Construction Cleanup - Trash Talk

Doing construction cleanup yourself is one very smart way to save money when you build your own home. However, some homeowners are under the impression that this will be both a quick and effortless way to save cash - it's not. Construction trash is not like the month's worth of Taco Bell litter from your car - though I can pretty much guarantee there will be plenty of fast food wrappers and empty aluminum cans you will need to remove because of your sub-contractors.

A home under construction with all the materials and trash in the back yard.

What Not To Do

You need to know when I speak here, it's from experience: this picture is of my backyard. While we had done extensive remodeling before, it was the first time we tackled such a large construction project with so many sub-contractors. Everything that we paid to be done by others generated way more rubbish and scrap than we anticipated. I freely admit that part of the problem lay at my feet - I did not communicate with the workers or their supervisors how I wanted to construction cleanup handled. 

Additionally, I now know that general contractors frequently hire outside crews for construction cleanup. The subs know this and have a tendency to leave messes for someone else to cleanup. Since I was the only cleanup crew, it fell on me to pick up every evening after the subs left.  Every day there seemed to be more and more cleanup until eventually I couldn't handle it anymore. By the time it got completely out of control, the debris pile was even too big for my husband (who worked full time) to tackle on the weekend. I had to hire someone with a large dump truck to come rescue us at a cost of $400 a load - the very thing I was trying to avoid in the first place! Looking back what I should have done will hopefully help you to avoid the mess I found myself in - literally and figuratively.

The Right Way To Do Construction Cleanup

·       Pay for a dumpster – I didn’t. I honestly thought that since I owned a truck and a small trailer, I could save money by loading and hauling the construction debris to the county waste disposal site myself. I didn’t do my homework before, so I didn’t know the dump fees were over $100 a load up to 10,000 pounds (and then more for anything over that). So a small load in the back of my truck cost as much as using both my truck and trailer. Also, did I mention the dump was over 30 miles away and closed at noon on Saturday and wasn’t open on Sundays. I found these details out the hard way.

·       Specify in each sub-contractors contract EXACTLY what I expected of their crew every night. I should have detailed what “cleaning up after themselves” meant. For instance, our roofers dropped nails left and right onto the surrounding ground and never picked up a one! I think I should have held back final payments until each sub-contractor had cleaned up their mess.

·       Had a specific location for lunch trash. The subs tended to throw their leftovers, cans, bottles and bags onto the piles of lumber or concrete or siding or whatever! It made cleaning up the construction debris that much harder and way smellier.

·       Articulated what was debris and what wasn’t. It pained me to see them throw perfectly good construction supplies into the trash pile. For instance, when the drywalling crew left, they threw an almost full box of plastic corners out. I would have loved to recycle them through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Since I had already paid for the items they were throwing out, I would have liked to have found homes for the extra materials.

Bottom line here is: it's not always about saving a dollar if you end up having to spend two to do so.