Home > Uncategorized > Bathtub Overflow Drain Leaks

Bathtub Overflow Drain Leaks

Stop a Common Leak Before it Occurs

One of the most common sources of leakage I find during my inspections is at bathtub overflow drains.  In most of these situations, the homeowner is completely unaware that a problem exists and the reason for this is that leakage only occurs if the bathtub is filled above the overflow drain height (water must enter the overflow drain in order for the leakage to occur).  Since this situation rarely occurs at many homes, the problem goes undetected.



water enters overflow if water height rises high enough

In most cases, there will be access panels that can be opened to view the overflow as the water is draining, but in some modern homes, there are no access panels installed.


sample access panel

Access panels allow for easy viewing of the overflow drain.


overflow drain is easily viewed from access panel

If there is no access panel, the bathtub drain plumbing can sometimes be viewed from the basement.


bathtub plumbing was visible from this unfinished portion of the basement

If there is no basement access, I use an infrared camera to view the areas below the plumbing fixtures – after the fixtures have drained.


no moisture stains existed on this closet ceiling, but wetness was detected with infrared

Active leakage was detected on this closet ceiling, using an infrared camera.  The wetness appeared after filling the tub to the overflow drain height.  Notice that there were no stains on the closet ceiling below this area.  Why?  Probably because the homeowner did not use the bathtub (or rarely did).


wetness viewed with infrared

In this case, wetness was found on a furnace room ceiling – after filling and draining the bathtub in the bathroom above this location.


  The dark, circular shaped object at the center of the infrared screen is a typical leak pattern below bathtubs.


Why does the leakage occur?

Leakage at this location is usually caused by a failed gasket at the overflow drain opening (over time, the gasket dries and cracks).

Stop leaks before they occur:

It’s always better to stop a leak before it occurs.  So if you have access to the bathtub drain plumbing, it is smart to test the condition of the overflow drain.  If you do not have access to the plumbing, consider making one (you will likely have to cut into the drywall – usually from an adjacent closet).

drywall saw
You can then construct a home-made access panel……


I swear this is not a picture of me

…or you can purchase a pre-made, plastic access panel from any home improvement store.

If you discover a leak, you will likely need to replace the gasket inside the overflow drain opening.  This is usually handled from the tub side of the drain.

Overflow Remove

screws must be removed from drain cap

This allows access to the gasket inside.


black gasket is visible once cap is removed

Another option is to simply seal the perimeter of the drain with a high-quality, mildew resistant caulk (although no plumber would advise this method).

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. audrey furman
    December 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Merry Christmas from a senior lady who purchased your services when I bought my townhome in 2010. Best investment for me as everything needed service & your info has been most valuable & so easy to follow. I’d recommend you at any time. Keep me on your mailing list.

  2. December 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Good stuff, Tim. Ever have someone claim you ruined their ceiling?

    • December 18, 2012 at 9:41 am

      Hey Reuben – I have not as of yet, although it wouldn’t suprise me if it happened. I haven’t had any visible damage occur to ceilings after draining tubs, but if that were to happen, I’m sure there would be issues. Has that ever happen to you….if so how did you respond?

  3. December 18, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I’ve had it happen while testing tiled shower pans – http://www.structuretech1.com/category/shower-leaks/#tiled-showers . I’ve never had anyone really get upset about it, because usually if the shower pan leaks, it’s been leaking for a long time. Once they open up the ceiling, there’s some serious rot going on, and they understand that I didn’t cause it.

    If there’s no access to the bath tub overflow, I don’t test it. When there is access, I make sure I’m watching the back side of the overflow to make sure that any water leakage is minimal.

  4. October 26, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I am fixing a leaky overflow drain pipe, which I found was smashed. It is the pvc type, and I suspect the original installer must have damaged the part and it’s now failing. To my great disappointment, the overflow pipe is not sold alone anywhere. The only way to get it is by purchasing a complete assembly kit. Bad because $5 part is all I need.

  5. November 13, 2013 at 4:49 am

    overflow pipe is use to save drinking water and protected your ceiling and walls of your house from wetness.

  6. jeffrey morgan
    July 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    My bath water has overflowed again! 4 times this month!! I was distracted after running the bath? I have made suggestions to xkeys in Peterborough! that if they where to have an alarm over the side of the bATH when the water level is too high it would solve the problem! xkeys housing say this is not possible!! I am on the first floor; the lady downstairs is fed up with this?!!

  7. October 16, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    I stay in apartments.. my bathroom is upstairs and i have a closet directly underneath down stairs where the hot water heater is and every time I take a bath and I fill it up past the overflow drain the least little bit It leaks really bad and you can see water stains in the ceiling, the maintenance man says the reason it leaks so bad and leaks into the ceiling is cause I feel it past the overflow drain? I thought the water from overflow drain is suppose to just go back through the regular drain at the bottom… not leak out into the ceiling I mean are do all overflow drains not have a pipe it runs to or is it suppose to jus run out in the ceiling if water gos past the overflow drain

    • October 17, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      The overflow drain is likely connected to a drain pipe, but the gasket that seals the overflow to the tub becomes dry / brittle over time and often leaks. So if you fill the tub up to the overflow and it leaks…..then the gasket is likely in need of replacement. Caulking the gasket perimeter can also solve the problem.

  8. November 12, 2017 at 12:12 am

    You really make it seem really easy along with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually one thing that I think I’d never understand.

    It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.
    I’m having a look ahead on your next put up, I will
    try to get the grasp of it!

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