waste advice from ZTERS

Ask Angela: How do we winterize portable toilets?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Waste Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Hi Angela: Is there anything we need to do to winterize portable toilets? We’ve got porta potties on a jobsite, and it’s scheduled to run through the winter. We don’t want to end up with a frozen mess, you know?

Angela: With winter coming, this is a great question. We hear this every year from customers in cold climates. In most cases, your vendor is going to handle any portable toilet winterizing for you. In fact, whether you want it or not, many portable toilets come prepackaged with winterizing chemicals and a winterization fee of $10-20 per billing cycle per toilet. That’s already built in when you rent. But that’s not always the case, so it’s good to know what to do with toilets in winter.

The first part of the answer is it depends on where you’re located. If you’re in the South, or in areas that don’t freeze very often, you probably don’t need to do anything special. One or two days of freezing weather likely won’t cause a problem.

But if you’re in an area where temperatures regularly drop below freezing, your portable toilet vendor will need to come out and winterize porta potties. This is something we help our customers schedule, but you can also bring it up to your vendor before the temperature drops.

Here’s what’s involved in porta potty winterizing:

In most cases, the vendor drops a special chloride pellet mix into the toilet each time it’s serviced. These pellets protect the porta potty from freezing in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit. These need to be refreshed weekly, so your service schedule needs to be regular for this to be effective through winter.

What about places where temperatures regularly drop below -25 F? In some areas it makes more sense for vendors to simply swap out the toilet. Each time they service, they’ll remove the existing toilet and drop off a new one. This is a pretty expensive option, though, and it can be labor intensive. This isn’t common, but you may see this depending on how cold it gets in your area.

A more common version of the swap-out is the tank swap-out. Some portable toilets now have smaller collection tanks, and these tanks can be swapped out instead of removing the entire toilet. With these porta potties, a vendor will just remove the existing tank, insert a new tank, and you’ve got a clean, non-frozen porta potty through winter.

For most jobsites in the U.S. you’re going to see the chlorine pellet method. There are some other things you can do to help prevent freezing, though. For example, move porta potties to a protected area that limits their exposure to wind. Place them against a wall or pack sandbags around the base to help prevent winter winds from freezing the contents. Wind-chill is a major reason porta potty freeze in the first place.

You can also invest in small space heaters that are specifically made for porta potties. Check with your vendor on whether they recommend this method for your particular toilets. Placing them in an enclosed area would be ideal, if that’s possible.

One last thing to consider in winter is whether to swap out your single portable toilets for a restroom trailer. Restroom trailers are larger and can be ordered with multiple stalls inside. If you have the space and electrical access, they can be heated and are way more comfortable for crew members.

We help contractors and project managers find winter solutions for construction sites every year. Give us a call if you have questions about your winter service options.

waste advice from ZTERS

Ask Angela: Do I really need temporary fencing on my construction worksite?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Waste Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Hi Angela, We’re doing a small new build on a vacant lot. It’s not near a lot of foot traffic, but there are a couple of main roads and other businesses nearby. It’s also near a residential area. Is construction temporary fencing really necessary? What are our options?

Angela: Hey there, thanks for asking. This is a great question. First of all, it’s ultimately up to you and the ordinances in your area whether temporary fencing is required or not. So, check that first. However, if you’re near businesses and residences you may want to consider safety and liability risks if unauthorized people make their way onto your worksite.

You have a few options with temporary fencing for construction sites. Basic fence panels are often used on small, short projects like the one you described. The most common sizes are 6’ x 10’ or 6’ x 12’, and they come with stands that are weighted down with sandbags or concrete blocks. Temporary fencing panels are easy to set up. If you have a small job, you can probably install the fencing yourself with your crew.

Of course, we can always help you schedule delivery and setup. Some areas, especially on federal properties, require temporary fencing to be installed by union workers at prevailing wages. If you’re not sure whether that applies to your project, we’ll be able to find out and let you know.

When using fence panels, you may want to add an optional wind screen (also called privacy screen or scrims). If privacy or security are issues, you’ll probably be better off with a temporary post-driven chain link fence. But you can definitely add privacy screen to fence panels if you use heavy sandbags to weight them down. If you put wind screen on regular panel fencing, it’ll act as a sail…so if the wind kicks up you’ll find yourself with fencing panels flying all over the place!

