Construction Site Cleanup

Many owner builders do not realize the importance of construction site cleanup. “It’s construction, come on.” True, building homes is a dirty business. One might think that it is pointless to sweep out a house that is going to be trashed the next day. The fact is, keeping a project clean is absolutely critical. A trashy jobsite leads to mistakes, accidents, injuries, poor performance and low morale of trades, increased costs and failure of inspections.

The owner builder can make sure trades lean up daily and put in 2-3 hours a week on their own,to clean the project. There are also companies that specialize in construction site cleanup. There are specific times when they, by contract, will come to your project. The number of cleans or “sweeps” that are assigned to a cleaning company should be limited. It can be costly and more often than not, the owner builder will feel that they would have done a better job themselves.

Frame Sweep

This sweep of the building is done just prior to the owner builder’s Sheet and Shear inspection . The cleaning crew should remove trash and excess material from the house and sweep the floors. This particular duty can be included on the framers contract.

Rough Sweep

The Rough sweep occurs before the rough inspections. All manner of debris ( wire, plumbing, foam, sawdust, etc is removed and the floor swept. The exterior of the house should be picked up.

A major portion of construction site cleanup is the regular policing of food trash, wrappers and beverage containers. Some of this falls on the owner builder to set the example. If there is a lot of food trash lying about, trades won’t feel obligated to throw their own trash away. If the owner has no respect for his or her own property, why should they?

Lath Pick-up

Lathing foam will make your clean site look like a disaster area in a day. Be conscious of the fact that foam will catch wind like a sail and very easily sully the neighborhood. It’s no fun to walk an entire neighborhood cleaning your trash out of yards. Stay on top of the stucco contractor about a daily disposal of lathing debris. They will want to wait until they are complete. That can be days. We even had a project that the stucco contractor was there for 3 weeks.

Stucco Clean

After the stucco is complete and the scaffolding is down, there will be stucco cement and debris caked on the ground. The landscape contractor will often come in ( for a fee) and use their bobcat tractor to scrap the ground. Material will be taken to the dump. This acts as not only a construction site cleanup but also landscape preparation.

Drywall Scrap

The drywall hangers leave an unbelievable mess when they are done. The typical arrangement is that the drywall contractor will remove the material or has a 3rd party cleaning company to remove the drywall scrap.

Muck out

Following drywall tape and texture, the texture company will send in a crew to scrape the floors of any remaining drywall mud. It is important that they do a good job. Nodules of left behind drywall mud become a problem later on for the tile setters. It is important that all trades participate in construction site cleanup.

Paint Sweep

After the trim carpenter is finished installing doors, casing, molding and shelving, there will be sawdust everywhere. It won’t be AS bad if the owner builder has insisted on saws being set up outside, but inevitably it will be a mess. The paint sweep is conducted by a cleaning crew OR it is part of the painter’s contract. This is the preferable arrangement. The painter is inclined to do a better job because it impacts his or her ability to paint the house. Paint doesn’t adhere well when there is a fine coat of sawdust on everything.

The trades are just stacking trash everywhere. What do I do?

First, check your dumpster. Is it full? Empty it. Is it accessible? If not, it needs to be. The owner builder has a responsibility as project manager to insure the trades have a place to put their trash. If you haven’t, the dirty jobsite is YOUR fault. What do you do? You fix it and move on. Remember, mistakes will be made. Take responsibility, move on and don’t beat yourself up.

If the dumpster isn’t full and is easily accessible, talk to the crew foreman. Take digital photos of the mess, especially areas that identify whose mess it is. If the foreman doesn’t take charge and have the mess removed by day’s end, email the photos to their boss with a firm ( not rude ) note of your displeasure. This will usually bring about a hasty response. Understanding that owners may take this personally as a reflection on them and may be fairly harsh with their crew, approach the foreman first. Give them a chance to make it right.


With all of this construction site cleanup, there may be a temptation to sweep dirt, sawdust, trash, rocks etc into the gutter. Remember, this is an EPA violation. You, as an owner builder, should have a SWPPP(Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program) . Protect storm water drainage from contamination.

Carpet Sweep

This should actually be a vacuum. The purpose of the carpet “sweep” is to clean loose dust and debris from areas where carpet will be laid. Unfortunately, a broom will leave behind some dust, especially in the corners. Use a shop-vac to remove residual dust from all corners and prevent dust from being trapped underneath carpet and pad. This construction site cleanup is critical because it prevents the trapping of dirt and contaminants under the carpet. It is thought that trapped debris under carpets can contribute to allergies in some individuals.

Final Clean

Hire professionals . In the production residential industry, the final cleans are hit and miss. There is typically a rush to complete and while it looks nice on the surface, a closer investigation shows a lack of detail work. The owner builder doesn’t have to rush. Get a thorough clean, and follow up on your own.

As you can see, there is a whole lot of construction site cleanup going on during the project. It is a critical part of the building process and shouldn’t be ignored.

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