A garbage disposal in a kitchen makes cleanup after meal preparation a lot easier — until the disposal stops working properly or the kitchen sink drain clogs with food that has not been ground up well enough to pass through. Kenny Lowenthal, who owns Major Appliance Repair in the Jacksonville, Florida, area, and Ben Goheen, owner of Precision Plumbing in Winder, Georgia, near Atlanta, frequently encounter disposals that are too old or damaged to be repaired. Replacing a garbage disposal can cost $185-$500, depending on the make, model and horsepower the customer selects.
If the disposal’s blades won’t turn when you switch it on, it may be jammed — the blades are stuck because a bottle cap, coin, piece of glass, chicken bone or other object too hard for them to break up has fallen into the disposal. To clear the jam, turn off the disposal and the water and use a flashlight and tongs (not your hands!) to remove the object causing the problem. Once the object has been safely removed, the disposal must be reset. Most disposals made in the last 5 years are equipped with a reset button, typically a red button located underneath the unit that will stick up when triggered and must be pushed down to reset the disposal. Older models may require an allen wrench to reset after a jam. When in doubt, get expert help; Lowenthal of Major Appliance Repair and Goheen of Precision Plumbing have both talked customers through the process of clearing a jam and resetting a disposal over the phone.
Another possible problem that can occur in old or lower-quality disposals is corrosion and leaks. Experts say the best option in this case is usually to replace it with a new unit.
If you also experience a stubborn clogged kitchen sink drain along with disposal problems, it’s a good idea to call a plumber like Goheen who can take care of both issues. Clearing a clogged drain may ultimately be the larger problem and can cost $150-$200 on its own.
The total cost to replace a garbage disposal depends primarily on the model you choose to have installed. Most qualified contractors or handymen can install a new disposal in about an hour, provided they have easy access to the area under the sink. Goheen charges $250 to install a new builder-grade disposal. Choosing a higher-end model might push the cost up to $400-$500. Lowenthal’s customers usually purchase the disposal of their choice at a home improvement store, and he will install it for about $85.