Has your old garbage disposal finally drawn its last breath? Or maybe you’re faced with the daunting task of installing one on your own for the first time. Whatever the case may be, there’s no reason to call in a pricy expert to do the work for you if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and sharpen your handyman skills. Naturally, nothing can be done without the proper tools, and the same goes for garbage disposal installations. This is why it is best to familiarize yourself with the toolset needed in order to be fully prepared once it is time to perform the installation.

Almost all older models are fastened to the sink using the 3-bolt mounting method. These are still very much alive and kicking today and are a popular option, but a second one, the EZ mount, is also gaining traction and has established itself as a worthy alternative. One of its bigger advantages is the fact that you don’t need any tool to install it onto your sink. This is fantastic news if you’re putting a brand-new unit under there for the first time as it cuts back on the overall number of tools you’ll need to use, but if this is to be a replacement for a 3-bolt model, the old mount will still need removing.

Essential tools

Whichever case you are dealing with, you can count on having to deal with some screws. A standard-sized Phillips-head screwdriver is an essential part of any respectful toolbox and should take care of all of your needs in that department.

A common mistake made by inexperienced handymen is forgetting to remove the knockout from the disposal. You’ll only need to do this if you’re planning on connecting a dishwasher to the disposal, but forgetting to do so can have serious consequences when the dishwasher starts running and spewing out dishwater every which way since it can’t get into the disposal. Luckily, the knockout will easily pop out after you apply a hammer to a screwdriver to that end.

If you’re satisfied with the way your old disposal worked, it is a smart idea to buy the exact same model again since this will save you from having to adjust the drain pipe. A different model will call for different drain pipe lengths. You can buy a garbage disposal installation kit with several pipe lengths and fittings  for a couple of dollars to solve this problem.

When installing a 3-bolt mount, the sink flange it comes with needs to be secured using a material referred to as plumber’s putty so that an air-tight seal forms between it and the sink, taking care of any potential leaks. Silicon is a more expensive but also more effective alternative to plumber’s putty; applying it decreases the odds of leakage quite a bit. The only drawback to choosing silicon is that it is much more of a hassle to remove it once it is old and hardened.

For some reason, a cord doesn’t come with most new disposals. Reusing the old one will probably work, but it’s better to err on the side of caution if you’re replacing a disposal which has been in use for quite some time, and buy a cord along with the new one. Hooking the cord up to your disposal will require some knowledge of electrical work, as well as some wire cutting pliers you’ll use to strip, cut and shape the wires so that they fit as intended.

Optional tools that make work easier

If the kitchen the disposal will be located in doesn’t have enough light, or if you’re performing the installation in the evening, a flashlight is handy to have at the ready. It will illuminate the inside of your sink and you can also use it to shed some light on a specific part you might have trouble with or trouble locating, like the 120-volt box from which some disposals get their power, which is usually located inside the sink cabinet.

Replacing an old unit will probably be a messy affair. There’s bound to be some water left over in the pipe connecting it to the dishwasher and sink, not to mention in the unit itself. If there’s enough room inside the cabinet, place a bucket underneath the pipes to take care of that. If not, you’ll need some rags that can soak up a lot of water.

When the disposal is hanging onto the mount and it’s time to tighten the seal separating it from the sink flange, there are a number of tools you can use to make this step faster and easier. Sticking with your wrists will get you only so far, given the uncomfortable position and construction of the seal, the last turn will require a bit more force. You could do this by using an Allen wrench or screwdriver as a pry bar on the bottom ring, but the safest and least damaging way is to use some medium-sized water pump pliers.

There are also specialized tools you can buy online which help with the annoying part of securing the snap ring in place. This part can cause the most frustration during the installation process, so if you feel like you need a separate tool to help you take care of it without a hitch, buying one is always an option.


Depending on the type of kitchen waste disposer you’re installing and how well-stocked your toolbox is, installing the new unit using a minimalist approach is a totally viable option. Even so, a prepared handyman hopes for the best and plans for the worst; you should count on something unexpected going wrong and have the tools at hand to deal with it. Going in prepared will save you from a lot of headache, and is sure to make the installation run smoothly. If you determine you prefer to have your garbage disposal professionally installed click here.

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