Ask Angela: Pumpkin patches in a COVID-19 world

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, Pumpkin patches and haunted houses are allowed in our area. We usually host a pumpkin patch in our building’s parking lot, and we want to have one again this year. How should we plan for things to be different in light of COVID-19?

Hey, there. This is a great question for fall. Even in a “regular” year we see a huge increase in demand for portable toilets and hand sanitizer dispensers for fall festivals, pumpkin patches, and haunted houses. There will be fewer festivals this year, but we’re still seeing demand for extra porta potties and especially hand washing stations.

Each municipality has their own recommendations and regulations (and whether or not they’re allowing events to occur at all). In places where outdoor fall events are taking place, it’s likely you’re going to need more portable toilets, hand washing stations, and standalone hand sanitizer dispensers to keep people washing their hands often and thoroughly. And don’t forget to maintain social distancing! Follow your local guidelines.

Here is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of considerations for events. It sounds like you’ll have a small, local community event, so take a look at their recommendations for things like wearing masks, maintaining six feet of distance between people, and providing adequate facilities for hand washing.

If your event is small, and you’ve never ordered portable toilets before, you may want to consider ordering one or two to supplement any indoor bathroom facilities. It depends on whether you’re expecting a lot of people and whether there’s enough room for people to social distance in the available facilities.

Also consider ordering extra hand sanitizer dispensers, and make sure you have plenty of refills available! In a usual year, festivals and haunted houses would have ordered porta potties and hand washing stations at least a few weeks in advance. In fact, they’re often ordered as early as August, depending on the area. This year, with fewer events, you may still be able to put an order in, even as late as mid-October. It really depends on your area and how many events are going on near you.

Any time you’re hosting an outdoor event, give us a call as early as possible to make sure you get the best selection of porta potties, fencing, hand washing stations, and any other site services you’ll need. This year may be different, but late October all the way through December is usually a peak time for toilet and fencing rentals. After Halloween and pumpkin patch season, Christmas tree lots sprout up and people need a lot of porta potties, office trailers, fencing, and storage containers. We like to get people scheduled early so they don’t miss out.

Hope that helps. Stay safe, and have a good pumpkin patch!

Ask Angela: How far in advance do we need to order a dumpster for a clean-out or remodel?

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.

Angela, how far in advance do we need to order a dumpster if we’re doing a clean-out or home remodel?

Not surprisingly, we get this question a lot in spring and summer. People are spending more time at home in 2020, and we’ve seen people either starting or planning major clean-outs and renovations. Here’s what you can expect when renting a dumpster for residential use, including how early you need to order a dumpster.

In most cases, if you call to schedule before noon you can have a dumpster delivered the next business day. (There’s usually a rush fee if the next day is a Saturday and you absolutely have to have it that day.) However, keep these things in mind:

  • Storms, natural disasters, and times when there is a large demand for dumpsters will almost always have a waitlist. We’ve helped customers bring in dumpsters from other areas, so that’s possible. But keep this delay mind if there’s any kind of increased demand in your area. I’ve written about storm debris cleanup before. Check out that article to read more about disaster cleanup.
  • You’ll need a dumpster that fits in your driveway or the front of your house (check permitting regulations!). This usually means a 10-yard dumpster. In some areas, especially where a lot of residential work is happening, there may be short supply of smaller dumpsters. Call a few days ahead to make sure you get the size you want.
  • Dumpsters aren’t usually delivered first thing in the morning. Standard delivery times usually fall between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., but it’s not unusual for deliveries to happen as late as 5 p.m. If you have a crew coming, or you need to start using the dumpster in the morning, we highly recommend you have it delivered the day before you need it. That way even if it’s delivered late in the afternoon it’ll still be ready to go the morning you need it.

When in doubt, call and schedule a few days in advance. It’s better to call a little early than to not have a dumpster when you want it.

On that note, if you ordered a dumpster and it hasn’t shown up by 2 p.m., give us a call so we can check on it. Most local delivery offices close between 4 and 5 p.m. (with many offices closing at noon on Fridays!), so if the delivery hasn’t shown up, we need to know as early as possible.

Before you make the call, here are a few other tips when you order a dumpster for residential use:

  • Make sure you check for city or county permitting regulations. Some cities even rent dumpsters to residents (like Spokane, WA).
  • Make sure there’s enough clearance for the delivery truck to safely set the dumpster in place. A good rule of thumb is double the length and height of the dumpster.
  • Make sure you’re setting the dumpster on a hard surface like a driveway. They can’t be placed directly on soft ground because rain could cause it to sink and you run the risk of ruining the yard. There would also be extra fees if the dumpster sinks or gets stuck in mud because it’ll have to be towed out, costing extra time and expense. For extra protection, put down 3-4-inch plywood to prevent damage to whatever surface the dumpster is placed on.
  • You can’t put hazardous materials or chemicals like paint, antifreeze, or oil in a dumpster. Other no-go items include batteries, electronics, tires, and appliances. We compiled a list of items you can’t dump on our dumpster rental page.