Post-driven chain link fencing is the most common temporary fencing we see with our customers. This is when metal posts are sunk in the ground and chain link fencing is installed around the perimeter of the worksite. You can add privacy screen, or leave it uncovered. It’s best for projects that will go on for a while and where you want a little extra security on the site. It’s harder for unauthorized people to get through chain link than it is to move fencing panels.

With panels or post-driven chain link, you’re able to add vehicle gates and personnel gates. You can see there are lots of options, even if you have a small worksite. We can even help you order plastic orange safety fencing if you only need to temporarily fence off heavy equipment or electrical units.

If you’re not sure how much fencing you need, we’ve built an interactive fencing tool that’ll help you figure out how much to rent and where to position gates. Or, you can always give us a call and we’ll walk you though it. Good luck with your new building!

waste advice from ZTERS

Ask Angela: How to clean up after a storm, fire, or disaster

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Site Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Angela, we’ve been watching news coverage of weather and flooding and wondering about the process of cleaning up after a storm. Can a waste services company come in and clean everything up, or does the city help, or are we on our own as homeowners? Thanks in advance.

Angela: This is a really great question. We all hope no one ever has to rebuild their home—whether it’s from a storm, a tornado, a fire, or even a flood like we’ve experienced in our hometown of Houston—but, the fact is, it does happen. And as a homeowner, you may not know your options.

First of all, when you have catastrophic damage, there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before you can start removing debris at all. If you had a house fire, most cities will have you wait a few weeks before that debris can go to a landfill. If it’s a large-scale catastrophe, like a flood, it might take a couple of weeks for an appropriate location to be chosen to receive all that debris.

Now comes the question of what you can do. Unfortunately, as a homeowner you’re kind of on your own for removing debris. Most people hire a general contractor to manage the process, and that company may or may not work directly with your insurance company to get that removal paid for.

Some people go out on their own and try to manage the process themselves. That’s totally up to you, and we have worked directly with homeowners before. Just know most haulers and waste service companies won’t deal directly with insurance companies. It’ll be up to you to know your insurance coverage and sort out payment on your own.

Sometimes people think FEMA will come in and clean up after a catastrophe, but they don’t clear private property. We actually wrote a blog post about storm debris dumpster rentals, so you can check that out for details.

It’s a good idea if you live in an area that’s prone to events like flooding, tornadoes, and extreme weather, to get some kind of game plan in mind in case you ever need to rebuild. Educate yourself on what licensed contractors do and what your home insurance covers. Hopefully it’s information you’ll never need, but the aftermath of an event isn’t the best time to figure out how rebuilding works.

If you decide you want to do it yourself and be your own contractor, keep in mind dumpsters and portable toilets will probably be in short supply after a major event. Prices will go up because haulers may need to borrow units from other areas and ship them in—and that’s going to add to the expense. Expect delays in deliveries and services, but know most dumpster and portable toilet companies are small operations and will work to accommodate everyone in a fair and timely manner.

At ZTERS, we do help people find dumpsters and portable toilets after catastrophic events. Usually we get calls from contractors, but we’re glad to help individuals, too. One thing we always tell people, though, is be sure you understand your insurance policy coverage. Haulers and portable toilet vendors—whether you go through a company like ZTERS or not—aren’t going to bill an insurance company. They’ll bill you or your contractor. So, make sure you know how your coverage works before you set out to DIY.

waste advice from ZTERS

Ask Angela: What goes into temporary fencing rental fees?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Site Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Hi, Angela. I was pricing temporary fencing for a construction project. It seems like fencing rental is priced kind of high, in my opinion. Can’t you just put up a few panels and call it a day? Why is temporary fencing so expensive?

Angela: Thanks for asking this question. A lot of people don’t understand everything that goes into installing temporary fencing. Fencing rentals can be expensive for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • Labor costs—it takes time to load fencing on a truck, drive to a location, set up, break down, and then, of course, there’s removal and offloading it at the yard.

