Plumbing contractors are one of the most sought-after in the USA. That is all because of the character of their work and the numerous potential problems that may occur from malfunctioning plumbing system. But except some specific and demanding works such as bathtub installation, drainage system repair and etc., there are some specific, yet very simple issues that usually require such professional help.
When it comes to kitchen works, one of the nastiest things to do is to remove the garbage and the food waste from the sink after you have finished washing the dishes. Of course you may decide to leave it all go down into the plumbing, but it will be soon enough when you will have to call for professional plumbing assistance in order to fix the clogged drains. As unpleasant as it is, this work should be taken care of and if you do not want to do it by hands, there is a simple solution that many people invest in – a garbage disposal unit.
How does garbage disposal work?
It is estimated that up to 20% of all the waste that a household produces is due to food scraps. These food scraps are often left to go down through the sink and in the plumbing which often creates further problems with their exploitation. Garbage disposal units are here to solve that. These little elements are installed under the sink, between its drain and trap. Usually, these units are electrically-powered and are intended to shred the food waste into small pieces. Most of the garbage disposal units shred the waste into pieces of 1.5 – 2 mm that are tiny enough to not lead to clogged drains or cause any other problems with the plumbing installation.
Invented more than 90 years ago, the garbage disposal units are now present in more than 50% of all households in the USA (according to data from 2009). Because of their functionality and the significant comfort that they provide, these elements are now sold as an essential component of every kitchen sink.
How does it work?
Garbage disposal units are usually powered by smallelwith high-torque (0.3 – 1 hp). The motor spins a cutting unit that is mounted above it with speed up 1500 – 2000 rpm and above. There are usually two types of motors – induction and universal ones. Depending on the type of kitchen sink, a different motor can be installed. Although it is a little bit louder, the universal type is usually the more popular solution as it is faster, lighter and with higher torque.
When it comes to the cutting unit, it is basically constructed by a metal plate where the food waste drops and one or two metal impellers (or discs) that are rotated at a very high speed. This is where the cutting part happens. The food waste is shred into tiny pieces until it is small enough to pass through the ring on the bottom of the food disposal unit. Most of these machines have also some rubber closure elements that are intended to hold the food waste down and prevent it from getting out of the disposal unit, as well as reduce some of the noise that is made.
Some garbage disposal units are powered not by electricity but by water. The running water creates pressure that generates motion and starts the shredding unit. All that happens due to the specific design and the installed oscillating piston. These disposal units are more effective when it comes to cutting fibrous food waste. Yet, they will need a little bit more time to handle most of the waste.
Types of garbage disposal units
Garbage disposal units are usually divided by the way they function. There are two main types – the continuous feed type and the batch feed type. The first ones require to be started before the food waste is dropped down inside. They are more common as well. The second type, the batch feed ones, require the food waste to be placed inside before they are started. This type is usually designed with a specific cover over their openings that requires to be twisted in order to align with the magnets that are placed inside the unit. The fact that the all the elements are covered makes the batch feed disposal units much more quiet. Due to that they are also way safer as they are covered during operation and there is no risk of cutting other objects that have fell down on mistake.
Garbage disposal cost
If your existing one has gone down or you are about to have your first disposal unit installed in your home, then in both cases you will end up choosing what model and type to buy. When it comes to making purchases for whatever kind of electronics it is, the first question that comes to mind is always – “How much does it cost?”.
The price of the disposal units can vary widely depending on their type, functionalities, power and etc. The most popular choices start from $80 and can go up to $300 per unit. For a budget like this, you can get a good disposal unit that will do fairly well for the long term. And when we are talking about long-term exploitation, you should know that a waste disposal unit priced in the lower range can last more than 10 years which is practically a very good investment (a basic calculation points out that your garbage disposal unit will cost you $5 per year on average for the whole period of its exploitation).
