How to Replace a Garbage Disposal

How to Replace a Garbage Disposal

For most of us, a garbage disposal is an integral part of our kitchen. It helps us clean up after meals, and it provides countless hours of service with a flip of a switch. Most of us don’t even think about how this handy device works most of the time. That is, until it breaks.

Fortunately, when that does happen, you don’t have to stare at your sink in despair. Today we’re going to discuss how to replace a garbage disposal and how to ensure that your kitchen is back up and running in no time.

Average Lifespan of a Garbage Disposal

Although there are a variety of factors that can affect how long your disposal will last, most models are built to stay in good shape for up to 10 or 12 years or so. On the low end of the spectrum, you can expect at least 3-6 years of decent reliability. On the high end, it could be up to 15 years before you have to replace it.

Let’s look at the different things that can either extend or shorten the life of your garbage disposal.


To Keep it Running Longer

  • Buy a Reputable Brand: usually, companies that specialize in disposals (i.e., Waste King and InSinkErator) are going to provide better devices than those that don’t. When shopping for a new unit, be sure to compare stats and ratings to find the best one.
  • Don’t Dispose of Hard or Fibrous Materials: bones, fruit peels, and other hard to shred foods can significantly decrease your disposal’s ability to stay fresh and sharp for years to come.
  • Always Run Water: the liquid helps to keep the mechanisms lubricated, which ensures that there is no burnout or damage to the motor.
  • Don’t Overload It: although it can be tempting to dump as much food into the sink as possible, that is a recipe for disaster. Instead, parcel it out and wait until the disposal is finished before tossing another batch.
  • Annual Maintenance: snaking your disposal is an excellent way to remove any particles that may be stuck inside. Just be sure to get a snake that is built for it.


What Will Kill Your Garbage Disposal?

  • Running it for Too Long: usually, these machines are built for short bursts, not extended operation. Unless there’s a particular reason you have to keep it running, shut it off as soon as the food is processed.
  • Not Running it Regularly: as with all machines, they have to be used to keep them in good condition. If it’s months between uses, then you may want to switch to a batch-feed model, as that will work better for your minimal operation.
  • Dumping Grease or Oil: usually, these materials will solidify inside the system, which can gum up the internal workings. If you are going to drop oil or grease down the sink, make sure to run hot water for a few minutes afterward (with the disposal off).

Overall, try to use common sense when operating your unit. As long as you don’t abuse it or take it for granted, you can easily expect at least a decade of faithful service.

That being said, it’s essential for you to also recognize the warning signs of a disposal at the end of its lifespan. Next, we’re going to look at how to spot a bad unit and what you should do to replace it.


When Should I Replace My Garbage Disposal?

Fortunately, when your machine is starting to reach the end of its usefulness, it will let you know in a variety of ways. However, sometimes these issues can simply be a sign that it’s time to do some repairs. As such, replacement is not always necessary. A good rule to follow, however, is that if your disposal is experiencing any of these problems on a regular basis (i.e., several times in the span of a few months), then it’s probably time to replace it with a new model.


There are several reasons that your disposal may not drain properly. First, it could be filled with food particles that are not going down into the pipe. If that’s the case, then a snake should be able to get it back on track.

What can sometimes happen is that your sink can only drain if the disposal is turned on. If that’s the case, then it’s imperative that you figure out what’s going on so that you can correct the issue. In some instances, you may be able to salvage the disposal and keep it working for a few extra years.



Grinding/Making Noise

Although disposals can be loud, you know when it starts to sound bad. The standard humming and shredding noise is replaced by a harsh grinding or crunching sound. If the disposal sounds angry, even when you aren’t putting anything inside, there can be a couple of reasons for it.

  • First, there may be something hard stuck inside (like silverware or a chicken bone). In this case, removing it should solve the issue.
  • Second, it could be that the impellers are worn and aren’t working correctly. In that instance, you probably need to replace the whole thing.

Find out more about what to do when your garbage disposal is humming.


If your disposal starts leaking at any point, it’s probably time to get a new one. Unless something has come loose by a freak of nature, there’s not much you can do to salvage the current unit. Even if the fittings loosened because of the disposal’s vibrations, that just means that you’re going to have to deal with another leak down the road.