Depending on the length of fencing, a crew of at least two to six installers, on average, is needed for any site. These installers are paid an hourly wage for drive time and the time it takes to actually install the fencing.

Prevailing wage (or government jobs) in most states are higher than installers would typically make elsewhere. And when installers do these jobs, they have to be paid according to a prevailing wage pay standard.

Most places have a minimum dollar amount, which means the installers get paid a set minimum amount for any job. They receive that set rate even if a project comes in at less than that minimum amount.

Additional fees for fencing often include:

  • Hand carry fee—this is a per-panel cost for sites where the installers have to carry panel fencing more than four to six feet. This usually happens when they can’t get the truck closer to the designated fence line.
  • Damages—this fee can be as small as a few dollars for a missing or broken part, or as large as a few hundred dollars if a fence panel has to be replaced. It depends on the damage done to the fence. Ask your broker or hauler for a list of damage fees when you’re ordering your fencing.

Screening is also an additional cost, and there are situations where screening isn’t recommended. This is another place where it’s useful to ask your broker whether screening is really necessary for your project. Sometimes it adds an extra layer of security. Other times it can be left off.

At ZTERS, we offer a six-month minimum rental. Fencing can be removed at any time, but typically with any temporary fencing the initial rental will be six months. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but it is on a site-by-site basis. We help you calculate how long you’ll need your fencing, and we work to find fencing that fits your budget.

One other note about fencing: military discounts. While we don’t offer a military discount, per se, we do work with local vendors to make sure that temporary fencing for military installments are as convenient and cost effective as possible. We know sometimes these projects can be a big challenge, so if you need temporary fencing for a military project, give us a call and we’ll see what we can do.

I hope that answered your question about the cost of renting temporary fencing. If you ever need help or have more questions, give us a call! We’re glad to help.

waste advice from ZTERS

Ask Angela: What kind of porta potties will show up at my outdoor wedding?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Site Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Dear Angela, I’m planning an outdoor wedding, but I’m worried the portable toilets will end up being gross. I don’t want our guests having a negative bathroom experience. Should we go ahead and rent them, or is there another option?

Angela: First, congratulations on your wedding! And kudos on planning an outdoor event. A lot of people call us with questions and concerns about the quality of portable toilets at their events, so I hear this question a lot.

Most people don’t realize this, but the toilets used at events aren’t what you probably picture when you think about portable toilets on construction sites or work zones. You’re not going to get a dirty, worn out bathroom at your event.

There are two things to consider with event toilets. First, there’s a porta potty life cycle. And second, there are several different options to choose from.

Believe it or not, there’s a natural life cycle to portable toilet rentals. When they’re first constructed and brand new, those are considered event-grade toilets. Once they’ve been used for a while and they’re not as new, they move on to become construction site toilets. They’re still nice toilets! But they’re not as new as when they were first built.

The point is, there’s a gradation that happens where they move down the line until their useful life is over. So, you won’t need to worry about low-quality toilets being delivered to your wedding.

Next, you have several options for your toilet rental! There are event toilets that are just toilets and urinals. There are toilets with sinks instead of urinals. There are even flushable units that have a manual flushing system! They use gravity to make the portable toilet a lot more like a regular toilet. In other words, your guests won’t see down in the tank!

And since it’s your wedding, you may want to ask about an ADA or wheelchair-accessible unit. They’re a little larger and will better accommodate you in your dress and your bridal party if they’re wearing large or constrictive dresses. You’ll all have more room to move around.

One last thing I always like to mention—make sure you book your toilets up to three months in advance. Especially during the summer months, because there are so many festivals and outdoor events. You should book your toilets early, but even if you forget (and a lot of people do!), we can probably help you find last-minute toilets if you give us a couple days’ notice. You may have to pay a fee for ordering on short notice but give us a call and we’ll do our best to find what you need.

Most people don’t realize this, but October is actually the busiest month for portable toilets because there are so many haunted houses and pumpkin patches that run all month. If your wedding is in the summer or October—call and rent those toilets at least three months in advance!

I hope that helps put your mind at ease—you and your guests will be perfectly fine in your porta potty rentals. And if you need help figuring out how many to rent or what type is best for your guests, give us a call here at ZTERS and we can help you get what you need.