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.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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How to Get Rid of Junk: ‘Free’ makes junk vanish
How to get rid of leftover building materials
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.
Break up a cast iron tub
How to get rid of a bathtub
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.
How to get rid of stuff online
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.
Cut it up fast with a ferrous-metal blade
How to get rid of appliances and other steel junk
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.
How to Get Rid of Junk: Turn waste wood into mulch
How to get rid of old wood
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.
He Saved $400
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.
Buy a Bagster bag
How to get rid of debris
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.
Dumpster Rental Tips
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:
Search for a local hauler either on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages. Most of the top Dumpster listings on Internet searches are actually just brokers who may charge about $200 more. So scroll down until you find an actual local trash bin supplier.
Telling the hauler what you’ll be putting in the bin may help you get the size you need. For example, the staff will know that you’ll need a 15-yard bin to dispose of 20 squares of shingles.
Negotiate a longer rental period up front if you know you’ll need extra time. It’s cheaper to extend the rental time than to rent a new bin to finish the job.
Get the bin properly placed. Figure out where you want the bin, allowing enough room for the swing door to open fully. Then mark your driveway so the driver knows exactly where to place it (if you won’t be there when it arrives). Provide wood blocks to protect your driveway if they’re not included with the rental.
Don’t let it become the neighborhood trash bin. You’ll be amazed at how many “good” neighbors will dump trash in it without your permission. So tell them you’re renting a bin and ask if they want to share the cost. That way, they’ll be on the lookout for nonpaying “dumpers” too.
Cover it with a tarp if you won’t be using it for a few days. That’ll keep snow and rogue “dumpers” out.
Disassemble your old box spring
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.
How to Get Rid of Junk: Recycle a sidewalk
How to get rid of old concrete
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.
Excess dirt is an opportunity
How to get rid of dirt
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.
Buy 3-mil heavy-duty contractor bags. They’ll stand up to most tear-out debris without ripping.
Dry out your old paint
How to get rid of old paint
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.
How to Get Rid of Junk: Get money for metal
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), but that’s better than paying to get rid of it. And other metals are worth a lot more: about $2 per lb. for copper and 30¢ per lb. for aluminum. You can even pull circuit boards out of electronic equipment and turn them in for bucks.
Required Tools for this how to get rid of junk project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Ferrous-metal saw blade
Required Materials for this how to get rid of junk project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.