Bear in mind that most of the cheaper units come with a 1-year warranty. But there is always the case when you consider spending a little bit more in order to get something more advanced and from higher quality. So here comes the question: What disposal unit will you get if you end up spending more money? Most of the time, the answer is longer warranty, increased life expectancy, more power, less noise and etc. So, spending more on a disposal unit will basically get you a machine, equipped with components from higher quality, such as stainless steel blades and elements, dynamic (auto-reversing) starts, bigger and more powerful motors and other optimized functions and elements. If you wonder what will the effect of all this be, then you should know that having a more powerful unit will make you experience the need of cleaning the machine because of its jamming less often. That is all because of the more powerful motor’s ability to handle harder and more specific food wastes, that are often problematic for the cheaper models.
So basically, for a budget of $50, you will get a 1/2 hp motor with capacity that will most probably fit your household needs, but also a 1-year warranty.
If you decide to spend a little bit above $200, then you will get a disposal unit with a higher quality and a 3/4 hp motor, as well as grinding chamber from stainless steel and a 5-year warranty.
The choice is yours – whatever kind of solution you end up buying, you won’t be wrong. Low-class and high-end solutions will both do the job for you. It is all up to your budget and the needs of your household.
How to install garbage disposal
The installation process of these units most of the time can be handled DIY. Yet, it is always better to reach for professional assistance in order to avoid potential future problems with the functioning of the kitchen component. The most complicated aspect of the installation process is the integration of the garbage disposal unit within the existing plumbing system. All the links with the waste line, the dishwasher (if there is such), drain flange, mounting ring and so on and so forth should all be handled appropriately because of their systemic importance. If, for example, there is a leak somewhere along the whole system, this may result in significant harms for the disposal unit and your home as well.
The installation process gets even harder if you are about to install a disposal unit for the first time. That means you should take care of the wiring also. It is advisable for you to call for a professional to handle all the needed work accordingly in order for you to be sure about the final result. Even if you are replacing an existing garbage disposal unit, the wiring may still appear problematic. That is why you should not hesitate to seek a handyman to help you out.
When it comes to estimating the costs related to the garbage disposal installation, you should know that they depend on the type of the machine and where have you bought it from. Because of the fact that there are many professional plumbing service providers who are also sellers of garbage disposal units, they may provide you with a fixed price for the machine with the cost of installation included. Some plumbing service providers who sell garbage disposal units even provide free installation, which saves you some money to invest elsewhere. In fact, getting all the services and the product from one place is the most comfortable solution for you, as you will be able to handle everything at once. Moreover, you will get a certified warranty that will be issued and if a potential problem arises, it will be covered by the exact same experts.
If you buy your garbage disposal unit from a given shop and seek assistance from elsewhere for its installation, you will have to pay twice (and most of the time – a little bit more) – once for the unit itself and once for the installation services, depending on the work that they require.
Basically, the garbage disposal installation cost is, most of the time, calculated as a flat rate. Depending on the type of the disposal unit and the required work for its installation (whether some additional reconstruction or reshaping works in terms of wiring and plumbing will be needed), you should expect to be charged in the range of $70 to $150.
Garbage disposal repair
Garbage disposals are now an integral part of our kitchens. But no matter how good a garbage disposal works you may often face the need of garbage disposal repair. Drain blockages, cutting hard objects, wiring and electrical issues or just a broken component – there are a lot of problems that may force you to repair your garbage disposal unit. But not all of them can or should be tackled by homeowners themselves. It is always advisable to call professional plumbers even for the more common issues.
Replacing a failed disposal unit is also a very popular case. You may find it necessary to throw away your existing machine and replace it with a new one if a significant problem that costs a lot has occurred. One of the main reasons causing most of the major issues related to the garbage disposal units is its jamming. It happens when you have used your disposal unit for something that it cannot handle. Bear in mind that the list with the things that these machines can consume is not as big as you think. For example, soft and crisp foods are good, but when it comes to hard and stringy wastes, then the disposal unit may experience some significant problems. Eggshells, apple seeds, scouring pads, pop-tabs and so on and so forth – all these may make you face the need of garbage disposal repair services.
