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Mary Roberts was interviewed by Lowes reporter as portion of this article by Craig A. Shutt
5 Ways to Reduce Waste
Some contractors have sophisticated ways to inventory job waste and overage to get the biggest bang for their buck. Here are five ways you can do the same.
by Craig A. Shutt
Virtually all communities operate a recycling program for some waste, but seldom do these programs extend to construction projects—where a large mass of material gets trashed. But contractors now are creating their own ways to minimize the materials they send to the landfill.
"Four years ago, we made a conscious decision that we would market our ability to create healthier environments for our clients," says Connie McCullah, a principal of Odin's Hammer in Berkeley, Calif. "One of the easiest ways to get started was to focus on how we ran our jobs. That began with safety, but then we added what products we used, like caulks and paints that had [volatile organic compounds]. Then we looked at what we were throwing away and whether it could be reused, repurposed or recycled."
Here are five key strategies contractors are using to minimize their waste:
* Recycle. At Katy Kitchen & Bath in Katy, Texas, owner Mary Roberts creates three types of waste piles during a project: food and paper waste, which goes in the trash; materials pulled from the home, such as aluminum siding, that can be recycled; and wood, appliances and other big items that could be refurbished or reused. In some areas, local haulers offer this service. Jeff Moroso, at Moroso Construction in San Francisco, has a local company sort recyclables and haul them to centers for cash. "It's the best of both worlds—the material is recycled, and we don't have to spend the time sorting it," he says.
* Reuse Scraps. Katy Kitchen & Bath employees reuse leftover materials rather than pitching them into the trash. "It's shocking how much you can save if you hold onto small pieces," Roberts says. Crews tend to pitch 3- or 4-foot lumber lengths when they're framing, only to later grab a new piece to cut a short length for trim. By having the company's clean-up person pick up short lengths, nails and other supplies, and store them for later use, significant amounts are saved.
This is especially true for products used in large quantities, such as Tyvek house wrap. Rolling up pieces for use in odd-shaped corners saved two additional rolls on a recent project, Roberts notes. "That savings not only adds up on a project, but it also avoids having to make a trip to the store to get more material because you ran out faster than you expected," she says.
This also can cut down on the materials "shrinkage" that occurs when crews are allowed to throw out almost anything unsupervised. "When they know you're checking what's been used and that throwing out big amounts isn't an option, you don't lose as much material," Roberts says.
* Donate Materials. In some cases, working appliances or other materials can be donated to charities. Odin's Hammer uses a company that takes away materials for donations, with the homeowner receiving a tax credit. Katy makes more direct donations by setting aside items so scavengers can access them. "This also prevents people from climbing into the trash looking for salvageable materials," Roberts notes. "They see we keep out anything that could be of value."
* Refurbish. Old materials pulled from homes, such as hardwood flooring, doors or cabinetry, can be reused if they're in good condition and have period character. Dana Milner, president of Dana Milner General Contractors in Albany, Calif., saves a wide variety of items at his 6,000-sq.-foot cabinet shop and yard. "It's great to be able to hold items until they can be reused," he says. Period doors are in big demand and are handy for matching local architectural styles. The only concern is if the items are covered in lead-based paint.
Roberts says that in her area, period asbestos roof slates are in high demand, so they are saved from demolished homes for salvage when a few slates are needed on another home. Not only can they go back into service, but it also keeps small amounts of asbestos from ending up in the landfill.
* Don't Replace. The best long-term approach to avoiding waste is to build well in the first place, Moroso says. "If you use quality materials, they won't have to be replaced in five years," he adds. "That saves material as much as anything you recycle." As more homeowners become interested in recyclable products and knowing where used materials are going, they gain more interest in reducing their future waste by upgrading product choices.
Craig Shutt is the former Editorial Director of Qualified Remodeler and Kitchen & Bath Design and the former Editor in Chief of Building Supply Home Centers. Most recently, he has served as Contributing Editor to a variety of magazines in the construction industry. These include Professional Builder, Luxury Homes, Professional Remodeler, Supply House Times, Contractor, BSHC, Channels from the North American Building Material Distributors Association, LBM Journal, Lowe's For Pros Web site, Remodeling, The Electrical Distributor, and publications from Ace and TruServe. A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a Master's degree, Shutt has received numerous journalism awards, including two Jesse H. Neal awards, three national and 20 local awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors, four Cahners Medal of Excellence Awards and the SNAP Excellence Award for Editorial Design.
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Protect Your Job Site
Keep dust and dings from impacting your next job and ensure customer satisfaction.
By Craig A. Shutt
Protecting a job site during home remodeling is like trying to push out the tide with a broom. “Even with your best intentions, you’re going to get some dust,” says Jeff Moroso, president of Pacifica, Calif.-based Moroso Construction. But protecting your client’s home from dust and dings during home remodeling is worth the time and expense.
“If you ding up a wainscot, you’ll have to repair it and then try to match the paint,” Moroso says. “It will end up costing you more if you don’t protect things.”
Protection starts with the basics: partitioning off the work area to protect other living areas from dust. Mary Roberts, owner of Katy, Texas-based Katy Kitchen & Bath, is well aware of the problems that can arise during home remodeling because she and her daughter have extreme dust allergies. “We use HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, plastic sheets to block off doors, plus water filters and water/sponge sanding for Sheetrock,” she says.
Moroso applies thick protection for hardwood floors, bringing protective coverings within an inch of the wall to allow walls to be painted all the way down. “We duct-tape coverings to each other to make them bulletproof and blue-tape them to the floor,” he says. If the company is refinishing floors, they stop short of the final finish layer, reprotect floors until the painting is done, and then remove them again to do the final finish. “It’s a little dance we do, but it ensures we get the best finish possible.”
Protect Access Points
Accessing the job site from finished areas requires protecting everything along the way. Moroso uses bubble wrap, foam, cardboard and other protective measures to ensure nothing gets damaged. Mark J. Kessler, president of Loveland, Colo.-based Kessler Construction Co. stresses the value of an existing-conditions report, which notes existing dents or scrapes before any work begins. The report emphasizes that the company intends to be responsible for its own actions—and it knows what those are.
Dana Milner, a general contractor in Albany, Calif., keeps trash and demolition from building up at the job site by using a Ford 350 super-duty dumping pickup truck instead of a dumpster. At the end of each day, it’s driven away. “There isn’t enough room on the streets in our community for a dumpster, and this keeps the site clean at night, too,” Milner says.