Dealing With Debris

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses

“Make a decision and the rest will follow,” goes a phrase I read once, attributed to an ancient Chinese proverb.

And what follows when you put steel on plaster, i.e. full-scale demo as we’ve done in our bathroom demolition, is a pile.

A big one.

Trash Planning: Curbing it

If you’re lucky, you can put all 60 or so contractor trash bags (60 pounds +)–I’ve used HUSKY bags from The Home Depot many times–out on your curb and the magic trash-man angels will spirit them away. Seriously, in the City of Boston where I’ve worked, I’m surprised those guys don’t take the streetlights. Most places, however, require you to haul construction debris–or get a dumpster.

Trash Pile: Hauling it

I can tell you from personal experience that a 12 x 12 room of plaster and wood lath weighs about 3000 pounds. It takes two trips with my 10×12 utility trailer towed behind my truck to the dump at a cost of about $160 (80-bucks a ton.) It’s way gnarly to unload, but using a trailer has its advantages, notably I can often drive it under the window of the room I’m trashing out and I can drop the bags right in (note: either protect the existing window by wrapping it in wood or replace it as we’ll do, it can get crushed. Nevertheless, it’s the best route to get a house out of a house! The trailer’s rubber tires means I don’t risk gouging a driveway with a dumpster roll-off. I can also un-load it whenever I want. Of course, I own the truck and trailer, which I also use outside of my professional life (towing stuff on vacation–kids’ bikes, etc.–is better than cramming it in the car and on various racks).

Trash dumpster: Renting it

A dumpster–costs vary based on size, locale, and weight–is often a great, affordable choice. And you don’t have to unload it. If you live in a tight old neighborhood like I do, with little maneuvering room, getting one in the driveway may require an act of Congress. Or God.

Trash bags: Reusing Them?!

Whether you use a dumpster, trailer, or some other means along with store-bought contractor bags, you have to throw the bags out with the trash–literally throwing money away. Another–and excellent–route is DemoBags. These are re-usable, tougher-than-tough trash bags. I used them stripping a roof–we’re talking mondo nails/sharp edges–and they survived several drops from 20+ feet and several dump runs. They saved me time and money and lasted several more projects. They don’t last forever, but do last eons longer than contractor bags for getting rid of that pile a house quickly becomes when you decide to put steel on plaster.