Bathtub trouble- how screwed am I?

I wanted to snake out my bathtub drain, so I removed the cover for the switch that stops up the drain if you want to fill the bathtub. I took out the heavy stopper and I dropped the whole assembly into the wall. I managed to hook it out with a clothes hanger and seemingly put it back together, but now the stopper does not work and the bathtub can’t be filled. Looking down the side of the wall with a flashlight, I can see that whatever the open end of the PVC pipe is supposed to go to has turned and doesn’t connect to anything when I put the heavy stopper down the pipe and screw the cover plate back on. If I just leave it like this, will there be water leaking withing the walls when water goes down the drain?

Looking at it again, I’m not so sure anything has turned, but I still can’t get it together properly.

The best way to figure out how to fix your drain stopper is to be able to visualize how the mechanism works. Some have barrell shaped piece that hangs from a chain and when correctly positioned will block the drain pipe (allowing for the tub to be filled). Others have a mechanism for engaging an actual ‘stopper’.

I suggest you google ‘bath tub drain stopper’ or some variation thereof and click on images. You will then be able to find a representation of the mechanism that you have.

If it is the barrell type you need to adjust the length of the chain (should have a screw-type length adjuster) to position the barrell correctly.

It’s the barrel type, but I can’t find a diagram where the pipe separates and can fall within the wall like mine did. I never messed with the adjustment and it was working fine before. If I can’t get it to work, should I assume water will be leaking within the walls if I leave it like that?

I can’t really picture the problem, here, but I don’t see how screwing up the stopper assembly could possibly cause water to go into the walls. There should not be an opening from the drain pipe into the wall, no matter what. There should be no “open end of the PVC pipe.” Maybe you could draw something for us to show what you think the problem is?

I’ll try to explain it better. When I took off the cover plate for the stopper switch, the vertical PVC pipe that goes downward fell . I was able to get my fingers back on it by using a wire hanger to fish it out (it was no longer attached to anything). It looks like the PVS pipe goes down and then there is what looks like a 90 deg. elbow on it that is pointed toward the tub. It’s obviously supposed to attach to something, but I doubt I’m getting it to attach and that’s why (I think) when I put the stopper down the pipe and screw the face plate back on, the stopper mechanism doesn’t fill the tub. Since there must be an open pipe somewhere if that 90 degree elbow didn’t attach to another pipe, I’m thinking water would be leaking within the walls when water goes down the drain.

I just noticed that there must also be a pipe going straight down and not just at 90 deg. I can see an open PVC pipe that I’m supposed to attach to the pipe I’m able to barely manipulate with my fingers. So I have to not only attach the pipe horizontally to the drain, I have to attach the pipe vertically to that drain pipe. I’m afraid I may have to have to pay someone to take the bathtub out and take care of this.

Do you have access below the tub? Like from the basement, or a hole in the ceiling in the room below?

Cutting an access hole in the room behind the bathtub may work as well, which it sounds like a professional may have to do anyway.

You need a professional to cut a hole?

Yes! I was able to attach it in a little dank area in my basement I age beer in. I was able to screw in the vertical part, but the horizontal part that goes to the drain is just sort of a press fit, and it doesn’t look like it would hold by itself. Since no one else is home, I’m going to just turn on the water in the tub at a trickle, and go down and inspect it. If it’s not leaking, I’ll gradually turn it up and see how it does. Thanks!

I think it will only leak if the water level rises to the level of the stopper cover plate. The drain you reattached undoubtedly routes the overflow back to the normal drain.

I meant that a plumber is unlikely to be able to fix it without cutting a hole (barring access from the floor beneath) so they might as well cut the whole and see if they could fix it.

If that is the case, either cut the hole yourself, or bring your checkbook.

Last week, the plumber charged me 80 dollars to cut a hole in the wall. Not to mention the exorbitant fees for what he did after the hole was cut. I do know that the 80 bucks was for the hole cutting alone, because he itemized the bill.

Best wishes,

It sounds like you’ve managed to get things going.

Is this the type of setup you’ve got?

While the overflow body may have been released when you removed the drain connector, all the other pipes should be permanently attached. If they are simply loose-fit then you may want to inspect the rest of your plumbing.

The vertical pipe was never installed correctly if it fell. That is your overflow. You should be able to cut an access hole to the tub and repair this yourself. I’m surprised water hasn’t backed up in the past and caused damage. I suppose it’s possible that the pipe wasn’t properly glued in place which would be an easy fix. Clean it and reglue it.

You can cut the hole with a cheap keyhole saw or if it’s drywall you can cut it out with a utility knife. It will take many passes to cut through but I do it all the time. You should have an access panel anyway so it’s not like the hole has to be pretty. You’re just going to cover it with a piece of painted wood.

FYI, it’s very possible that a dry-fit piece of drain didn’t leak enough to cause damage. I had a PVC water line that wasn’t glued properly and it didn’t leak until I pulled on it and it came apart.