Dirt Hauling and Dumpsters: Why They’re Hard to Predict

When you’re thinking about remodeling or having an addition built onto your DC, Virginia, or Maryland home, you probably spend hours daydreaming and planning. You look at Pinterest boards and home decor magazines. You watch home renovation shows, noting the types of flooring you like best or what colors make rooms both cozy and stylish. You have a picture in your mind’s eye of what you want the finished product to look and feel like. After a while, you’re ready to get started. You meet with a contractor and come up with a great plan. You can see the outcome in your imagination and you can’t wait for it to be a reality. 

As you get your home ready for the upcoming renovation–moving furniture, packing up things that might be in the way–we’re working hard too. We put together a comprehensive proposal. We have blueprints of your remodel or addition drawn up and we make a detailed construction agreement for you to sign, including 

  • a work schedule, explaining what will happen and when

  • payment schedules, so you’ll know what to expect to come due and when

  • a document that explains exactly what is and isn’t included in your specific build

  • other general contract articles

We are good at estimating prices and giving solid quotes, and good at predicting how much work a given project will take to complete. But there are two areas where it’s hard to foresee the amount of work we will need to do until we’re actually in the middle of it: dirt hauling and dumpsters.

What is Dirt Hauling?

Dirt hauling is the removal of unwanted dirt from your construction site. If your remodel requires that we pour a foundation or footers, for example, we will need to dig up and haul away the excess dirt in the area. We may need to dig trenches for pipes or grade the property to ensure the water runs off correctly. Any of these tasks can result in a great deal of soil that needs to be hauled away. While this sounds like a simple task, it’s actually pretty complicated and requires the right amount of dirt to be removed, and then the remaining dirt to be compacted and leveled.

Why is Dirt Hauling Hard to Estimate?

For estimating purposes, when we are trying to determine your bottom line, we have to assume a lot about the condition of the dirt before we get in there and begin digging it up. It’s hard to know exactly how much we will need to remove and how many truckloads it will take to cart it off. One reason for this is that when you dig up compacted earth, it loosens up and becomes full of air. Dirt that may have taken up a cubic foot of space now takes up much more. The amount of space the uncompacted earth takes up in a dump truck depends on the type of soil and also the slope of the land that it’s being removed from. There are a lot of factors at play here.

After we have removed the dirt and compacted the area, the soil needs to be tested before we pour a foundation wall. Depending on the results, we may have to move even more dirt in order for the area to pass testing and inspections. Again, this is hard to predict before we’ve even started the work.

Why are Dumpsters Hard to Estimate?

The other area that is notoriously tricky to estimate is dumpsters. During your renovation or addition project, a lot of waste will be generated. Most of this is from any demolition we need to do: knocking out walls, tearing up flooring, removing cabinets, etc. Some of the waste comes from the construction process itself, like drywall scraps, insulation leftovers, and plywood pieces. Having dumpsters on-site means your home and yard stay cleaner and waste is dealt with immediately.

When we’re projecting costs for your remodel or addition, we can forecast what areas are going to be demolished and removed–to a degree. But until we are actually at work removing walls, there are still a lot of unknown factors at play. Sometimes this means that we will need to 

  • install additional structural materials

  • discuss with you some workarounds based on what we find

  • initiate change orders (amendments to the original construction contract due to unforeseen challenges, new ideas, or you changing your mind)

  • renovate a larger footprint than we originally discussed

Any of these changes will result in more construction–and thus more waste generated–than we initially planned for, and will often require more dumpsters at your site.

And sometimes, unfortunately, your neighbors might spot the dumpster sitting there half-empty and decide to do a little spring cleaning. We work to avoid this, but it does sometimes happen. All of these factors make it hard to nail down the exact quantity of dumpsters we will need for an entire project.

Flexibility is Key

We do our very best to provide you with accurate, complete, and skillfully crafted estimates, quotes, and construction agreements. But like anyone who has remodeled a home–or seen it done on TV!–can tell you, the process is full of surprises. The key is to remain flexible. Keep your eyes on the prize: a beautifully remodeled space that will serve you, your family, and your friends for years. The remodeling process can be emotionally draining (we have a whole blog post explaining the Funk Chart and how it predicts what you might be feeling during each stage of the process). At BOLT Builders, we do everything we can to make it an exciting and enjoyable process for you.

Ready to Get Started?

If you’ve been dreaming and planning long enough and are ready to get the remodeling or addition process started on your DC, Virginia, or Maryland home, contact us today. You can trust that our team will treat you and your home with integrity and respect. We will take care of the details–like dirt hauling and dumpsters–so you can focus on your dream home becoming a reality.