Rubbish-removal contractors really clean up on rehab jobs

You can do it yourself or, for just a little more, engage a rip-out crew

April 06, 2003|By Gary Dymski | Gary Dymski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Imagine how easy your next do-it-yourself remodeling project would be if you could get someone else to do the dirty work.

So meet Ray Schaeffner, who, along with other cleanup and rubbish removal contractors, makes a living doing just that. "What we do," Schaeffner says, "is the most undesirable part of a remodeling job."

Schaeffner owns Quality Cleanups, an Amityville, N.Y., company that specializes in "rip-outs" - debris removal and construction cleanup. In the remodeling trade, a rip-out is the ultimate preparation procedure. Depending upon the renovation specifications, a crew comes in and rips out the old room. Everything, or almost everything, goes. In many cases, rooms are readied for remodeling by being reduced to studded walls and plywood floors.

"There's this theory that if the homeowner is doing the work, then it's supposed to be a type of therapy, an enjoyable task," Schaeffner says. "There's nothing therapeutic or enjoyable about ripping out old walls and insulation. That kind of work takes the joy out of doing home improvement."

Cost of rubbish removal and rip-out work varies. If a homeowner provides the labor, rental of a small rubbish container and disposal can cost from about $200 to $300 (for a 5-yard or 10-yard Dumpster). On larger rooms, such as a kitchen with appliances to be moved, it can cost as much as $1,500 for a company to do complete removal, labor and containers included.

"Rubbish companies generally charge by the cubic yard of debris that is to be carted away," says Izzy Castro of Z-Best Rubbish Removal in West Babylon, N.Y. "A cubic yard is about the size of a regular washing machine - 3 feet high, 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep."

The difference between renting a Dumpster and doing rip-out work yourself, and having a rubbish team do all the work is often minimal. "We rent a 10-yard container for $300," Schaeffner says. "For us to rent the container, do the work and cart it away, we'd probably charge $375 or $400."

Other than money, one of the biggest roadblocks in do-it-yourself renovation is time. Hiring a rip-out crew can cut time and reduce mess.

"Contractors hire us," Castro says, "because they generally don't do tear-out work. To have a carpenter or plumber do that kind of work would be wasting skilled labor." When a rip-out crew is finished, well, it's like allowing an artist to start with a clean canvas.

Companies such as Quality Cleanups and Z-Best, which also specialize in outdoor and basement cleanups, work primarily for contractors. Contracts made directly with homeowners make up about 10 percent of their business, they say.

Except for a few guidelines, homeowners can find someone to do the dirty work by looking in the Yellow Pages under "rubbish" or "cleanup."

"We don't remove walls or do structural rip-outs unless it is approved by an architect or contractor," Castro says. "We don't have the knowledge, generally, to make those calls."

If there are concerns with removing hazardous materials, such as lead and asbestos, homeowners should first test to determine if these materials are present. If hazardous materials are present, then hiring a certified and licensed abatement company is required by law, experts say.

Both Schaeffner and Castro started in the landscape business about 15 years ago. During the winter months, when there wasn't much work to do, they decided to branch out. "We started cleaning out basements in the winter," says Castro, who operates Z-Best with his brother, Tony. "When there was a death in a family or a house was being sold, Realtors would contact us to clean out the junk from a basement."

Schaeffner's wife was a secretary for a contractor, and he started with construction cleanups.

"That led to people asking if I could rip out a bathroom, then a kitchen, and finally an entire house," he says. "Gradually, the business just grew."

Both companies do plenty of cleanup and rubbish removal for Realtors as well as new homeowners. But neither does lawn care any more. The rip-out business is too good.

Gary Dymski is a reporter for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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