How to Install a Shower Drain Without Access from Below

Did you know that you can install a new shower drain without tearing out half of your plumbing? From leaks to new fixtures, installing a shower drain is one of the smallest jobs that you will run into when it comes to bathroom plumbing. This guide will teach you how to install a new shower drain or replace an old one, without access from below.

How To Install A Shower Drain Without Access From Below

Things You’ll Need

  • New shower drain
  • Pliers 
  • Phillips screwdrivers
  • Clean rags
  • Leveler 
  • Magnet
  • Silicone caulk
  • Penetrating oil

1. Remove Old Shower Drain

You can skip this step if you’re installing a shower drain in a new construction. However, if you’re replacing your shower, you have to remove the old drain first. 

Make sure the shower pan is dry to prevent water from leaking into the subfloor or through the ceiling. 

Inspect the drain to see how it is installed. If it has screws, remove them with a screwdriver and pull the drain out. A friction-fit drain can be pulled off with a pair of pliers, in a twist turning motion. 

If the drain is rusted, you might have to apply some penetrating oil first to lubricate it. You can then pull the old drain out with the pliers.

2. Prepare The Area For Installation

Clean the area of any old sealant, caulking, or mortar. Wipe with a clean cloth to remove all residues. Remember that dust or debris can prevent the new sealant from adhering to the surface, so make sure everything is spotless before moving forward.

3. Measure And Cut The Assembly Parts

Depending on the shower drain you want to install, the new parts may or may not fit into your existing drain. However, you can make adjustments to accommodate the new drain. 

Sometimes, this may involve cutting a larger hole into the floor. If this is the case, make sure to clean the dust, dirt, and debris when you’re done. 

4. Install The New Shower Drain

Assemble the new shower drain as instructed in the product’s manual. Make sure to use all screws and gaskets that come with your product. Otherwise, the drain could leak.

Apply a generous amount of sealant (silicone caulk or plumber’s putty) under the drain flange and push the assembled drain into the pipe. Apply more sealant around the shower drain edges and push it in with your finger to seal all openings.

Press the new drain evenly to ensure a level installation. Fasten it with the provided screws (if necessary) and check the level with the leveler. If the drain is not level, remove and install it again.

5. Clean Excess Sealant

Once the drain is installed, clean off the excess sealant with a clean rag and soapy water. Dry the area with a rag and test your new drain.

The video below explains how to test a shower drain for leaks: 

How To Connect A Shower Drain To An Existing Drain

If you want to replace your shower pan, you might wonder how to connect the new shower drain to the existing drain on the floor. 

Your shower drain kit should contain all of the parts required for the job. To install the new drain, read and follow the directions from the manufacturer. If you feel unsure about anything, make sure you consult a shower drain assembly diagram.

Once you’ve done that, you can follow the steps above to remove the old shower drain and install the new one.

What Is The Difference Between Various Shower Drains?

There are many types of shower drains, but no matter which one you pick to install, you probably will not need access from below. Let’s take a look at the different types of shower drains that you may encounter:

  • Point Drains: Usually found in the center of the shower floor, these are the most common type of shower drain. The shower floor will slope slightly towards this drain to direct the water flow. Typically these are round drains, but you will find square ones as well. They are inexpensive, small, and work with almost any shower’s water flow. While they do work in most showers, they are not appropriate for curbless showers or for shower designs with large tiles. 
  • Linear Drains: These drains are elongated rectangles that usually run all the way along the wall of your shower area. The whole shower floor will have a low-grade slope towards the length of the drain. Since the slope is in the same direction for the entire floor, this gives you more options in using larger tiles than a point drain does. This style also works great for a curbless shower because a curb is artificially created by the slope in the floor. 
  • Hidden or Decorative Drains:  Hidden or decorative drains can be any kind of drain beneath their facade. There are linear drains that are hidden behind walls and point drains hidden beneath different styles of tiles and grates. When using this style of shower drain, it is most important to make sure the drain matches your shower and is appropriate for the type of shower you have. 
  • Single-Piece Drain: Used on concrete floors, single-piece drains are the simplest drains. With only one piece to install they are easier than other types of drains. The drain fits onto the drain pipe and is covered by a strainer.
  • Three-Piece Shower Drain: Used on wooden floors, a three-piece drain is designed to provide extra protection for the wooden floor beneath the shower. The first piece attaches to the drainpipe. The second piece goes on top of the shower pan or liner. The last piece screws into the top of the middle piece and is adjustable in height to match the height of your tile. 
  • Clamping Shower Drain: Clamping shower drains use a clamping ring to create a water-tight seal. Some clamping rings are reversible but many are not. 

Which Type of Drain is Best?

What drain is best for you will depend a lot on the drainpipe placement and the general aesthetics you want for your bathroom. 

A point drain works best placed in the middle of the shower. The slope associated with the point drain makes it good for curbed showers and those with small tiles. 

A linear drain works best placed along the wall of a shower. It is better for showers without a curb or that need larger tiles. 

How to Install a Shower Drain for Tile

There are many different drain styles that can be used with tile. Above it is noted that some drains work better with specific tile sizes. It is also worth noting that in terms of the type of drain you choose, you may use a tiled drain, solvent glued drain, or a compression style drain. 

If you are simply replacing a shower drain in a tile floor, you are probably going to have the easiest time replacing it with the same size and style of drain as the existing one. If you are installing a new drain and do not have access from below the shower floor, you will want to use a compression-style shower drain.

Follow these steps to install a compression-style shower drain:

  1. Trim the drainpipe to the manufacturer’s recommended length.
  2. Apply silicone to the underside of the drain flange.
  3. Insert flange into the drain hole.
  4. Install the shower base.
  5. Fit compression gasket around the exposed drainpipe. 
  6. Fit and tighten the compression nut. 

How to Install a Shower Drain in a Concrete Floor

Having access to the plumbing beneath concrete is not necessary for installing a shower drain. However, installing a new drain on a concrete floor is more difficult than on other floor types. This is because in many cases, you will need to remove the concrete around the old drain to access the flange and remove it.

Once you have accessed and removed the old drain, you will need to clean the area. Then you will install the new drain per the manufacturer’s instructions. Complete with the drain cover and add new concrete to secure the new drain and repair any damage done in removing the old concrete.


Can You Install a Shower Without a Floor Drain?

Yes, you can install a drain that is not on the floor. There are systems available that move drainage upwards. However, these systems are much more expensive than installing floor drains. 

How Do I Install a Schluter Drain Without Access?

Access is not necessary for the standard installation of a Schluter Drain system. You can install it following the same steps above.

How to Install a Bathtub Without Access Underneath?

You will need to be very careful with measurements when installing a bathtub without access below. You will first need to dry-fit fittings onto the tub. Mock install the tub so that you can measure the tailpiece length between the drain fitting and the drainpipe. Then you will need to remove the tub.

Once the tub has been removed from the mock install, remove the fittings. Glue all of the fittings into place. Make sure the measurements are correct and that the tub is positioned correctly. Now you can install the tub permanently and connect the drainpipe. 

Even without access from below, keep in mind that you may still have to rough in the bathtub spout in order to have a fully functional bathtub. 

To End 

Installing a shower drain without access from below is easier than you think – and an excellent DIY project for beginners. However, if you have doubts or feel it’s too complicated, don’t hesitate to ask for help or hire a licensed plumber.

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