage is fully secure.

  7. Position the pivot rod

    Insert the drainage stopper inside the sink and bring in the pivot rod. Fasten the rod onto the threaded fitting on the side and secure everything in place. Push the pivot in and out to test whether everything is working properly. Reposition the rod to ensure the stopper goes up and down freely inside the drain. Loosen or tighten this rod as needed to retain this smooth motion. 

  8. Add the lever

    Add the lever and ensure the pivot rod still opens and closes freely inside the drain.

  9. Connect the P-trap

    Connect the P-trap to the drain pipe and tailpiece. Check for any leaks. This is done by opening and closing the stopper while filling up the sink and letting the water drain out consecutively. 

  10. Check for leaks

    If there are leaks inside the drainage system, tighten the connections on the threaded areas to seal them. If you are not replacing the pop-up stopper with a new one, ensure you clean the threads on the stopper and on the drain tailpiece. A lot of dirt attaches itself to those grooves, making it hard to tighten the different parts of the drainage system. 


Are sink stoppers universal?

There is no universal drain hole diameter that applies to every bathroom sink, but 1 1/2 inches is the most common size for a bathroom sink drain opening, according to Signature Hardware. Some bathroom sinks have a slightly narrower opening at 1 1/4 inches, while others are a bit wider at 1 5/8 inches.

What are the different types of bathroom drain stoppers?

There are several different types of drain stoppers, including lift-and-turn, push-and-pull, toe-touch, flip-it, trip-lever, and pop-up.

How do I know what size stopper I need?

To determine the right size of plug, you need to measure the diameter of the drain mesh or the underside of your current plug. Then you’ll be able to shop for the style of sink plug you want and be able to choose the right size the first time.

Why won’t my push plugs stay down?

If the stopper moves as it should but doesn’t stay put, all you need to do is tighten the nut (turn it clockwise). If the action is too stiff, loosen the nut a little. Check the action and adjust until it feels about right.

Check out this video on how to install a new faucet and sink stopper:

Adrienne Carrie Hubbard
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