Bath drain plate won't come off... Or screw back down

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Spaceoy_psy

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Got myself into a plumbing pickle, right at the first hurdle. We have a funky smell coming out the bath drain. Despite knowing little about plumbing, I figured removing the drain cover would be a good place to start, get a better view down into the P-Trap etc. But the screw just keeps spinning and spinning, the cover will pull up about a centimetre, but won't come off. And now the screw won't screw back down! Which raises a number of questions.

1) while it's loose, will water leak out anywhere if we use the bath/shower? Or does tightening it just prevent water going down the drain when the plug's in? I.e. is the bath and shower out of order until I find a way to get this screwed back down??

2) how might I get the drain cover off?

3) how might I get the drain cover to screw back down??

Google doesn't suggest this is a common problem, nor that just getting the drain plate off should be at all complex.

I'm in the UK, and this is what the drain plate looks like:

spaceoy-01.jpg


Any advice very gratefully received!
Simon
 

Spaceoy_psy

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Update:

From other conversations and further developments it seems that...

1) showers should be fine, though baths won't work.

2) I'm no longer bothered about getting the cover off. Had a go with a drain snake and got some hair out, which allowed me to see that there is water in there, so no dry P-Trap. Annoying that, in hindsight, I didn't need to unscrew the drain cover at all! But anyway, now I'm just concerned about...

3) How to get the cover screwed back down so we can have baths? Maybe the screw's thread is stripped, needs replacing, taking us back to 2)? I've tried pressing down harder, pulling the screw up while screwing, hooking the plastic structure that the screw goes through just below the metal cover and pulling that up while screwing. Nothing helps me either get the screw out or screw it back in... A friend suggested drilling the screw out. Which I know is a thing one can do when you can't get a screw out, but I've no idea how to do it correctly and don't have a drill anyway...
 

Spaceoy_psy

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2nd update:

I now just want to get the drain cover screwed back on. The screw goes through a black plastic structure just below the metal cover, and doesn't extend much below that. So the plastic must be what the screw is supposed to anchor into. And maybe the plastic is the problem? Its threading has stripped, or it's just in the wrong position somehow? If only I could get it out, I could have a better look at it, try reseating it, maybe take it to a plumbing supply shop if one's open anywhere to buy a replacement. But it's stuck in there, neither coming out nor tightening back up...
 

Terry

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Is there a lever at the top overflow that works a stopper for taking baths? Sometimes that can be removed to run a snake down from there.
In your photo, it looks like a grid drain cover which is just there to prevent things from falling into the drain, or to perhaps catch hair before it enters the drain.
The metal flange is likely threaded into the plastic shoe of the drain.

watco_tub_drains.jpg
 

Reach4

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How to get the cover screwed back down so we can have baths? Maybe the screw's thread is stripped, needs replacing, taking us back to 2)? I've tried pressing down harder, pulling the screw up while screwing, hooking the plastic structure that the screw goes through just below the metal cover and pulling that up while screwing. Nothing helps me either get the screw out or screw it back in...
Sounds like you are trying the right things. Can you get the cover off, or are you hooking the plastic through the holes?

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Tub-Stop...198884?hash=item3660702f64:g:RIcAAOSwOHVeUamx would be a workaround.
 

Spaceoy_psy

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Thanks for replying, folks!

Terry, no lever at the top overflow. Stopper is just an old fashioned separate rubber stopper like this:

51dJEPqcCRL._AC_SY355_.jpg


The drain cover doesn't screw into anything (sadly, that would have explained a lot!). It just sits on top of the drain, like this:

s-l640.jpg


The screw extends down about an inch before going through a hole at the centre of three black plastic spokes, which attach to the sides of the black plastic pipe. When I pull the cover up and wiggle it around, the black plastic also moves around.


Reach4, no I can't get the cover off, the screw is stuck, even though it spins freely. I was feeding a coat hanger through to hook the plastic and pull on it while screwing.
 

