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Installing a Garbage Disposer
A typical garbage disposal unit lasts about 12 years, so if it's a feature you want in your kitchen, there is every likelihood that you'll need to replace it at some point. Or, you may want to install one for the very first time when remodeling an old kitchen.
If you are installing one for the first time, be aware that there are some wiring and plumbing skills necessary—work you may want to have a professional do if you're not fully confident of your skills. For example, most current buildings codes require a dedicated 20-amp 120-volt outlet under the sink in close proximity to the disposal. The outlet will need to be controlled by a switch that is accessible to a user standing at the sink. There is a good chance that this circuit is already in your kitchen, but if it's not, you'll need to have this circuit installed before you can install the disposal.
Do You Really Want or Need a Garbage Disposal?
Before you automatically replace a failed disposal or buy one for a kitchen remodel, make sure you really need it.
Initially, garbage disposers were regarded as luxury items in a kitchen, but gradually they became a common feature of almost all kitchens—so much so that people may automatically assume a kitchen needs one. Today, though, there is some movement away from garbage disposers for environmental reasons.
The amount of raw organic garbage pumped into city sewer systems through kitchen sink drains is putting a considerable strain on waste treatment facilities, and some communities have even gone to the length of outlawing them, while others are considering the move. Many communities recommend that organic wastes are best thrown away in the standard trash rather than ground up and flushed down the sink. And there are gradually more and more communities offering organic waste programs designed to pick up "wet" wastes and compost them. If your community offers any such program, there is really no reason whatsoever to install a garbage disposal.
A garbage disposal is a very bad idea if you live in a rural area where wastewater is processed by a septic system and drain field. You absolutely should not flush organic kitchen wastes into a septic system, as it will greatly complicate maintenance of the system.
If you are quite sure you want and need a garbage disposal, though, the following steps will show how to install one.
Tools & Materials You Will Need
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- New garbage disposal
- Channel-type pliers
- Plumber's putty
- Garbage disposal mounting ring and drain fitting
- Plug in power cord
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Step 1: Disconnect the Power and Remove the Old Garbage Disposer
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- The power must be disconnected from the old disposal before you remove it. This may be as simple as unplugging it from its electrical outlet, but if the disposer is "hardwired" directly into circuit wiring, as is the case in some older installations you'll need to shut off the circuit at the main service panel. You do this by going to your electrical service panel and either removing the fuse or turning off the circuit breaker feeding power to the unit.
- If there is not a dedicated circuit and outlet for the disposal, now the time to have an electrician install one.
- Next, remove the garbage disposal by disconnecting drain connections attached to the disposal, then disconnecting the disposal from the flange assembly.
- Remove the disposal flange assembly from the sink drain. It is sometimes possible when replacing an old disposal with one from the same manufacturer to mount it onto the same flange assembly, but it is best to replace these parts as well to ensure a good drain seal.
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Step 2: Install Garbage Disposal Drain Fitting and Mounting Ring
To install the garbage disposal you need to install the assembly that will hold it in place beneath the sink. This is a special form of drain fitting that consists of a drain flange and mounting ring that sandwiches around the top and bottom of the sink drain opening.
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- First, seal the sink opening by placing a 1/2-inch-thick bead of plumber's putty around the drain opening from inside the sink.
- Insert the new disposal drain flange into the sink opening and press it firmly into the plumber's putty.
- Have someone hold the drain flange in place from the top as you now work from under the sink. Take the fibrous gasket and triangular attachment ring and slide them onto the tailpiece of the drain fitting.
- Secure the ring by snapping the round clip spring or snap ring into the groove on the drain fitting.
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Step 3: Tighten the Mounting Ring Assembly
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- Tighten down the mounting assembly by screwing the three mounting screws, rotating between them to gradually apply even pressure. Tighten until the drain flange is tight against the bottom of sink and plumber's putty has oozed out around the drain opening. Take care not to overtighten; it's possible to squeeze out all the plumber's putty, which is necessary to complete the seal.
- Wipe away the excess plumber's putty around the drain opening inside the sink.
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Step 4: Connect the Power Cord
Before mounting the garbage disposal, you'll need to attach its plug-in power cord.
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- First, remove electrical plate found on the bottom of the disposal unit.
- Using wire nuts, connect the white lead from the disposal to the power cord white wire, the black lead to the black cord wire, and the green ground lead to the green ground wire.
- Tuck the connected wires into disposal electrical box and replace the cover plate.
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Optional: Dishwasher Connection
In some installations, the dishwasher drain water is run through the garbage disposal. If that is your case, proceed as follows:
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- Located near the top of the disposal chamber you will find a dishwasher inlet. Using a screwdriver, take a hammer and knock out the plug.
- Remove the knock-out plug inside the dishwasher nipple on the disposal unit.
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Step 5: Mount the Garbage Disposal
Now comes the actual installation of the disposal unit. The disposal can get a little heavy while doing this step so be careful you don't strain yourself.
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- Align the disposal by lining up up the top collar with the three mounting ears on the sink mounting assembly.
- While holding the disposer in place, rotate the top collar so that the three mounting ears engage into the mounting collar on the bottom of the drain fitting.
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Step 6: Connect the Drain Lines
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- Fasten the discharge tube to the disposal unit with its gasket and screws.
- Now, properly position the disposal by turning it so that the discharge tube aligns with the sink drain waste trap. You may need to add extension pieces or shorten pipes in order to make the proper connections. It is important that these connections be well made and tight.
- Once the drain connection is made, connect the dishwasher line, if used. Slide the dishwater hose onto the disposal nipple, and secure with whatever clamp is provided by the manufacturer.
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Step 7: Lock the Garbage Disposal Unit in Place
Firmly lock the disposer to the sink mounting assembly by tightening the rotating cam collar on the disposal, using either a screwdriver for leverage or a special wrench that may have come with the garbage disposal for this purpose. You likely will feel a distinct "click" as the disposer locks into place.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Step 8: Check for Leaks and Proper Operation
- Turn on the water and run through the disposal to check all connections for leaks.
- Tighten any loose drain connections.
- Plug in the disposal to the wall outlet and make sure the circuit power is turned on.
- Test operation of the garbage disposal by running it while flushing water and some organic material through the drain.