There are several variations when it comes to choosing a bathtub drain assembly, based on the type of material, pipe assembly method, and drain stopper type.
Tub drain assemblies are commonly made from one of three different pipe materials: brass, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic, or PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic).
Tub drain assemblies can be joined with slip fittings (brass, ABS, or PVC), or with solvent-glued fittings (ABS or PVC only). When using ABS or PVC that will be joined with solvent-glued fittings, make sure to stick with the same type of plastic found in the rest of the drain system. ABS and PVC should not be glued to one another. If you will be using slip joints to connect the pieces, then it's fine to use different materials.
Finally, you will have a choice in what kind of pop-up drain mechanism you want. Options include spring-loaded toe-touch stoppers, push/pull stoppers, or lever-operating stoppers.
Here are the variations in bathtub drains to help you make the right selection for your needs.
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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 the plumbing is exposed. Brass drain pipes may either be solid brass, or brass with chrome plating.
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ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a fairly inexpensive and readily available plastic that is commonly used for drain and vent lines throughout a house. Glued joints require glue specifically made for ABS. This plastic should not be exposed to sunlight.
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PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic pipe for drains is lighter and often thinner than ABS, and also thinner than the PVC used for pressurized water supply pipes. Special 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.
PVC is the now plastic drain pipe of choice for most professional plumbers.
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Solvent-glued joints can be used for ABS and PVC pipe. Glued joints offer smooth inner surfaces to the pipes, so they may drain slightly better than with slip fittings. And glued tub drains may be a bit longer-lasting because of the schedule (thickness) of the pipe. Also, when snaking the tub, there may be less chance of breaking a glued joint.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Slip joint tub drains can be used in all three pipe types, and they are the only option for a brass pipe. To use slip joint nuts and washers, the waste-and-overflow tube has to be accessible, either through an access panel behind the tub or from under the tub. Slip joints are the easiest to install because they allow for quick adjustments and require no chemical glues.
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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. However, stopper types that have internal linkage operated by a lever may be more susceptible to hair clogs. Spring-loaded toe-touch and push/pull types tend to be more trouble-free.