Reach4

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Stopper is just an old fashioned separate rubber stopper like this:
So you can take a bath with that stopper in place, right?
Reach4, no I can't get the cover off, the screw is stuck, even though it spins freely. I was feeding a coat hanger through to hook the plastic and pull on it while screwing.
Can you lift the drain cover up while trying to turn the screw? That might pull the screw with more force than you can apply to lift the screw directly while turning the screw. I am picturing something like a nut down there near the end of the screw. Maybe try to tighten, and if that does not work, loosen.
 

Spaceoy_psy

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Thanks Reach.

No baths, since the water drains around the outside edges of the drain cover, seeing as it isn't held down tightly.

And yes, I've tried tightening and loosening the screw while lifting up the screw, lifting up the cover, hooking and lifting up the plastic spokes underneath, done all the above with and without pressing down extra hard on the screw... every combination I can think of. And I just went back and tried them all again to be sure. And nothing works...

Here's something really weird: when I tighten the screw, pressing down on the screw while hooking and pulling up on the plastic, it does actually tighten! As long I maintain upward pressure on the plastic, the cover stays pretty tight to the bath (though the screw never does stop turning). Then, as soon as I release pressure from the hook, it's loose again and I can pull the cover up easily. SO WEIRD.

I also noticed that when I unscrew, while pulling up on the plastic and pressing down hard on the screw, I can feel that it's at the end of its thread because once per turn there's a little pop as it passes the end of the thread and slips back down ever so slightly.

So there is definitely some threading somewhere in that plastic structure.

But it won't stay tight. And it won't screw out. I've tried pulling on it pretty hard and it won't give. Could probably put in a bit more force still, but don't want to completely break anything.

So. Weird.
 

Reach4

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I wonder if that screw is intentionally a captive screw. Is there anything down the hole that can rotate when you stick a couple of rods in there to apply force?

If you don't want to order that Tub Stopper Silicone Drain Bathtub Sink Plug Large Cover Suction Drain 11cm as your workaround, you could hold a plastic bag over the drain area, and fill your tub. I am not a plumber.
 

Spaceoy_psy

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Thanks for the ideas. Sadly no dice rotating anything else. I just see the cover, the screw, and the three plastic spokes. And the spokes are fixed to the outside of the pipe. They don't rotate or move at all separately to the pipe.

The suction drain cover might be something I'd try, if this were my house! But I don't even live here full time! Just staying for xmas, and I've gone and broken the bath. And the flat's owner really needs baths sometimes, for medical reasons. I just wanted to help out with the smelly drain... No good deed goes unpunished, eh!

And I finally just got around to taking off the bath side panel, to double check that, as friends thought would be the case, water wasn't leaking out the bottom... and the black plastic shoe hangs a good centimetre below the bath, leaking plenty of water on the floor underneath! So this just got a bit more urgent. Managed to bodge that problem for now, by hooking elastic bands from the drain cover to the taps... but my friend isn't going to be happy with that for long.
 

Reach4

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And I finally just got around to taking off the bath side panel, to double check that, as friends thought would be the case, water wasn't leaking out the bottom... and the black plastic shoe hangs a good centimetre below the bath, leaking plenty of water on the floor underneath! So this just got a bit more urgent. Managed to bodge that problem for now, by hooking elastic bands from the drain cover to the taps... but my friend isn't going to be happy with that for long.
Try shoving wedges between the floor and the bottom of the drain to shove it up solidly. Maybe then the screw could bite with enough down-force and CW torque.

Do get a good hollow-ground screwdriver that exactly matches the screw slot. You want a blade hat is wide enough and thick enough, and not tapered end on the bit. We don't want you to mess up that slot.
Bits-in-Screws-Photo-Closeup-with-caption.jpg


The ones with the replaceable bits are often good.
 
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Spaceoy_psy

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With everything I've tried, I'm beginning to reconcile with the idea that I've probably somehow stripped at least some of the plastic thread, and need a replacement part... and a professional to fit it! Sigh. There goes some xmas money. Thanks so much for all the ideas though.
 

wwhitney

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Based on the 1 cm comment, Reach4's idea (wedging the black plastic shoe up before trying to tighten the screw) has a good chance of success, so do try it. Here's what I think is happening:

The metal part visible in the tub has a captive screw. The plastic part (shoe) below has a washer on top of it to seal to the bottom of the tub. The metal part also need to seal to the tub. The original installer used silicone to seal the metal part to the tub, and it is well adhered and won't budge. The installation geometry of the plastic pipes was also slightly off, so the unstressed location of the tub waste (plastic shoe) is 1 cm lower than it should be (plus however much the washer compresses). So when you unscrewed it and released the black plastic shoe, it popped away from tub, and now the screw can't engage it sufficiently to pull it back up.

