Years of daily use can result in needing to replace new plumbing parts, and a common part is the shower drain. While you could spend money to have a plumber install a new shower drain, it’s easy enough to do on your own. Learn how to install a shower drain with these easy steps.

How To Install A Shower Drain

You probably don’t think about your shower drain very much unless it gets clogged with hair or has a piece that breaks off. Even though a shower drain is a relatively small plumbing part, it’s an important one that may need replacing when you own a home.

Many plumbing projects are often best left to the professionals, but installing a shower drain is a relatively easy task and can be done by anyone who has the time and patience. We will give you all the information you need for a shower drain installation, so you can decide if you want to replace it yourself or call a pro.


Which Part Is The Shower Drain?

installation demo

If you’ve already shopped around for tips on shower drain installation or just a shower drain, you might be a little confused. Most experts, when talking about a shower drain, are referring to the shower drain cover while others talk about the plumbing directly below the drain.

To make it a little easier, and give you as much information as possible, we will discuss shower drains (regarding drain covers) and some of the plumbing that’s attached to the drain.

Assuming that you already have a shower pan (or floor) in place, we will only focus on the drain part. Installing a shower pan can be done on your own, but it’s a little more labor intensive and requires several more steps and materials.

It’s also important to note that we will only be discussing how to install a shower drain in a stand-alone shower, not a bath/shower combo (as the plumbing setup is different). If you need to make repairs or modifications to your bathtub, which also has a shower, it may be best to consult a plumbing professional.

Signs That You Might Need A New Shower Drain

Before we discuss the steps of a shower drain installation, it’s a good idea to talk about some of the signs that may indicate that you need to replace your shower drain.

  • You are installing a new shower pan
  • Shower floor is getting remodeled or re-tiled
  • The drain cover is corroded
  • You want a different style of drain cover
  • You notice leaking or frequent clogs

Choosing A New Shower Drain

shower drain

While there are many designs and colors to choose from, when choosing a new shower drain to install, there are two basic types: compression or glue-on. Although linear shower drains are popular and unique, they require a little more time and expertise. The compression and glue-on drains are easy to install, and you don’t need to be a plumbing expert.
Compression Shower Drains

A compression style shower drain attaches to the drain pipes with compression nuts and washers. Compression fittings are easier to use, particularly if you’re a DIYer, but it’s important that you install the fittings correctly to ensure a tight seal and are long-lasting.

Most compression drains are available in PVC, ABS, or brass. Don’t know the difference between PVC and ABS? PVC stands for Poly Vinyl Chloride, and ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene.

PVC is white; ABS is black. PVC is a little more flexible, but ABS is shock resistant and more durable. ABS can handle cold temps better, but also contains BPA and sensitive to sunlight (which shouldn’t matter in your shower drain). PVC is supposedly more sound resistant. Both types work well; it’s up to you and your personal preferences.

Compression drains are typically compatible with plastic, steel, or fiberglass shower pans.


Glue-On Shower Drains

gluing shower drain cap

Like compression drains, glue-on drains are also available as ABS or PVC. These types of drains are best suited for plastic, steel, or fiberglass shower pans. While glue-on drains are relatively easy to install, it’s important to make sure that you have the right size pieces (and double check the fit) before you glue the drain down.

Once you decide which type of drain you want it shouldn’t be too hard to select the right one. Most drains are made to fit a two-inch drain pipe, which is standard for most stand-alone showers. A two-inch pipe is more common because it allows water to drain more quickly, which is essential when you have a shower pan (rather than a tub).

Before You Install A New Shower Drain

Before you purchase a new shower drain, it’s best to inspect the pipes to make sure there are no cracks or seals that are broken or missing. If you notice some cracks or leaking in the pipes, you might want to consult with a professional plumber before you proceed with the drain installation.

Installing Your Shower Drain

After you’ve picked out your shower drain, you should be ready to install the new one. If you’re planning on replacing any of the piping below the drain, make sure to choose a piece of PVC pipe that fits.

The first step is to remove the old drain. Ideally, you should be able to remove the drain without removing or altering the shower pan. If you have a compression drain cover, it will be relatively easy to remove with a screwdriver. If you have a glue-in drain cover, you might need to pry away at the glue (try not to damage the shower pan while losing it up).


Removing The Old Drain

removing shower drain

Now that you’ve removed the drain cover successfully, make sure you have all the parts you need before continuing. If you have a drain kit (which is often easiest to install), have all your parts organized and take a look at the instructions.

Once you’ve removed the drain cover, you will probably see PVC pipes that match up to the size of the two-inch drain pipe. If you’ve never replaced your shower drain, had any work done on your shower, or live in an older home, you might have older copper piping.

If you see copper pipes, don’t be alarmed; you can still install your shower drain and use PVC piping. You may need to use some additional piping or attachments. Don’t feel comfortable with this step? Contact your local plumber.

Prepping For The Install

After you take out the old drain, it’s time to do a little prep work for the install. If you’ve ever looked at a PVC pipe and noticed something that resembles purple dried glue, that’s PVC primer, and you use some before you finish the installation.

PVC primer helps to soften the PVC pipe so that the outer the pipes will “fuse” together tightly and have an even seal. You will apply the primer to the PVC and allow it to dry for at least 30 seconds. For best results, follow the directions on the back of the container of primer.

It’s important to note that if you opt to use ABS pipes, you need the appropriate glue; PVC primer will not work for an ABS pipe.


Finishing The Install

finish installing drain

Once you have the primer on the pipes, you will line up the drain base with the pipe; keep in mind that this is easiest to do with a compression drain rather than a glue-in drain (but both can be done with relative ease).

Tighten the drain base and then attach the drain cover. While these are the basic steps to installing a shower drain, you may find that the steps differ depending on the drain kit you purchase or the type of drain cover you select.


Tips To Consider When Installing A New Shower Drain

  • When you’re thinking about replacing your shower drain, it’s a good time to inspect the shower pan. If there are cracks or it looks like it might need replacing sooner than later, you may want to consider a complete shower floor remodel.
  • Depending on the type of shower pan you have and the shower floor you want, you may able to replace both the pan and drain on your own.
  • While price is often a determining factor when it comes to home improvements, try to find a shower drain that looks like it’s well-made. Cheaper isn’t always your best option, especially if you’re replacing a drain in a shower that’s used on a daily basis.
  • Replace and install the shower drain when you have time. Even though it’s a pretty straightforward installation, you never know if you’ll encounter issues and if you have to rush through it, you are likely to miss an important step or have your shower out of order.
  • While most showers are only designed for one person at a time, it’s always a good idea to have someone on hand to help you out. Need a part from the store? Need someone to read instructions? Having another person around to help can speed up this DIY install even more.

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