And even if you decide to fix your disposal unit instead of replacing it, you should bear in mind that at some point, these consistent repairs will finally turn out to be more expensive than buying a brand new one. Although most common problems will be fixable, there are some that will necessarily mean that investing in a new unit is what you have to do, such as damaged blades. For some of the models, they can be replaced, but for most of them it won’t be possible. And if your garbage disposal unit’s blades have dulled or got broken and cannot be replaced, then your only choice is to invest in a new machine. It is pretty much the same when it comes to garbage disposal leaking. If you notice a leak from the plumbing, then of course it can be repaired. But if the garbage disposal leaking comes from the body of the disposal unit, then you should brace yourself for buying a new one. Significant vibrations or shaking of the unit can also act as a sign for the need of a new unit, because most of the time, such problems are caused by breaks in the machine’s elements that cannot or aren’t wise to be fixed.
So, as you have already found out, there are often cases when your garbage disposal unit should be replaced. But this may often turn out to be a pretty daunting task due to all the electrical and water links that should be handled properly. If you have even small doubts about your abilities to deal with all that on your own, you should better go and seek professional help. Garbage disposal leaking is a very common result from inexperienced homeowners, handling their garbage disposal units’ installation or replacement. For the sake of saving some money and handling the work all by yourself, you may in fact, end up paying for professional assistance to handle the repair works and the things you couldn’t.
Bear in mind that even if you decide to handle the installation or replacement of your disposal unit on your own and the result seems satisfying – no leaks, malfunctions or visible problems, this may in fact change during its exploitation. Failed disposers do not often leak in the beginning when they are installed. They usually do that with the course of their exploitation. So if you handle the work by yourself and at the end all seems good, do not put it off and just remember having one in mind that future issues may appear.
How to unclog garbage disposal on your own?
Some of the problems related to garbage disposal units can be handled on your own, without the need of professional assistance. This is the case when your disposal unit clogs. The reasons for this type of problems can be more than one. For example, if you start your disposal unit without ensuring that there is enough running water, then you are certainly going to clog it. Another reason for such problems is the granular mass that forms from various hard food wastes such as egg shells, coffee beans, as well as banana and potato peels and etc.
If you ensure the proper maintenance and exploitation of your disposal unit, you should not expect any clogs. Nevertheless, if you face such problem, then do not hurry to call for professional help. These problems are not so hard to fix by a DIY enthusiast. Here are the simple steps that you should follow in order to unclog your disposal unit all by your own:
- First of all, disconnect the disposal unit from the power supply socket.
- Take a bucket and place it underneath the disposal’s drain trap. By using channel-type plies, you should carefully disconnect the slip-nut fittings that are located on the drain trap. After that you should remove the trap itself. Some water may spill out, but it is absolutely normal. That is why you need the bucket.
- Carefully check for clogs in the trap fitting. Make sure to check thoroughly the sharp bend first because this is the place where clogs occur more often. By using a scrub brush, you should remove all the debris and waste.
- If you do not find the clog to be in the trap, then the problem may be laid in the drain arm that connects to the pipe that is going in the wall. If the problem is laid there, you should use a sink auger to remove the debris.
- Finally make sure to reassemble the drain fittings and slowly run the water in order to flush any debris that may be left.
How to clean a garbage disposal unit?
There are some useful tips that can be considered when it comes to garbage disposal cleaning. They require typical household items and will make sure that you keep your disposal away from clogs for the long term.
Here is a list of garbage disposal cleaner substances and cleaning process:
Baking soda and vinegar
A very popular way for cleaning is pouring ½ cup of baking soda into the disposal unit and slowly adding ½ cup of vinegar. You leave it for few minutes and after the fizzing of the soda has stopped, you should turn the hot water on while running the garbage disposal. That way, using a basic chemical reaction, you will make sure that all your waste is eliminated and the seamless exploitation of your garbage disposal unit is ensured.