Therefore if you wedge the black plastic shoe back up, hopefully the screw will catch, and you can tighten it down. Tight enough to compress the washer between the black shoe and the tub (worth checking if you can see the washer is there, and certainly worth checking for something lying on the subfloor next to the black plastic shoe, because then you need to put it back in place), but not so tight as to strip the black plastic threads. Then you can remove the wedge, and hopefully the shoe stays in place. If not, you've likely stripped the black plastic shoe and you need a plumber to replace it. (See below for one possible intermediate option). If so, check for leaks underneath while you drain a fullish tub

Good luck!

Cheers, Wayne

PS One option to try if the black plastic shoe pops back off after removing the wedge is a longer screw, say 1/4" longer. To do that, you'd have to remove the seemingly captive screw from the perforated metal grate (which appears now to be stuck to the tub). The screw is probably a flat head screw, meaning the underside of the head is conical like in the picture Reach 4 posted. So if you can wedge a thin metal implement under the edge of the screw, and pry up with moderate force (don't use a sharp implement as it will probably slip a few times until you find the right balance of forces), while simultaneously trying to unscrew the screw (which usually involves some downward force to keep the driver from camming out of the slot, but in this case you'd want to use as little as downward force as possible), you might get it to start rising. So if you can get it out, you can take it to a hardware store and get an identical stainless steel screw (same threads) that's just a 1/4" longer, and if you're very lucky, that would let you avoid having to replace the black plastic shoe.
 

Spaceoy_psy

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Thanks Wayne. Managed to wedge some wood tightly under the shoe, so now I have a much more elegant solution for limiting leakage than my previous rubber band job, so that's good! But no help on tightening the screw. And I don't think a longer screw will help, as I can just make out the silhouette of the end of the screw coming out the other side of the hole in the middle of the black plastic spokes.

I think it's a captive screw stuck in a plastic threaded hole with the thread stripped.

I do now have a friend trying to convince me that it should be easy to replace the waste and overflow unit myself... And it sure would be nice to save some money right now. But that's only if I can find a way to cut that screw.
 
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Spaceoy_psy

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ooh, or maybe rather than a longer screw, I could try a wider screw, no?

Again, if I can somehow not only cut the screw to get the unit out but also get the old captive screw out of the unit...
 

Reach4

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But it won't stay tight. And it won't screw out. I've tried pulling on it pretty hard and it won't give. Could probably put in a bit more force still, but don't want to completely break anything.
Might want to try with more lift, with the lift provided by prying up the basket from at least two sides.

If screw comes out, then bigger screw.

Does the plastic move up and down with respect to the shoe?
 

Spaceoy_psy

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OH MY GOD I think I fixed it. I decided if I was going to replace the part anyway, and if the plastic was so soft that its thread would strip so easily, and I'm not sure I have a tool that could cut the screw, I may as well try grabbing on the captive screw with some adjustable pliers and just pull as hard as I possibly could. See if I could just pull it out from the plastic.

So I pulled and pulled and pulled. No luck getting it out. But I noticed that the screw was staying standing up, very high. Tried pushing it back down. Wouldn't budge. Tried screwing it back down... and it screwed tight! So somehow I pulled the screw into the plastic until it bit into it. I guess if it's a captive screw, it only has thread on the bottom part of the screw. It must be that the bottom of the plastic threading shredded, so the top of the screw's threading had nothing to bite, but by pulling the screw up with force the top of the screw's thread bit into the plastic threading higher up. Or something. But yeah, similar principle to what you lot were suggesting.

And now it seems pretty good now. Very slight wetness around the shoe washer on the underside when I run water, so I should buy some silicon to seal that fully. But I think I'm good. Thanks so much for the help folks, you gave me the motivation to keep trying things, and eventually we got there in the end!
 
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