Learn how to get rid of household junk, unneeded building materials and other unwanted stuff with these tips and strategies from TFH staff and Field Editors.
You know the old saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The simplest way to get rid of unwanted building materials is to just put it on the curb with a “free” sign. When Gary Wentz, one of our editors, knocked down a stone retaining wall, he put a “free stone” sign on the curb. People were practically fighting over the rubble, and 12 tons of stone vanished in one afternoon. But don’t be surprised if something reappears. Field Editor Cory Cochran put a freezer by the road with a sign that read “free—broke.” It was gone the next day. Then a few days later, Cory found it back in his yard. Maybe he should have added “no returns” to the sign.
Some things are just so heavy to move in one piece that you shouldn’t unless you absolutely have to. A cast iron bathtub is one of them. The trick to getting rid of it is to break it up with a sledge. But be careful! Cast iron shrapnel is sharp and dangerous. Cover the tub with a blanket or drop cloth and be sure to wear long sleeves, safety glasses and hearing protection. Don’t expect the tub to break easily on the first swing. You may have to hit the same spot repeatedly to get a crack started. It’s hard work, but at least you won’t break your back trying to lift the tub in one piece. This trick works for cast iron radiators and pipe too.
Even if you think no one would want the item, list it in the “free” category on a Web site. You’d be amazed at what people will take. Our Field Editors have gotten rid of all kinds of junk this way: half-rotten fence planks and worn-out appliances. Here’s a list of Web sites where you can place listings to sell, give away or trade your stuff, plus find information about recycling and safe disposal.
It’s a lot easier to move a water heater in two pieces—especially if it has 50 lbs. of sediment in the bottom—and it’s surprisingly easy to cut one in half. You could use a recip saw, but a circular saw with a ferrousmetal cutting blade is faster. Be sure to wear goggles or a face shield, hearing protection and long sleeves. Many appliances can be cut; just be careful not to cut through refrigerant tubing or glass.
Here’s the blade we used to cut up the water heater. It’s engineered to cut any mild steel, so when you’re done cutting up your old water heater or refrigerator, you can cut angle iron, rebar, metal conduit or threaded rod, to name a few items. You’ll find ferrous-metal cutting blades at home centers and hardware stores for about $40.
Here’s an ingenious idea from Field Editor Tom Berg. After making sure the nails were removed, he ran 2,200 sq. ft. of siding through a wood chipper to make a mountain of great-smelling cedar mulch for his gardens. He saved a ton in trash container fees and had loads of free mulch to boot. You could do the same with pine or any other soft wood, but the mulch will decompose quicker than cedar.
For most of us, trash disposal is an unavoidable cost of remodeling. But Tom Berg managed to complete an entire home addition without spending a penny on junk removal. He listed lumber, siding, windows and doors on freecycle.org and was surprised when people hauled them away for free. Even the scrap lumber got used as a bonfire for a church outing. He turned the cedar siding into mulch (see above) and threw the small amount of remaining stuff in the regular trash.
If you have too much junk to fit in your trash can, but not enough to warrant renting a 10- or 20-yard trash container, then a Bagster bag is the answer. Buy the green poly bag at a home center or hardware store, fill it up and call the company for a pickup. The bag holds 3 cubic yards or up to 3,300 lbs. of debris. The Bagster bag costs around $30. When you’re done with it, you’ll be charged a flat rate of $80 to $160 to have it picked up, depending on collection costs in your area. Find out more at thebagster.com.
Trash bins, aka “Dumpsters,” aren’t cheap. And there are plenty of ways to make mistakes with their rental and use. We pooled our experiences to bring you these six money-saving tips:
Faced with the problem of how to get rid of his old bed, Field Editor Andrew Pitonyak stripped the fabric and padding from his box spring and left the metal springs on the curb for the local scrap collector to pick up. He saved the $20 cost of getting rid of the box spring and helped the environment by recycling the metal.
Why spend a fortune hauling away old concrete when you can build a wall or path with it? Several of our Field Editors used old concrete from torn-out sidewalks and driveways to build paths, patios and walls. For walls, stack it like flat stones with the broken side facing out. For paths or patios, you can lay the broken pieces of concrete like flagstones and then plant a creeping ground cover or pour gravel between them.
Getty Images/Mark Turner
Digging a hole for a pond or fountain? You can save yourself time and money by turning the extra dirt into a landscaping feature. Here we piled the dirt along the back of the pond to create an earth berm. Covered with plants, the berm made a perfect backdrop for the pond.
If you have a bunch of almost empty cans of latex paint and don’t want to take them to the recycling center, here’s a tip. Spread a sheet of plastic—painter’s plastic is cheap and readily available at home centers and hardware stores—in an out-of-the way spot and dump a thin layer of paint on it to dry. When the liquid has evaporated, bundle it up and throw it in the trash.
Wondering how to get rid of metal junk? You can get money for almost any kind of scrap metal. You won’t get much for steel (about 10¢ per pound as of July 2012), but that’s better than paying to get rid of it. And other metals are worth a lot more: about $3 per lb. for copper and 80¢ per lb. for aluminum. You can even pull circuit boards out of electronic equipment and turn them in for bucks.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.