Hot Topics: How to Abandon this Switch

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Sometimes an upgrade means taking out a piece of old tech rather than installing new. More and more people are abandoning their garbage disposals, in favor of composting their kitchen scraps. But when you take out the disposal, you still have the live wiring in the wall. What do you do with it? You ask the Forum.

Original Post: Terminating/Abandoning Romex in Junction Box

Marcus305 Member

I'm new to these boards and want to make sure that I will be handling the following correctly...

I will be removing a hard-wired garbage disposal from underneath my kitchen sink and replacing it with a regular sink drain. Therefore, I will have a hot romex wire remaining under my sink (although it will still be connected to a wall switch). I cannot turn off the breaker or remove the wire from the panel because it also supplies power to the light over my sink (which I need).

It is my understanding that the "proper" (aka code) way of abandoning the romex wire is to connect it to a 4x4 metal junction box that I will attach to the side of my sink cabinet. Inside the junction box I will (1) cap the black wire with a wire nut, (2) cap the white wire with a wire nut, and (3) connect the ground wire to a green screw attached to the junction box. I will then put a cover on the metal box.

Is this correct? Anything that I should do differently? Can I go with a smaller metal junction box? Thank you very much - - I really appreciate the help.

Highlights from the Thread

PJmax Forum Topic Moderator

Welcome to the forums.

You have the right idea. It's good to just cap off the wiring as opposed to removing it as it could be re-used in the future. You can get a handy or utility box and blank to that job. They measure 2x3 and are perfect for that job.

Utility box

ray2047 Group Moderator

No requirement for anything larger than a single gang box and that box could be an old work box set flush to the wall but when you write, “I cannot turn off the breaker or remove the wire from the panel because it also supplies power to the light over my sink (which I need).”

I'm not sure you are correct. Why can't you disconnect it at the switch box, cut it as short as possible and shove it out of the box and into the wall? What is the wiring at the switch? Is that where power for the light comes in?

Marcus305 Member

I did not want to cut the wire that is currently going to the garbage disposal because I (or whomever might purchase my house) may want to put a new disposal in sometime down the road. Also, my comfort level with electricity is very low, so I also thought that capping the abandoned romex in a junction box would be easier and safer than my trying to disconnect the wire at the switch.

The light and garbage disposal are connected to a double switch on the wall. I do not think anything else is on this circuit, but I have not tested it.

I'm just trying to address the abandoned romex as easily and safely as possible. I figure that as long as the switch is off, the abandoned romex should be a non-issue anyway. Nevertheless, I want to abandon it correctly,

pcboss Forum Topic Moderator

Your plan is fine and reasonable for any future owners.

All answers based on National Codes. Please check with your local building departments for local amendments.

Gunguy45 Super Moderator

Label the box if you really want to help out. Nothing like moving somewhere and finding a mystery switch.

Marcus305 Member

Thanks everyone for your responses. I'd like to highlight something just to make sure it is not being overlooked. The wires that I am planning to cap in a handy box (which are currently connected to my garbage disposal) are on the same circuit as an overhead light that I still use. The light and garbage disposal are connected to separate single pole switches, and both switches are located in the same box.

Here’s my follow-up question: If I cap the wires that are currently going to my garbage disposal, will doing so cause a short or other potential problem because the circuit is no longer complete? It seems to me that capping the wires (so that the ends of the black and white wires have wire nuts but are not connected to anything else) might break the circuit (?) As you can see, my understanding of electricity/circuits is rudimentary at best, so please excuse my ignorance.

Thanks again.

Gunguy45 Super Moderator

Think of it this way... when the disposer is off, does the light work? I'm sure it does. All you are doing is basically turning the disposer off permanently.

Looking in the back of your picture... I see 3 whites tied together? Bet there is also a nut with one black coming from outside the box and 2 blacks leading to each of the switches?

Likely the feed has been brought in, then split to feed each switch.

No problem... cap 'em!

ray2047 Group Moderator

“If I cap the wires that are currently going to my garbage disposal, will doing so cause a short?”

A short is the accidental connection of both sides of a feed to each other. As long as you don't connect them together there can't be a short.

Marcus305 Member

Thanks everyone for your very prompt responses. I really do appreciate all of the help.

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