Ice and vinegar
Another popular solution is the mix of ice and vinegar. By filling the disposal unit with ice cubes and pouring a cup of vinegar inside will also lead to a chemical reaction. After you run the water for no more than a minute, the ice will scrape all the inside components of the disposal, resulting in dislodging of any wasteful buildups.
Aside from all these methods, the best way to clean your garbage disposal unit is by using just water and a toothbrush. Ensuring plenty of water running down the drain will remove any potential food waste that was left lingering. By using a toothbrush, dipped in some kind of antibacterial detergent, you should carefully scrub the disposal unit components that are visible. That way you will remove any bacteria and food waste that may lead to bad smell and worsen the exploitation characteristics of the disposal unit.
Garbage disposal repair cost estimation
When it comes to calculating the costs for a garbage disposal units’ repair, then things are very specific and it is hard to provide an exact estimation for the budget that you will need to set aside. That is all because of the fact that different models have different parts that are not compatible with each other. Aside from that, it may often be hard for you to find the necessary parts for replacing those which have gone down. That makes the process of buying a new garbage disposal unit the more popular and preferred solution among most homeowners. Nevertheless, in the following table, you will find an approximate cost estimation for garbage disposal units’ price, as well as the cost for their installation and repair:
|Garbage disposal unit||3/4 HP garbage disposal unit with a 5-year limited warranty||$180 - $280
|Labor (if not included)||Connecting to existing sink drains and existing wiring. Checking and fixing leaks (if any). Includes also verification of the final result and the seamless operation of the unit and cleanup (approximately 2-3 hours).||$70 - $150
|Accessories (if needed)||If any other tools and materials are needed, depending on the site conditions (fittings, connectors and etc.)||$15 - $30
|Total Cost||$265 - $460
Some contractors may decide to charge you to remove a garbage disposal unit, although most of them will consider it as a typical part of the working process. If in your case, if you are charged fr the service of removing a garbage disposal unit, you should expect additional costs of $20 to $60.
If you are about to install your new garbage disposal unit and there is no existing outlet to power it up, you should expect to be charged for this. Adding a new outlet will cost you anywhere in the range of $40 to $90.
So, the final estimation points out that for no more than $500, you can buy a high-end garbage disposal unit with 5 years of warranty and have it installed. Considering the fact that most of these machines have life expectancy of 10 years and above, only points out how reasonable such investment is for your household.
What questions to ask your professional service provider?
Maybe you remember how uncompromising and effective your garbage disposal unit was when you used it for the first time. Unfortunately, as time goes, these small kitchen assistants usually start lacking that effectiveness and start showing first signs of overuse. This is the exact moment when you should act and seek a suitable solution. Often, the garbage disposal units require to be replaced or repaired. So there is a big chance that you will end up discussing this matter with a professional service provider in order to find the best option for you – whether it is worth repairing the existing, or it is better buying a new one.
Usually, when it comes to these problems, it is always better to do a research about a good whole range service provider around you. Garbage disposal issues are basically handled by plumbing contractors. These companies usually have and electricians who will take care of the wiring part. But how to find the most suitable contractor to handle your project? Sometimes, a simple research is not enough. So here is a quick list with some important questions to ask your professional service provider:
1) Ask how much it will cost.
This will most probably be your first question. And it is completely understandable as garbage disposal units are usually not so expensive gadgets that people often prefer replacing instead of repairing. Even though the life expectancy of an average garbage disposal unit is approximately 10 years, there are cases when the kitchen assistants break down way too soon. If that happens to you, you should ask the professional service provider about his opinion – whether it is reasonable for you to pay for repair or it is better to buy a new one and have it installed.
Most of the time, if the cost of the needed repair works exceeds 50% of the value of the garbage disposal unit, you will be advised to buy a new one. If the given contractor is also a seller of such products, you will most probably receive some additional discount or free installation which will completely make the process of buying a new unit way better choice. So, before deciding how to proceed, make sure to ask for cost estimation and professional advice what will be the best way to handle your situation.