Usually, leaking happens when the gaskets or connections are worn down and are no longer watertight. When that occurs, fixing it will be too much of a hassle, so it’s better to replace the whole thing. Learn more about how to fix a leaking garbage disposal.


Finally, if your disposal is producing a foul stench, regardless of how hard you try to remove it, then it’s probably not worth keeping. Usually, lemon pieces or dish soap can help eliminate bad smells, but if that’s not working, there’s probably some food stuck inside the machine. In that case, you could try a snake to see if that helps, but if the odor remains, then it will be much too troublesome to go digging around the insides of your unit.


Costs of Garbage Disposal Replacement

There are two primary factors that you have to watch out for when estimating a replacement.

First, you have to consider the price of the new disposal. As we mentioned, it’s best if you can shop around and find the best unit for your needs. If you know what killed your old disposal, then you want to get a new one that won’t have the same issues. However, if your previous unit was just really old, then you might want to replace it with the same model.

Second, you have to determine if your new unit will require mounting brackets. In some cases, you can just swap units with the same mount, especially if they are from the same company. In those instances, the cost of replacement will be much less, considering that it will take less labor to get the job done.

Finally, you want to calculate the labor costs. If you have to replace the whole thing from scratch (new mounts and all), then you can estimate about three to four hours. If it can be replaced without a new bracket, then one or two hours should be fine.

All told, here are the average prices for both disposals and labor.

  • Continuous Feed Models: $170-$190
  • Batch-Feed Units: $220-$240
  • Labor Cost w/New Mount: $90-$120 ($28/hour x 3-4 hours)
  • Labor Cost w/o Bracket: $60-$90 ($28/hour x 2-3 hours)

Overall, you can be looking at anywhere from $230-$360. In some instances, the price can go as high as $600-$700, depending on the model you get and the type of installation it requires. Check out our best garbage disposal reviews to compare specs and warranty periods.

When pricing your replacement, make sure to shop around for different plumbing services and ask for a quote. If possible, provide them with as much information as you can so that they can give a more accurate assessment.

How to Replace a Disposal by Yourself?

If you want to save some money by doing everything on your own, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Make Sure You Have Everything: usually, you’ll need a screwdriver, some pliers, a hammer, and possibly a saw if you have to adjust the pipe length manually. Also, make sure that you have a power cord and electrical connection, as many new disposals don’t come with those items.
  • Read the Instructions First: before starting anything, familiarize yourself with the steps so that you know what to expect. Each model and manufacturer is different, so don’t assume anything about the installation process.
  • Turn Off Electricity and Water: don’t put yourself in danger by working with a live outlet or plumbing that could flood your cabinet space.
  • Prepare for a Mess: the water and leftover food in your old disposal will come out as soon as you disconnect it, so lay down some towels beforehand.
  • Make a Stand for the New Unit: the machinery will be too heavy to hold in place while you tighten the mounting bracket. You’ll have to set it on something to make it possible. Measure the distance between the bottom of the disposal and the cabinet so that you can prepare.

Step-by-Step Instruction

1. Disconnect the Drain Pipe

2. Remove the Old Unit From the Mounting Bracket

If you can keep it in place for the new disposal, then that’s great. Otherwise, you’ll have to take the bracket off as well.

3. Place Flanges and Brackets (If Necessary)

4. Remove the Dishwasher Plug

There should be a plastic stopper inside the disposal, which is supposed to connect to the dishwasher. If this plug is in there when you turn the unit on, it will damage the impellers. Use a screwdriver and hammer to punch it out.

5. Mount the New Unit

6. Reattach the Drain Pipe

If necessary, you might have to get a new pipe to reach the disposal. Make sure to measure the distance before you get started.

7. Plug the Unit In

8. Turn Power and Water Back On

9. Test the Disposal

The details for each step will vary depending on the kind of setup you have, but this should be a good outline to follow. If you have any doubts about your abilities, then don’t hesitate to call a professional. It’s not worth it if you have to pay extra for damage to your home or yourself.

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