8 Ways to Reduce Construction Waste

As costs rise, efficient materials use benefits your bottom line.

Waste not, want not. Or, if you’re in the construction business, waste less, spend less — especially when it comes to materials, which make up a big chunk of your budget.

The cost of materials has been rising in 2018 according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Associated Builders and Contractors. ABC reported that prices in April 2018 were up 6.4 percent over the April 2017 prices.

To remain as profitable as possible, take a good look at your construction practices to uncover areas where you can reduce the amount of materials you discard during a job.

1. Reduce construction mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. But if you find your crews are consistently measuring or cutting incorrectly or using the wrong pipe or piece of lumber, you need to get to the root of the problem. Otherwise you’ll find lots of valuable materials ending up on the scrap heap.

2. Order the right amount of materials

The Lean Construction Institute recommends seeking input from your most experienced, knowledgeable people when planning your work. This helps ensure you get the right quantities — not too much, not too little — of concrete, lumber and other materials. If you find that you wasted two-by-fours or ordered too much concrete on the last job, figure out why, and learn from your mistakes.

3. Get the right-size materials for the job

If you can use drywall that’s 8 feet high, don’t order the 10-foot size, because that extra 2 feet will likely go to waste. The same goes for the length of two-by-fours, pipes and other materials.

4. Store your materials properly

Protect your materials investment. The State of Nebraska’s Energy Office suggests storing lumber on level blocking and under cover to minimize damage. Stack and cover bricks and other masonry. Keep your products in a secured location to prevent losses due to theft.

5. Recycle and reuse

Save large drywall scraps for use as filler pieces. Use clean concrete chunks, old brick and other masonry rubble as backfill along foundation walls. Reuse joint compound buckets as storage containers.

6. Try out new building methods

For example, in an article on construction waste management, author Tom Napier, research architect with the Army Corps of Engineers, suggests using durable modular metal form systems for concrete construction instead of plywood and lumber formwork that has to be thrown away. The metal forms can be taken apart and used again and again.

7. Choose building products with minimal packaging

You’re paying for the packaging that your doors, windows and other products arrive in, and then you have to pay to dispose of that packaging as well. Look for products that come safely but minimally wrapped.

8. Work with your suppliers

Ask them to deliver your materials on returnable pallets that they can pick up when they make additional deliveries or when the project is over. See if they’ll buy back any products you don’t use.

Throwing away materials is bad for your bottom line and bad for the environment. Do yourself, and the earth, a favor by taking steps to reduce your construction waste.


Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

Image Credit: Canaplus/Shutterstock.com


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