Replacing leaky sink garbage disposal against code?

32 Replies

@Zee Ayezain

Garbage disposals only lead to headaches. They get clogged, they smell, they leak. Against code to not have one?! I don’t know DC but I know codes reasonably well, and I’ve never heard of this one.

I’d probably charge you about $2-250 to remove, re-plumb, blank plates on switch/outlet under sink or put the wire in a J box under the sink. Add travel time from PA, and you’d be around a $1000 ;)

Originally posted by @Zee Ayezain :

 Thanks Mary, so you keep the garbage disposal but add a basket strainer effectively eliminated the option of having something go down the drain into the disposal 

I am not sure about my tenants, but at my house it keeps things like pennines and other metal objects from accidentally falling down the drain - but when I want to wash something down the drain i lift the basket out.  

Also if the disposal is needed for the DW, then it is there for that purpose.   but admittedly, I prefer not to toss everything down a drain soooo ? 

Originally posted by @Jim K. :
Originally posted by @Steve Vaughan:

I used to remove and rebuild the drain, add basket, etc.   Takes a knuckle-busting while plus parts and I don't charge myself $100/hr. 

Then I started replacing them with Costco 1-1.25hp fatties.  $85-$100 and 10 minutes if the old one wasn't hard wired. 

There's a neat trick you can do with the InSinkErator Badgers if you're self-managing your rentals and handling basic maintenance. These things usually go one sale once a year or so for $99 at HD or Lowes. They're pretty well-made and install easily and securely.

When the Badgers clog up, they have a socket on the bottom that you can use a quarter-inch Allen wrench/hex key on to try to get them free. So in something like an SFR situation, you show the most responsible of the tenants how to use the socket and you leave a hex key there. InSinkErator actually sells a really cheap 1/4 in Allen wrench they call a "Jam-Buster." Sounds impressive enough...

While the tenant will be able to use the hex key to get out their first one or two grease jams (after which they become properly receptive to your teaching them about not pouring hot grease into their disposals), the Allen wrench is way too weak to do real damage to the disposal. The wrench will deform in the tenant's hand. So in the event that the clog is bad enough, the tenant will damage the key and call you. You show up with your real garbage disposal wrench, free up the clog, scold them about the grease, and you're the hero of the hour.

It really cuts down on the maintenance calls over the long haul.

Good point about unjamming. In a pinch I've got it to turn with a fat Phillips. 

There's also a little red reset button down there.  The OP mentioned leaking so I didn't suggest these methods,  but good to mention them👍 

Originally posted by @Jim K. :

@Zee Ayezain

I know squat about Washington DC code, but I know a bit about plumbers. Very theoretically, you may be required to have a garbage disposal in a rental. Only slightly less theoretically, monkeys might fly out one of my orifices in the next five minutes.

So this sounds like an exercise in poor communication.

Did you simply tell him to take out the garbage disposal? He may believe that you implied that he should leave an empty hole at the bottom of the sink. No, of course he can't do that, and yes, it is against code. He'll have to install a basket strainer and redo the drainage plumbing. This will cost money and require parts.

wow , that was a great observation man... 


Plumber does not want to change the disposal.  There is so little inside a home that you cannot have repaired without permits or code upgrading.

I would reconsider your desire to omit the garbage disposal because you don't want to deal with them anymore.

Losing the disposal diminishes the value of the kitchen for one. Removing a disposal from a family that has been used to a disposal can lead you to even more costly plumbing issues as they stuff food and junk down the new drain, plugging up the pipes.

We are habitual animals. Your tenants will forget that the disposal is gone. At first, they may get away with food down the drain, as the drains are clear.  The expense of having your plumber snake out a kitchen drain after a clog will not be less than replacing and possibly upgrading the disposal.

I am the guy that does these jobs on my properties. I tell people that I am lazy and cheap! I hate work, so I try to make it so my repairs fix an issue so I need not return for the issue again. The cheap guy on me makes me buy better appliances and materials that make my repairs as few as possible!

Because this plumber is not aware of building codes and seems a bit hesitant to do the work, I would replace him.

Under the sink can be a lot of work. More work when it's not inspected properly. I usually have a GFCI outlet installed under the sink to feed the disposal and dishwasher. This makes them both appliances like a toaster. Plug and play is always better than hard wiring.

It's not cheap to buy the disposal, but replacement is not so hard. I have replaced a few, but they were pretty old. I have never replaced them newer than 6 years old, and with disposals, I never have kitchen sink issues. 

Well, there's my two cents!  Good luck.

From my experience, (may vary by locality) the absence of the disposal is not the code issue. It more has to deal with if there was a disposal when the lease was signed, then the disposal has to be installed and maintained in the same or better condition through the entire occupancy.

By the same logic, you wouldn't be able to remove their dishwasher or a ceiling fan in the middle of the lease just because it was a headache. 

I also vote for leaving the disposal, give your tenants the wrench that comes with it and take your convenient time if you have to continuously show up to fix it. If they're going to use the sink drain as a bottomless pit anyhow, might as well have a grinder at the bottom!

International Code Council (.org?) 2018 International Property Maintenance code. $200 book that states the basic standards for up to 3 story rental homes. Well worth it for dealing with the regulators. 

Hope that helps somewhere out there!

The DW pipes into the drain after the disposal.

The DW water does not drain through the disposal, so there is no real need for the disposal.

Here, they require an air gap for the DW, and it has to have it's own electric circuit.

Changing a dead disposal is dead simple though. I would not bother with a permit.