2) Ask whether the contractor is licensed.
You may wonder why would this matter at all as the garbage disposal installation and repair is not a very complex task as the installation of a bath tub for example. In fact, it is true that the problems related to garbage disposal units are not so hard-to-handle even by a DIY enthusiast. But if you decide to do something, either do it professional or do not start it at all. So it is all about the quality of the work that you will receive for your money. By hiring licensed professionals, you pay for plumbing contractor’s services that are practically backed by a local or state governing organization. For example – for a professional plumber to be licensed and to retain its credentials through the years, he is required to take annual tests for re-certification. That way, the authority that issues the license makes sure that the given professionals are following the current trends and keep up with the existing building codes.
If you still think that you do not need a licensed professional for such a small work like the garbage disposal installation or repair, then you should bear in mind that although a non-licensed one may handle the work successfully and solve your problem for now, there is no guarantee that a problem won’t appear in the near future. If such thing happens, then it will be very difficult for you to request the unlicensed professional to deal with it under the terms of some warranty. So hiring non-licensed contractors in order to save some money is rarely your best choice if you want to ensure the problem-free exploitation of your garbage disposal unit.
3) Ask whether the service provider is insured.
Aside from having a license, a plumbing contractor should also have a valid insurance too. That insurance is a guarantee that if there are any accidents during the work process in your home, you won’t be having to deal with them. Although it is very rare situation when a garbage disposal installation process ends up with a problem or even an injury, it is always good to know that the professionals working on your project are insured.
The insurance should be issued to the given experts (plumbers, electricians and etc.) who will work at your home. A common scenario is that the contractor or the company is insured but the individuals are not. So that is another thing to look after before hiring a given professional service provider.
4) Ask about the warranty of the delivered work and its terms.
Most of the professional service providers will cover their electrical or plumbing works with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. That basically means that you won’t be paying anything if you are not happy with the final result (in this case – having a seamlessly working garbage disposal unit). Even more – if a problem occurs, then you will be able to call the company and request for them to do everything needed to make it up for you. And that is what most of the professional and reputed service providers do. So be willing to find the answer of this question right before you choose whether to hire given professionals. Bear in mind that plumbing works, no matter how simple they are, may often result into annoying consequences such as leaks, malfunctions, mold and mildew formation and etc.
5) Ask whether the service provider offers 24/7 emergency assistance.
Although often underestimated, such options are very important. When it comes to water-related problems such as garbage disposal leaking, the emergency assistance service is something that should be on your mind. Imagine that you wake up in the middle of the night by the sound of water drops. Depending on the type of the problem that may be causing them, you may or may not be able to handle it by yourself. For example, if a given link coming out you’re your garbage disposal unit starts leaking, then it won’t be hard for you to fix it. But if, for example, your sink starts overflowing, then you will need some professional assistance in order to prevent further damage. Because of the nature of such problems, they may require some major plumbing works which are often hard-to-handle by the homeowner himself. That is why it is always good to know that your service provider will be able to react in case some sudden problems arise in the middle of the night.
6) Ask about advice for the appropriate exploitation of your garbage disposal unit.
A professional service provider will always be willing to share his knowledge about the way these machines should be maintained. Depending on the type and the model of your garbage disposal unit, there may be some specific information about its operation and functionality that you may not be aware of. For example, after your problem is found, you should be willing to understand the possible ways to avoid it in the future. You should also ask how to ensure the appropriate cleaning and maintenance of your machine in order to preserve it for the long term.
7) Ask about the working hours.
Garbage disposal installation and repair works always require an in-home visit. That is why you should find a professional service provider who has flexible business hours. If you work from 9 to 5 and so does the plumbing company, then you won’t have your garbage disposal unit fixed anytime soon. Nevertheless, the established and experienced companies often work until the late hours or even 24/7, so that they will be able to react whenever you are home.
