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Can you replace a garbage disposal yourself?

Jan 11, 2021

A person washing a metal fork under a kitchen sink that is running water.


It’s a frustrating moment so many of us have experienced: you turn on your tap water, flip the switch to activate your garbage disposal, only to hear a rattling, humming, or worse — nothing at all. Before calling in your plumber to handle a garbage disposal replacement, you wonder: can you replace the garbage disposal yourself? 


If you’re considering tackling a garbage disposal replacement on your own, it’s important to know how your disposal works so you don’t damage any parts in the process. 


Here’s everything you need to know before beginning a garbage disposal replacement:

The Purpose of a Garbage Disposal

The primary purpose of a garbage disposal is to shred food scraps and waste into extremely small pieces so they don’t clog your drainage pipes. 


It’s important for most homeowners to run their garbage disposal regularly to help keep the blades clean and your pipes clear. Using cold water instead of hot water helps solidify any grease or oils so they can be ground and prevented from clogging your pipes as well. 


Without a working garbage disposal, it’s important to avoid putting food scraps down your drain since they can easily clog your pipes and cause more serious issues for your plumbing.

How the Garbage Disposal Works

You can’t know how to replace a garbage disposal without a basic understanding of how the machinery works. Each garbage disposal model may have unique specifications you’ll need to be aware of, so it’s important to do comprehensive research before undertaking this project, or consulting a plumbing professional for additional information. 


Garbage disposals are typically mounted on the underside of your sink where they can collect solid food waste in their grinding chamber. When you flip the wall switch that allows power to activate your garbage disposal, an impeller plate or a spinning disc will begin to spin quickly, forcing food waste against the outer wall of the disposal’s grinding chamber. This process pulverizes food waste into tiny pieces that can then flow through your pipes with ease. 

Signs Your Garbage Disposal Needs a Repair or Replacement

Lack of Operation

If your garbage disposal won’t seem to start at all, it’s possible that a damaged or worn out part of the disposal needs some sort of repair or replacement. In some cases, however, the issue isn’t related to the disposal itself, but rather the electrical circuit supplying power to the disposal. Check that your garbage disposal is plugged in and that all switches in your circuit breakers are flipped on. If your disposal still isn’t working, contact a plumber for assistance. They will be able to assess whether or not the problem is related to the machinery. 

Foul Odors

While some stinky odors coming from your garbage disposal are perfectly normal, lingering foul odors that don’t respond to cleaning your garbage disposal can indicate a serious problem. Sticky, oily waste can collect in your garbage disposal if it’s not running correctly or able to fully clear out food waste. This could be due to an issue with your disposal’s blades or motor, preventing proper pulverization. 

Slow Draining

If your sink isn’t draining well and running the garbage disposal doesn’t help hasten the process, this is a clear sign that something is wrong with your kitchen plumbing. In some cases, the problem could be a clog deep in your pipes from not running your disposal enough. In other scenarios, a slow-draining sink could mean your disposal is not working correctly.

Water Leaks

Leaks under your sink aren’t always the result of a faulty garbage disposal, however, if the leak is coming directly from the disposal’s grinding chamber, then something needs to be repaired. Leaks could indicate that loose connections need to be tightened or resealed, but can also be the result of more serious internal damage to your garbage disposal that will require a plumber to diagnose. 

Steps for Troubleshooting Your Disposal

There are several factors that can contribute to a faulty garbage disposal. The following are some troubleshooting steps to help identify the source of the problem:


  • Make sure the disposal is plugged in
  • Try pressing the red 'RESET' button
  • Check your breaker panel to see if the circuit tripped
  • Check that all bolts and screws are properly tightened
  • Look for any cracked or peeling sealant
  • Check for clogs in the drain pipe
  • Identify specific sounds that your garbage disposal is making

While we encourage taking these simple steps to identify the problem with your garbage disposal, complicated plumbing work should always be left to a professional. Though DIY garbage disposal replacements are possible, it’s never recommended. If you don’t fully understand how each element of a garbage disposal works, you can easily damage your sink and/or new disposal. You can also get seriously injured, which is never worth the risk. For most homeowners, it’s best to leave garbage disposal replacements to licensed plumbers. 

How to Replace a Garbage Disposal: Call the Professionals

If your disposal is in constant need of repairs, or stops working altogether, call CroppMetcalfe to schedule a garbage disposal replacement. Our team will help you find the type of garbage disposal best suited for your kitchen plumbing and make sure it’s installed properly. Call CroppMetcalfe today or schedule a service appointment online



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