Renting a dumpster for residential projects is pretty easy and straightforward. You can usually schedule it within a business day. This was a long answer to a short question, but hopefully you found the tips useful! If you need to order a dumpster for residential use, give us a call and we can help you set it up.

Ask Angela: How can we convert an indoor wedding to an outdoor wedding?

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.

Dear Angela: With everything going on, we decided to play it safe and convert our indoor wedding to an outdoor wedding (just in case events get shut down). What are some things we should consider when making the switch?

First, congratulations on your wedding! And second, you’re in good company. We’ve seen a lot of people make the switch and convert an indoor wedding to an outdoor wedding in 2020. Here’s some of the advice we’ve been giving soon-to-be-newlyweds:

  1. Rent your portable toilets as early as possible. Typically, you’d be making these rentals up to a month or two in advance. Get your rental squared away as soon as you know you’re converting an indoor wedding to the great outdoors. This helps ensure you actually get some toilets! If you’re planning a summer or fall wedding, you might still compete with festivals, fun runs, municipal events, and outdoor enthusiasts who rent portable toilets. A lot will depend on circumstances in your area, so call early. You even have lots of event portable toilet options to choose from.
  2. Consider using temporary fencing to create private areas and to prevent gate crashing if you’re in a public area. Temporary fencing can be combined with fabrics and floral arrangements to create an unobtrusive addition to your ceremony or reception. It doesn’t have to look like a construction yard!
  3. Storage containers make great staging areas for catering, DJs or bands, and it creates a safe, lockable space for storing gifts and other valuables while you enjoy your big day. We help people bundle storage units with their outdoor restrooms and fencing all the time.
  4. This might seem self-promotional, but it’s true—you can get all these outdoor services through one company like ZTERS. You (or your wedding planner) have enough to worry about without tracking down several different vendors for toilets, fencing, and containers. If there’s a problem, we can help. And you’ll get one invoice instead of managing one from each different vendor. No one wants to sort through invoices on a honeymoon!

You might be wondering how many portable toilets you’re going to need. We use this handy chart from the Portable Sanitation Association International. If you don’t feel like wading through charts and doing calculations, you can give us a call. We do this literally every day and we can help you sort it out.

In fact, I’ve even answered a previous question about event portable toilets for outdoor weddings. Feel free to take a look before you call, so you have some ideas about what you’d like.

Times are challenging, but you can convert an indoor wedding to an outdoor venue. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big ordeal. Keep these ideas in mind and feel free to call us if you want some help figuring out what services are available. We help people rent portable toilets (and more) for events every day, and we’re glad to help you out.

Ask Angela: Helping crew members feel safe after the shutdown

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.

Dear Angela, Now that work is ramping back up from the Covid-19 shutdown, how can we help our crew members feel safe being back on the worksite?

This is a great question that a lot of people are asking right now. We know many construction sites continued operation throughout the shutdown because construction is considered an essential business in many places. However, we’re also seeing areas that were previously shut down now slowly starting to resume projects. Every state is different, and we’ve seen a wide range of experiences with our customers.

Like most businesses, we keep a close eye on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and they have a Community Mitigation Framework with guidelines around protecting workers and the public in general when congregating at work or in public places. This includes things like practicing social distancing of at least six feet, hand washing regularly, sanitizing areas more frequently, and wearing masks where appropriate.

On a construction site, some of these things can be more difficult—sometimes two-person lifting means you have to stand closer than six feet! However, there are still protections we’re seeing our customers and vendors implement.

For one, portable toilets and common areas like mobile offices are being disinfected more frequently and many jobsites are ordering extra handwashing stations to make sure people can wash their hands more frequently.

We also see a lot of safety managers recommending crew members practice social distancing as much as possible and wear a mask when it doesn’t affect the safety of the work you’re doing. We also see some sites requiring crew members to take their temperature before starting work.

The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America put out a series of guidelines around worker safety in a post-COVID-19 world. They have social distancing recommendations specifically for construction sites. This includes a “no congregation” rule and not allowing food trucks on worksites. This may mean having safety meetings in smaller groups and asking crew members to bring their own lunch and space themselves further than six feet apart when they eat.  

