Life Begins at Forty Something: Goodbye Trash Compactor! The

Removing a trash Compactor

Trash Removal / August 8, 2019

Trash compactors are free-standing appliances.Trash compactors are free-standing appliances.

A trash compactor seemed like a good idea at the time. But after a few years, you got tired of the noise, or the machine failed completely. So you've finally decided it's time to move on, get back to basics and remove that dinosaur. Most compactors are free-standing and easy to remove. The problem is that it leaves a hole, or void. Not to worry. You have options for the resulting space

Dimensions and Fillers

Trash compactors come in three different widths: 12-, 15- and 18-inch, with the 15-inch the most widely used. If you have custom cabinets, chances are that the compactor opening was custom-made, and the sides of the opening are part of the adjoining face frames on each side of the compactor. If you have modular cabinets, or your compactor was installed after the fact, the sides of the opening may or may not have fillers that are removable. If there are screw holes on the cabinet face frames on each side of the opening, use a drill/driver to remove them, and the fillers will drop off to open the void a few more inches. You may be able to gain up to 6 inches or more in width. Typical trash compactors slide under the countertop without interfering with it.


Because most trash compactors are free-standing, when you remove them, there's no cabinet base and you're looking down at the floor covering. To properly fill the void, make a small toe-kick base just like your existing cabinets. The toe-kick is the 3-by-3-inch notch around the perimeter of the cabinets at the bottom. Cut four pieces of 3/4-by-3-inch pine and nail together a rectangular frame that fits on the floor inside the void. Cut and nail a piece of 3/4-inch particleboard or plywood to the top of the toe-kick base to serve as the bottom shelf. Open the doors on your other cabinets and use their toe-kick base dimensions for reference if you get confused. The only measurement that's important is the depth of the toe-kick base, meaning that the front of the base should flush with the front of the bases on both sides.


Once your toe-kick base is in place, install a door on the opening. Measure the length and width of the opening and add 1 1/2-inches to both measurements. This means that the door will be 3/4 inch bigger than the opening on all four sides. Order or build a door to the measurements, taking special care to order the door according to how it's hinged. Some doors have special edges and special hinges. They're nothing fancy, but in order for your door to match the existing doors, get the right edge and hinge on the door. After the door is finished to match your existing cabinets, hang it on the opening. You now have a single opening with a door. It's large enough to accommodate a plastic trash can that you can move out or in whenever it's full. Or you can use the space for larger objects such as tall bags of dried goods or even tools.