How can my builder minimize waste on my remodel?


How can my builder minimize waste on my remodel?

Asked by Linus Murphy


Martin Grohman's picture

You'd be surprised what a high percentage of building and remodeling waste can be recycled. With a little planning, and by working with your contractor before the start of the job, you can dramatically reduce the amount of waste that is created by construction.

Recycling on the jobsite has several benefits:

  • Reduced waste, which is better for the environment, and may be eligible for points in green building programs;
  • Potential cost savings from reducing disposal costs and from eliminating the need to buy some new materials; proceeds from recycling of valuable materials;
  • A cleaner, neater jobsite.

There are a couple of approaches you can take.

  • A back-of-the-envelope discussion with your contractor regarding what can be reused, and what areas around your property can be used to store materials during the job.
  • A fully developed construction waste management plan (which may even be required in some municipalities).

Here's a general timeline.

From the start

Perhaps the most important step is careful measuring and ordering of materials. If you don't order extra, you won't have extra to dispose of at the end of the job.

This means working with your contractor to get precise measurements, being clear about your project, and trying to avoid change orders. Modeling or visualization tools (some of which, such as Google's Sketchup, are available free) can be a big help in this area.

Provide space for recycling

For a re-roofing job, for example, your contractor may need space to locate a second bin, truck, or tarp in order to separate recyclable shingle waste from other jobsite waste such as flashing or wood.

Providing a space to make separating materials easy, perhaps even removing, marking, or covering plantings or other items in the yard in order to open up the area, can really help the process.

Provide space for storage

Providing dry space to store materials that will be reused or donated can facilitate recycling. It might mean parking your car in the driveway for a couple weeks so materials can be stored in the garage, but it will be worth it.

Help separate materials

Like any recycling, the key is to keep everything clean, dry and properly separated. You can help keep packaging or other waste out of the shingles, wood, cabinets, appliances, etc., that will be recycled.

Speaking of packaging...

These materials are generally recyclable, but if you don't help recycle them, they may end up in the dumpster, because your contractor, who may be working far from his or her home base, may not be as familiar with local recycling options for cardboard, plastic films, or other packaging materials as you are.

You can help by handling this portion of the jobsite recycling.

What to do with excess materials

You can often take suitable reusable materials to places that can remarket them, like

Generally, they want clean, functional appliances, and good reusable cabinets, sinks, doors and windows.

If you have a significant amount of extra unused material such as siding, sheathing or roofing, or even paint, electrical or plumbing supplies, you may be able to donate those as well. Call before bringing any materials.

A listing of building materials recyclers can be found at the Building Materials Reuse Association's website.

For more information:

Read Martin Grohman's Q&A "Are asphalt shingles recyclable?"