It’s a good idea to check with your local regulatory agencies to find out if there are any special requirements in your area.

There will definitely be an adjustment period to these new rules. We recommend our customers use resources like these to come up with a written safety plan and communicate it to crew members. Having a written plan and following safety guidelines will go a long way toward protecting crew members and helping people feel safe being back on the jobsite.

We know there have been a lot of delays and back orders when it comes to handwashing stations, so give us a call to find out what’s available in your area and how to get more coverage on your site.

Ask Angela: portable toilets for camping

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.

Angela, we’re going camping for a family reunion and there are going to be a lot of us camping in one place—all ages—with no facilities nearby. Can we take a portable toilet camping?

Great question. It’s one we hear every year, especially since “glamping” became a thing. We also get this question from scout troops. The answer is probably, with some caveats. It depends on where you’re camping and the type of terrain.

You could always purchase small, portable camping toilets from an outdoors store or online, but that’s not going to give you privacy, and you’ll be left with bags of waste to clean up. I’m guessing you want something that operates more like a traditional porta potty or restroom trailer.

There are several porta potty options available, including larger ADA-compliant toilets and restroom trailers with shower stalls. Depending on how many people you’ll have, and the size of the location, you could go with a delivered trailer, a traditional porta potty, or there are even tow-able portable toilets on flatbed trailers that you can tow to the site yourself.

When deciding on what to rent, keep in mind a delivery truck will need to access the area (unless you’re towing it yourself). Also, you don’t mention whether you’ll be on private land or a state or federal park. Either way you’ll need permission to park a toilet on your campground.

Some public parks will allow you to bring portable toilet trailers, but you need to check with the park services department. There may be permits and fees involved. And if they do allow porta potties, they may have specific requirements for placement and features. For example, beaches will most likely require a protective base to prevent any leaks from getting into the sand. Always check with the location before you rent a toilet to make sure you’ll be allowed to bring it with you.

Another consideration is access to water and electricity. If you rent a restroom trailer, you’ll more than likely need access to both. For large units like these, it may require an extra fee if they need to manually change out the water and sewage tanks. Be sure to find out what’s available near near the campsite and what you’ll need to deliver or service the toilet.

Taking a portable toilet camping is doable, you just need to do a little planning beforehand. Have a great family reunion! And give us a call if you need help finding the right product for your site. 

temporary dog fencing image

Ask Angela: Temporary fencing for dogs?

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.

Hey Angela, we’ve got some dogs visiting our property for a short time. Can we order temporary fencing for dogs?

Hi, there. Thank you for asking. You have no idea how many times we hear this question. It seems logical, right? Just put up some temporary fencing and you’ve got a dog run? But unfortunately, the answer is almost always no, and here’s why:

Temporary fencing is made specifically for people. Construction site fencing and event fencing for crowds are designed for areas where you need to keep people safe and away from dangers like heavy equipment, high-voltage electricity, or traffic and other dangers to crowds. We even wrote a blog post on how temporary fencing saves lives.  

Think about how temporary fencing is constructed to meet these needs. You’re going to rent either large panels that are weighted down for construction sites, or the shorter “bicycle fencing” used at events. Neither of these styles are made to keep a dog penned in.

If you’ve ever had a dog, you know how often they dig under, or jump over, fences. Dog fencing has to be sturdy enough to handle dog shenanigans. With standard temporary fencing used in construction and events, strong dogs could potentially push over panels. In any of these cases, you’ll end up with loose dogs to round up.

Even if you dig posts and create a more stable temporary fencing solution, it still isn’t as good as a dog run or kennel panels that are designed for dogs.

All in all, using temporary fencing rentals for dogs opens up a lot of liability issues. It also creates an unsafe environment for the dogs. What happens when they get out? With dogs…any and everything.

The good news is you can buy kennel kits at any home improvement or hardware store. Some of the large big-box stores also carry them. And of course, you can order them online. These kits are designed for dogs, and they come in many different sizes. They’re relatively easy to install, and in a lot of cases they’re less expensive than trying to create your own system using temporary fencing rentals.   

We always recommend people invest in an outdoor kennel kit and not temporary fencing for dogs. You might think kennel kits look very similar to the temporary fencing you rent for construction and event use, but they’re not the same. Get a kennel kit designed and tested specifically for dogs. From a liability standpoint, it’s a lot better than having your dogs on the loose.

I hope that answered your question. Keep the questions coming! We’re always here to help. And give us a call for any of your non-dog temporary fencing needs. We can bundle all your construction worksite or event site services with one call.

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.