Most kitchen garbage disposals are used daily, if not several times per day. With consistent use, they’re bound to eventually run into some sort of issue. Depending on what you put down the garbage disposal, the unit may withstand considerable abuse. So, when it almost inevitably breaks down, is it worth fixing?
We’re here to discuss leaking garbage disposals, in particular, so keep reading to learn more!
Is It Worth Fixing A Leaking Garbage Disposal?
Depending on the severity of the problem, fixing your garbage disposal may not be worth the effort. Considering the amount of time and effort coupled with the cost of materials, it may be better to purchase a new unit.
However, if the leak is minor or the unit is still under warranty, there’s no reason not to fix it. If you’re comfortable handling the repair yourself, you can save some money. Or, if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of plumbing, you might want to hire a plumber.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Leaking Garbage Disposal?
If you hire a plumber, it typically costs about $250 to repair a leaking garbage disposal, including labor. Usually, plumbers charge about $80 an hour for their services, but it ranges from one professional to the next.
Of course, the severity of the repair can affect the price you pay. For example, the total cost can range anywhere from $70 to $400. Considering the average garbage disposal can cost anywhere from $150 to $950, it might be better to simply replace the unit in some cases.
Can You Fix A Garbage Disposal Leaking From The Bottom?
The answer is yes and no. It makes more sense to simply replace the unit in some cases instead of pouring hundreds of dollars into a repair. In addition, the severity of the issue may impact the possibility of the repair.
Usually, when the garbage disposal leaks from the bottom, the seal is the problem. The disposal connects to the kitchen sink via a flange and seal. The seal may erode over time or even loosen due to repeated use and exposure to water. Or, a hard blow to the unit can break the seal between the flange, allowing a leak.
If you recently did plumbing work beneath the sink, there’s a possibility you may have accidentally bumped the unit, causing the issue. Or, if you were removing large items from their storage place in the cabinet under the sink, you might have bumped it then.
You may not notice the leak until there’s a pool of foul-smelling water or an annoying dripping sound. Perhaps you noticed it right away. Either way, you need to repair it once the leak is there.
How Do You Fix A Leaky Garbage Disposal?
Once the leak is there, you’ll create a mess every single time you use the kitchen sink. Given the integral role of a kitchen sink, you’ll probably want to tackle the problem right away. If you’re not comfortable handling the repair, it’s best to outsource the project to a knowledgeable individual.
If you decide to replace the unit altogether, the installation is typically straightforward. However, when the plumbing doesn’t line up with the replacement, the installation can be a bit more complicated.
Once you decide the best course of action, proceed with the proper measures. If you choose to repair the unit, here’s a quick guide on approaching the fix.
Find The Leak
If you haven’t already, you need to find the leak. Before you get started, unplug the unit at the wall outlet. Turn off the power at the breaker box to avoid any surprising electrical shocks. After the power is off, insert a watertight sink stopper into the sink drain.
Wipe the garbage disposal dry with a clean cloth. Mix a few drops of food coloring into a cup or so of water, then pour the water onto the sink stopper. Release the stopper, then head down beneath the sink to look for the leak.
There are three common areas where the leak may be:
- On the top, where the disposal meets the drain
- On the side, where the main pipe or dishwasher hose connects to the disposal
- On the bottom of the unit
Using the flashlight, look for wherever the colored water is leaking from. If you need to, mix a few more drops of food coloring into a few more cups of water, and check for the leak again. Leaks near the top of the unit typically appear when the sink is plugged, while side and bottom leaks are usually more prominent when the sink is unplugged.
Leaks From The Top
The correct repair process depends on the location of the leak. If it leaks from the top, you will need to re-seal and tighten the flange. This involves removing the garbage disposal to access the flange. Plumber’s putty acts as a seal, so when it deteriorates (or becomes loose), it can’t create a watertight seal.
To tackle this repair, here is what you’ll need:
- Putty knife
- Plumber’s putty
- Plumber's putty is used to create seals around faucets and drains. Gently ease the putty into a ring...
- Container Keeps Putty Soft for Prolonged Use
- Professional Grade for Setting Bowls, Faucets, Rims, Strainers
- Putty will not Crack, Crumble or Harden - Even if Container is Accidently Left Open
First, loosen the screws securing the main drain pipe to the disposal. Then, loosen the screws connecting the dishwasher hose to the disposal. Remove the drain pipe and hose from the disposal.
Next, loosen the screws in the mounting ring that joins the disposal to the metal mounting assembly. Remove the disposal, then set it aside. Using a wrench, loosen the bolts in the mounting assembly. Remove the assembly, then set it aside.
Remove the sink flange from the top of the sink. With that out of the way, use the putty knife to scrape away the old putty. Wipe away the residue with a damp rag.
Take a handful of new plumber’s putty, then form it into a “rope” about ⅛ inch wide. Make sure it’s long enough to cover the entire circumference of the sink flange. Wrap the putty around the flange, like a collar, then fit the flange into the drain opening until snug.
Retrace your steps, install the mounting assembly and mounting ring, and securely tighten the mounting bolts. Re-attach the garbage disposal, drain pipe, and dishwasher hose in the reverse order you detached them.
Once everything is in order, check your repair by running water. Watch for the leak while the water runs.
Leaks From The Side
If the leak is from the side of the disposal, a few things could be causing it. There are two drain lines extending from the side of the disposal: the dishwasher hose and the main drain pipe.
If the leak is where the disposal meets the dishwasher hose, the problem may lie with the metal clamp. In this case, you’ll need to tighten the screws in the metal clamp with a screwdriver.
On the other hand, if the leak is by the waste drain pipe, you need to check the rubber gasket. Loosen the screws securing the drainpipe to the disposal, then inspect the rubber gasket inside the pipe. If it’s worn out, you’ll need to replace it. Replace the gasket, then attach and tighten the drainpipe screws.
Test your fix by running water down the drain and watching for leaks.
Leaks From The Bottom
If the leak originates from the bottom of the disposal, there’s a good chance the interior shell of the unit is damaged. Usually, the leak will spring from the reset button. This is a typical indicator that at least one internal seal in the unit that protects the motor has deteriorated. Or, the shell itself may have cracked.
These faults allow water to seep into the shell of the disposal and escape out of the base of the unit. If the unit is older, there’s a good chance that the faulty seal isn’t isolated to a single part of the unit. Generally, the best bet, in this case, is to install a new one.
If you hire a professional to handle the repair, you could get it fixed. Or, you could purchase a new unit entirely. Ultimately, it’s up to you.