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The bathtub overflow drain can be the cause of a leak, even though it is the place not usually suspected. A water stain in the ceiling below a bathroom is often the first sign of a problem with a tub overflow drain. Most people start with the bold solution of opening up a huge hole in the ceiling to see what is leaking, but there is a better approach that involves first looking for a hidden leak in the shower or tub and fixing that first. You may well be able to avoid the mess and hassle of... breaking open your ceiling. The overflow drain is very likely the source of your leak if you routinely bathe with the water level quite high, or if you have active children who slosh water playfully while they bathe.
The following steps can help confirm that the tub overflow drain is the source of a leak and show you how to repair the problem.
Tools and Materials You Will Need
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- Replacement overflow gasket (if needed)
- Utility knife
- Tub-and-tile caulk (if needed)
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Confirm the Source of the Leak
Start by running water in the bathtub to look for any water leaking directly below the bathtub. The easiest way to do this is by removing whatever access hatch or panel you might have to cover the plumbing connections. If water does not leak when only the tub is in use, move on to running the shower. If running water in the shower causes a leak, move on to narrowing down the source.
Look for signs of water splashing back onto the valve plate, tub spout, shower head or faucet escutcheon plate.... Even a small amount of water can trickle between the walls and through the floor if it gets behind the shower surround. If the tub spout, showerhead, or faucet plate do not seem to be leaking, a loose or leaking overflow tube is the most likely culprit.
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Check the Overflow Gasket
A tub overflow drain has a gasket behind it that will get brittle and compressed over time. Water reaching the overflow drain opening goes into the overflow where the gasket meets the tub, and it will leak if the gasket is old and cracked and fails to seal properly.
To check the overflow gasket, remove the overflow plate by removing the screw or screws holding the plate in place. You may need to cut away caulking from around the overflow plate before it will come off.
With the plate removed, you... can see what kind of shape the gasket is in. If the overflow gasket looks worn, it is an easy fix to replace it. If you suspect a leak is coming from this area and the gasket is worn out, replace the overflow gasket and check to see if the leak is gone.
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If the overflow gasket is in good condition or if replacing the gasket does not seem to stop the leak, there are some other approaches you can try:
- Make sure the gasket is installed correctly and that it sits in the center of the tub overflow drain.
- Inspect the edge of the overflow plate for nicks or corrosion that can allow water to seep in behind it.
- Check to make sure that the overflow plate is screwed tightly into place and that the notch in the plate is facing down.
- Check the seal on other... shower parts, and apply new caulk as needed to ensure water can’t get behind the shower surround.