Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kickin’ the Tires on Clawfoot Tub Drains

Purchasing a clawfoot tub drain is an afterthought for many customers. The overlooked clawfoot tub drain takes a backseat to the more glamorous clawfoot bathtub and clawfoot tub faucet. Today, the clawfoot tub drain climbs into the driver’s seat for some well deserved attention.

Plumber’s will often refer to the clawfoot tub drain as a waste and overflow. The waste connects to the drain hole in the low point of the tub so the tub can be emptied. The overflow is drilled through the wall of the tub above the drain hole usually a few inches from the tub rim. The overflow prevents water from spilling over the rim of the tub if it is over filled. Depending on the type of tub, the waste and overflow holes may be at one end of the tub or may be in the middle of the tub. Traditional clawfoot tubs and slipper tubs have waste and overflow holes at the end of the tub while dual bathtubs and double-ended slipper tubs have waste and overflow holes in the middle of the bathtub.

Clawfoot tub drains have extended tubes that your plumber will cut to adjust the drain to fit your tub. The modern standard for tub drain connections is 1 ½”. Most clawfoot tub drains use 1 ½” diameter tubes. Sign of the Crab drains use 1 3/8” diameter tubing, replicating the original size of clawfoot tub drains. A reducing washer is included to connect Sign of the Crab drains to a modern 1 ½” rough-in. With the exception of tower drains, clawfoot tub drains are approximately centered with the tub rim. Unlike drains for built-in tubs, clawfoot tub drains are exposed and, therefore, the waste and overflow tubes are finished to match the faucet.

Despite the common utilitarian purpose of the clawfoot tub drain, manufacturers do offer clawfoot tub drain options. The only difference between the first three drains that I’ll describe is the type of stopper employed by the drain. The last drain is the Cadillac of clawfoot tub drains. To describe something as the Cadillac of options now seems antiquated but yet appropriate in this space. I digress.
  • The most traditional clawfoot tub drain is also the most popular. It features a rubber stopper at the end of a chain. The chain is anchored to the overflow strainer. Shop 4 Classics even offers replacement overflow strainer plates with an integrated stopper keeper for a clawfoot tub drain with a chain and stopper. The advantage of the chain and stopper is that the stopper can be pulled out of the drain without reaching back into the bathwater. It is also typically the most economical option.

  • A lift & turn clawfoot tub drain has a stopper that twists up to open the drain or down to seal the drain. The lift & turn drain eliminates the disorderly rubber stopper at the end of a chain.

  • Toe tap clawfoot tub drains have a stopper that pops up and down with the touch of a toe. Like the lift & turn drain, the toe tap drain eliminates the chain and rubber stopper.

  • If you’re looking for a drain to make a statement, the tower drain is for you. It is called a tower drain because of the tall overflow tube. At the top of the towering overflow tube is a pull up knob. The knob opens the drain stopper much like a pop-up knob on a widespread lavatory faucet. Tower drains are popular for tubs that are in the center of the room because the drain will be more noticeable. They can also provide stability for bracing a freestanding clawfoot tub faucet. The Sign of the Crab tower drain can be used with antique clawfoot tubs that do not have an overflow hole because the overflow is integrated into the tower.
Perhaps the clawfoot tub drain is an afterthought for many customers because it is usually hidden by the clawfoot tub. Or, perhaps it is ignored because of its utilitarian nature. Today, however, the clawfoot tub drain has its moment in the pole position. Regardless of your clawfoot tub drain choice, you’ll find yourself in the winners circle when you select a clawfoot tub drain from Shop 4 Classics.


  1. How do you clean an old tower drain? Our tub is draining slowly and we are unsure if we are using the piece correctly or incorrectly.

  2. Thank you for your question. You will likely need to unassemble the drain to access the internal parts.