Construction Waste Removal in Urban Environments

As a remodeling contractor working in the Greater Boston area, I learned early to get creative with construction waste removal. For contractors, disposal is far too often an overlooked item on bids, and can end up cutting into our bottom lines when changes in scope push the schedule of a project or we underestimate the quantity of debris. Working in an urban environment creates a unique challenge in that we don’t often have a secure location for even a small 6 yard dumpster. Here are a few ideas and tips that have worked for me in the past.

Tips for Demolition

Working intelligently during the demolition on a project and ongoing debris maintenance will help to simplify and organize the process of construction waste removal and reduce headaches.

 

  • Make a plan of attack. Will you remove the trash through a window, stairs, or elevator?
  • Create a staging area for all the debris that is convenient to the stairs or window.
  • Bag all the debris with strong contractor bags and keep the weight manageable. Remember you and your crew will have to hump these down the stairs or drop them from a window.
  • Always follow OSHA guidelines when removing waste through a window.
  • Trash chutes can be rented or built from a few garbage cans or sonotubes and a length of rope or chain.
  • Or try this flexible trashchute
  • Whether you are using a dumpster rental service or not, make sure you follow the guidelines set by the renter, hauler, or transfer station regarding LEED, concrete, appliance, or hazardous waste disposal.

 

Keeping all the trash neatly organized and in a convenient area will streamline the removal process whether it will be done by your crew or subcontractors.

 

Where Do I Put the Dumpster?

On a lot of our jobs in the city we simply don’t have the space for a dumpster, but there are plenty of solutions out there to help you keep the job moving.

 

 

  • Buy or Rent a Small Dump Truck

 

We are lucky enough to own a small dump truck that we use for most of our remodeling work. It’s a basically 10 yard dumpster on wheels; we can bring it to the site when we need it and take it away when we don’t. It’s also very handy for loading tools, equipment, and materials in and out of jobs. On some of our jobs we can pull the truck right up to a window and dump the waste directly. On larger demo jobs, I will bring in extra laborers so we can quickly load the truck and get multiple loads in one day.

We purchased our truck used for a great price, but even if you don’t have the capital for this expenditure, dump trucks and cargo vans can be rented by the hour, day, or week from many vendors. Even a DIY moving truck rental can be a great option, but I prefer the top loading dump truck, especially since it can be dumped rather than hand unloaded. As with any rental service make sure you are not violating any of their terms of use by hauling prohibited items.

 

Pros:

  • No CDL required in most jurisdictions
  • Since you control the truck, you can keep an eye on your costs
  • Load at your own pace.

Cons:

  • A smaller truck means more trips to yard. Trips = time, time = money
  • You may lose time dealing with a rental
  • If you own the vehicle, you’ll pay for insurance, maintenance, and registration
  • Some transfer stations charge a minimum, which you may not reach in a smaller vehicle, so maximize your truck’s capacity by loading efficiently. (We like to use doors and sheet goods to extend the height and capacity of our truck’s bed.)
  • Pickup trucks, vans and box trucks must be hand unloaded.

 

 

  • Hire a Construction Waste Removal Service

 

 

In our city there are quite a few companies that specialize in removing trash from job sites and junk removal. They show up with a truck and 4-5 laborers who quickly load the truck and head off to dump it. They provide the labor and disposal, but you’ll pay a premium for subcontracting it. If you can’t get your hand on the labor or need to move on to start another project, this might be a great option for you.

 

Pros:

  • You can focus on what you do best, and leave this unpleasant task to someone else. Just write the check!

Cons:

  • You’re paying markup on someone else’s labor and cutting into your bottom line.

 

 

  • Get Creative, Talk to a Local Hauler

 

 

On one recent condo renovation project, we had to remove a lot of debris quickly, and my small dump truck wasn’t cutting it. I called a local hauler with a plan. He pulled up with his roll off truck and backed the 20 yard dumpster right underneath a sliding door that overhung the parking lot. I had 5 guys on site that day, and the six of us filled the dumpster in 30 minutes, and the hauler was off to dump. The arrangement worked great for him because his total time involved was less than a typical pick up and drop off.

In another instance with the same hauler, the neighbor allowed us to use his parking spot while he was at work. The hauler agreed to drop off at 9 am and pick up 3 pm. You may have to pay a slight premium for this, but our guy didn’t upcharge because we are a repeat customer.

These examples might not work for every scenario, but getting to know a local hauler who might be willing to go off script to you out in a pinch is a no-brainer. If you’re looking for construction waste removal or dumpster rental in the Pittsburgh area, check out this new tool called Dumpster Market for finding the best local haulers in the marketplace.  You can compare options from 10 different local hauling companies the same way you would with hotels at Hotels.com or Trivago.  

 

Pros:

  • With a larger dumpster, you’ll remove a lot of construction waste quickly and skip the minimum tonnage fee charged by many transfer stations.
  • Using your own labor to fill a subcontractors truck will save you money, while you still benefit from his larger capacity.

 

Cons:

  • You’ll have to spend some time finding the right hauler, as not everyone will be willing to get creative with you.

 

 

  • Rent a Parking Space from the City or from a Private Party

 

 

In some situations, you may be able to rent a parking space from someone in the building you are working in or one that is adjoining. Most municipalities will also give you a dumpster permit to park on the street, for a fee of course. Having a full size dumpster at the job site is always preferable, but in some situations the above solutions may be better.

 

Pros:

  • Access to a large convenient dumpster is always a plus
  • A permanent job site dumpster means you won’t have to worry about working to a disposal schedule, and can do clean outs as you see fit.
  • Your subcontractors will appreciate it, and it makes it easier for them to help keep the site clean–which is always a priority in kitchen and bathroom remodels.

Cons:

  • It may not be conveniently located to the jobsite
  • You’ll pay monthly rent or a recurring municipal fee.
  • An open dumpster is an invitation to the neighborhood: “Hey throw your junk in me!” You’ll have to tarp over the dumpster and put a lock and chain on it to prevent industrious neighbors from filling it up with their unwanted furnishings and hazardous waste.
  • Cost overruns!!! If the job runs longer than expected or there are delays, you’ll still have to pay to keep the dumpster there.
  • Renting from a neighbor may create an unpleasant hassle–depending on the neighbor…

 

Conclusion

As contractors it is our job to get the job done safely, quickly, and to the highest standards possible. We want to save our customers money, and also make a good profit for ourselves. Though often overlooked, waste disposal is an area where we can use new ideas and innovations to continually refine and streamline our processes, ultimately improving our workflow and bulking up our bottom lines.  If you’re new to all of this, check out this guide to sustainable management of construction and demolition materials from the EPA.

-Patrick Mulroy owns ReModern Builders LLC, a Boston-based home remodeling company.

 

 

One thought on “Construction Waste Removal in Urban Environments

  1. I had a big workshop built in my back yard, but now I have a bunch of extra materials laying around that I don’t know what to do with. It makes sense that having a junk removal company take care of it would be a good idea! That way I can ensure that it gets taken care of properly.

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