Variations in Bathtub Drains

Bathtub tub drains (also called "waste-and-overflow"), come several variations, both in materials used fo the pipes and in how the parts are joined. Choosing among the options depends on what you currently have, what you want the drain to do, and considerations regarding how you will install the new drain.

  • 01 of 08

    Choices of Materials

    close-up of water running through drain
    Junos Getty Images

    Tub drains are available in three main pipe types, listed below. When using ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride), you’ll want to stick with same type of plastic as the drain pipes that are already present if you plan to join the pieces with solvent glue rather than slip joints. If using slip joints, then it's fine to use different materials.  

  • 02 of 08


    Brass waste and overflow
    Photo © Aaron Stickley

    Brass is the most expensive of the three types of drain material. Brass tub drains do last quite a long time. Brass is most commonly found in older houses and on claw-foot tubs where plumbing is exposed (it is usually chrome-plated brass when used on claw tubs).

  • 03 of 08


    ABS waste and overflow
    Photo © Aaron Stickley

    ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is fairly inexpensive, readily available and is commonly used for drain and vent lines throughout a house. Glued joints require glue specifically made for ABS.

  • 04 of 08


    PVC waste and overflow
    Photo © Aaron Stickley

    PVC (polyvinyl chloride) drain pipe for drains is lighter and often thinner than ABS, and also thinner than the PVC used for water supply pipes. PVC glue is required for glued fittings. ABS glue and PVC glue are not interchangeable. Universal solvents that claim to be suitable for all types of plastic are available but do not bond as well as solvent glues designed specifically for one type of plastic. 

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Two Installation Variations

    Waste-and-overflow tub drains can be installed by either gluing the joints or by using slip joints that connect the pipes with large slip washers and nuts. The differences are outlined below. 

  • 06 of 08

    Glued Joints

    Glued waste and overflow
    Photo © Aaron Stickley

    Glue joints can be used for ABS and PVC pipe. Glued tub drains offer a little bigger drain size, so you may get slightly better drainage. And glued tub drains may be a bit longer-lasting because of the schedule (thickness) of the pipe. Also, when snaking the tub, you have less chance of breaking a glued joint versus a slip joint.

  • 07 of 08

    Slip Joints

    Slip joint waste and overflow
    Photo © Aaron Stickley

    Slip joint tub drains can be used in all three pipe types, and they are the only option for brass pipe. To use slip joint nuts and washers, the waste-and-overflow tube has to be accessible either through a panel behind the tub or from under the tub. Slip joints are the easiest to install because they allow for quick adjustments.

  • 08 of 08

    Stopper Types

    You also have options for different stopper types, including trip lever, toe touch, and push/pull, among others. That choice is simply a matter of personal preference and availability.