8) Ask who will take care of the cleaning after the work is completed.
Although there won’t be so much to clean, this question is more about understanding the attitude of the given expert. Every established service provider takes care of the area where they work and will always leave it in the way they have found it. During any kind of plumbing works there usually are small leaks, puddles and dirt (coming from the plumbing system) around the area. Although it is just a matter of few minutes to get it cleaned up, this is an obligation of the plumbing contractor. Asking this question will help you find out how well does the given company treats its clients. Moreover, you will understand whether the contractor respects the job he does and whether his aim is to leave you satisfied. If that is the case, then you should be confident that you have found professionals who will deal with your problems with respectful attitude and will be there for you when you need them.
It is always good to know how to use your garbage disposal unit effectively, in order to ensure its problem-free exploitation for the long term. Here are some useful tips to help you achieve that easier:
On garbage disposal cleaning and maintenance. Waste disposal units are prone to jamming if there is no appropriate maintenance. Bear in mind to avoid shredding fibrous food such as starchy, artichoke (leaves), potato peelings and etc. Because of their fibers, cutting such foods often leads to drain blockages. Avoiding them will ensure the long-term exploitation of your whole drainage system, as well as the disposal unit itself. A basic rule of thumb is that you start running water before turning the disposal on. After that, you should wait for it to clean and shred all food waste that can be seen and stop the water just after it has done so.
Bear in mind to stop the water flow after you have turned off your disposal unit. It is also important to ensure the proper periodical cleaning of the disposal components. Removing the waste that is left every once in a while is essential in order to avoid potential operation problems.
Unfortunately, problems with the garbage disposal units often result into having bad smell around the room. There are often those moments when it appears that you have cleaned everything perfectly, but the machine still refuses to start working and there is that bad smell coming out from your kitchen sink. If that is the case with you, then you should better call for professional assistance. The reasons for the problem may be rooted somewhere in the plumbing system which is not a simple task to be handled on your own.
On proper usage. Do not assume your garbage disposal unit as a black hole. Remember that it can’t swallow and shred everything you leave in your dishes and the sink. Garbage disposal units have some functional limits that should be taken in mind if you want to preserve the life of your kitchen assistant in the long-term. Bear in mind that the majority of the problems with these machines are related to their misuse. That is why it is always good to throw as much excess food waste as you can into the trash, before leaving it into the sink. Be careful for the type of food that you throw down. For example, dropping grease, long-fibrous and starchy foods, as well as animal bones or other similar hard objects down the drain, may very well result into a damaged garbage disposal unit. Most of these foods will jam the mechanism and probably result into burned out motor.
Grease for example, wont’ harm your disposal unit, but will cause further problems within the plumbing and the drain system because of the fact that it congeals when its temperature drops. And having a hard object within your drainage system will most probably result into blocking the water flow and leading to some overflowing problems with your sink.
On buying a new garbage disposal unit or repairing the existing one. This will most probably be the first thing that you and your professional service provider will discuss. Basically, most of the time when a problem with your disposal unit appears, you will be advised to buy a new one. But it all depends on the type of the problem. There are of course cases when the repair works are worth it. Experts suggest that if you experience some of the following problems, it may be a sign that you need to buy a new garbage disposal unit:
- turned on, but only makes a strange, humming sound;
- doesn’t start at all;
- isn’t able to clean the food waste efficiently;
But do not rush your decision. First of all, discuss the problem with a professional, let him take a look and then decide how to proceed. Buying a new garbage disposal unit is often considered as a good choice because of their low prices. For as much as $300, you can have the best models out there which is an affordable price for most of the households.
All these tips have the same goal – to help you preserve your garbage disposal unit for as long as possible and at the same time to reduce the need for repair services. Nevertheless, when the need of some repair works occurs, do your research and find a suitable service provider to take care of it.
Working with a trusted and experienced professional is always your best choice as you will be receiving the highest quality services worth your money.