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MrGrumpy 07-10-2008 09:21 AM

Tub leak when full of water
Need help, here's the deal. The wife noticed water on the floor in our bedroom, in a place which is on the other side of the bathroom wall. I immediately thought the toilet might be leaking. Then she tells me the kids filled up the tub several days ago to store some water ballons...go figure??? Since we don't bath in that particular bathroom I knew the problem was tub drain related. When she noticed the water, she drained what water was left in the tub, so the leak must be rather slow; because, water was still in the tub after 3-4 days.

I removed the tub drain and noticed the putty between the drain and the tub seamed brittle. When I looked down into the drain shoe I noticed something strange looking. On top of the shoe was a plastic washer and on top of the washer was probably 1/4-3/8 of an inch of plumbers putty that was built up to form the seal with the bottom of the tub. It looked in-tack with no cracks or gaps. So I'm thinking, even if water is seeping under the drain, how is it getting out?

My first question is: shouldn't there be a rubber gasket between the shoe washer and the tub instead of putty?

Second question: If the current installation is common, what should I do to fix it? Simply re-apply fresh putty?


mstplumber 07-10-2008 09:35 AM

Yes, there is normally a rubber washer between the bottom of the tub and the top of the drain "shoe". Sometimes there is a fiber or plastic friction washer under the rubber washer to prevent the rubber washer from "pinching" out while the drain is tightened but if you tighten the drain from the top this isn't really necessary.

To fix this correctly, buy a new washer (if you have to just get a whole new tub drain from Home Depot or the like and use the washer.) Clean out all of the old putty, slip the washer in place from the top, put new putty under the drain and re-tighten everything.

Here's a tip. Before you put everything back together, make sure the drain "shoe" under the tub will pull up into full contact with the bottom of the tub. To do this just start the drain into the threads just enough to hold and pull up. The drain should come into full contact with the tub. If everything is OK carry on, if not you have a much bigger job.

MrGrumpy 07-10-2008 09:58 AM


Thanks..That's what I figured.

Your quote "The drain should come into full contact with the tub. If everything is OK carry on, if not you have a much bigger job.", this is what I'm worried about.

My suspicton is that's why they didn't use the gasket in the first place. Too much distance between the top of the shoe and bottom of the tub; therefore, build it up with putty.


mstplumber 07-10-2008 10:11 AM

That would be a very poor way to correct the problem. It would not be the end of the world to fix, but you would have to open either the ceiling below or the wall behind the tub to do so. Then it would just be a matter of at least shortening the pipe to the overflow and possibly extending the pipe below the tee. The second task would not be necessary if there is enough play in the pipe.

I did forget one part. You will need to remove the overflow cover in order to try to pull the drain fitting up. If it moves, look at the overflow hole and see if the fitting there is still lined up. If not you will have to get into the wall, or ceiling below. The wall will be easier.

4just1don 07-10-2008 11:03 AM

when you say kids did this,,,have you ruled out the possible splash out or overfill tube leaking??up high and they overfilled the tub in there play quest??

MrGrumpy 07-10-2008 02:16 PM


I opened the access panel to look behind the tub, too much water there for a splash out. As far as overflow, I really didn't consider that. I would hope they had more sense than to fill the tub that deep!

Aparently, the wife knew what they were up to. She didn't mention them filling the tub to the brim.

I'll do some more investigation.

Alan 07-10-2008 07:56 PM

you mention access panel... this leads me to believe you probably have a whirlpool as most regular soaker tubs don't require an access.

Is that what you have?

If not, skip this and go to the next person....

What we notice with whirlpools in bathrooms that aren't used, is that once the motor/pump assembly is full of water and the water is constantly sitting, the seal between the motor and the impeller starts to rot away. What you need to do to check for this is to fill the tub to just above the jets, and peek under the access panel at the motor. You might see just a small drip at first, but if you switch the pump on, it will spew water like nobody's business. It will be very easy to see.

It takes kind of a lot of water to seep through a wall instead of going down through the drain hole in the subfloor, so unless your drain assembly was REALLY REALLY loose, I doubt that was your problem. Once you get the drain assembly back together, try what i've suggested. If thats the case, you're gonna need a new pump.

MrGrumpy 07-11-2008 11:32 AM


The tub in question is a fiberglass tub/shower unit. There was an access panel in our bedroom to the back of the unit.

The whirlpool tub is in the master bath. It is surrounded with marble and has no access. So if it ever leaks, I'm screwed!

Oh, BTW, we're on a slab. So the water that leaked didn't really have anywhere else to go, but in our bedroom. I'll bet I vacuumed 2 gallons of water from behind the tub with the shopvac.

Alan 07-11-2008 08:19 PM

even on a slab, you SHOULD have a square hole in the concrete full of gravel containing your p-trap.....

Anyway, lucky for you that you don't have to buy a new pump! Glad to hear it. Should be an easy fix.

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