How did I pick a service?
I Googled "junk removal Philadelphia." 1-800-GOT-JUNK? landed as the first few search results, and I had seen their trucks around town. Apparently they're also the national chain featured on Hoarders. Their website is well-designed and you can make an online appointment, but they keep their standard rates under wraps, at least until you book an appointment. According to their online booking service, their crew could come out within the hour, and if I booked a same- or next-day appointment, I would receive $10 off my bill. Your appointment is a two-hour timeslot in which the crew will come out, give you an estimate, and then do the work on the spot if you agree to the price.
So, how much does it cost?
The Got Junk guys were polite, on time, and answered all of my questions. But I got sticker-shocked when they told me that it would cost $350+. Yikes! That was a little out of my budget - I had expected around $200. They told me that they would go call their boss to see if they could bring down the price, but to no avail. The estimate still stood at $350. I declined their offer and thanked them for their time.
Why does it cost so much?
In general, junk removal services all charge in the same way, with slightly different pricing policies. Most charge by volume (1/8th of a truckload, 1/4th of a truckload, etc., usually ranging from around $80 for minimum pickup, up to $600 for a full truck), rather than the length of time they work for you or the number of items they haul. This worked in my favor, as my construction debris was mostly smallish chunks of plywood and individual bricks, which take longer to haul than, say, a sofa. However, as with general trash collection, junk removal services have special pricing for construction debris. Because construction trash is heavy, the crews cannot load as much into their trucks and it costs more for them to dispose of it. Quite a bit more, as it turns out. Had the amount of stuff I needed to get rid of been anything other than construction debris, it would have cost me less than $200. Instead, I would be charged $350.
So what happened next?
Fortunately, Hank got the phone number of the crew that they use for big moves at his place of employment. Unfortunately, he gave me this information after I had already made the Got Junk appointment, but oh well. So after Got Junk left, I called Aaron at Junk-Be-Gone, who was at my house for an estimate within a few hours. Awesome, right?
Well, turns out $350 is a pretty standard rate for the kind of trash I needed to get rid of, because Junk-Be-Gone gave me a nearly-identical quote. Well, it is what it is, I thought. At that moment, it was more important for me to get over the junk hurdle for fear that this project might continue to drag its feet for the rest of the summer. We got a parking space for Aaron's truck, and he and a second crewmember got to work.
How'd it go?
Overall, I was very pleased with Junk Be Gone The guys were friendly but efficient, and careful about not damaging the property. My back yard does not have alley access, so everything they removed had to go through my house - yet another reason to not deal with the removal myself. Even when carrying a heavy bin full of bricks and mortar, they made sure that nothing except their shoes touched my floor.
It took about an hour to clear everything out. I'm sure it wasn't the easiest job. It involved a lot of trips through the house, in the heat of the afternoon, and they had to move my rain barrel and two gas grills (don't ask) around a couple times in order to get at all the junk. But all in all, they didn't need much direction about what stayed and what went, and the process was very smooth. I recommend Junk-Be-Gone highly. And even though their rates are comparable to Got Junk for my particular job, I felt good about supporting a local business and I would definitely call them again. Although, hopefully I never have to deal with this much trash all at once again.
Finally, as I mentioned in the earlier post, one of the advantages of hiring a professional junk removal service is that they will dispose of your trash at the correct facilities. Got Junk claims to have recycled almost two billion pounds of junk that otherwise would have gone to the land fill. A project like my back yard makes it all too obvious how much unnecessary waste is generated by construction. Yes, redoing the yard will increase my property value, allow me to enjoy my yard, provide me with home-grown vegetables and flowers, but it also is one more way I am putting waste back into the system. As I continue with the project, I hope to find some greener, less wasteful ways to build. As always, suggestions are welcome.
* One problem I have run into as a first-time homeowner is how difficult it can be to find trusted crews to do household jobs. With so few of my friends owning homes, I had never considered how hard it might be to, say, find a plumber without a personal recommendation. In this respect, Hank's work has been really helpful - I have gotten referrals for a number of services that they use (if you need an awesome handyman in Philadelphia, let me know). However, the larger problem stands: how crappy the Internet can be for finding out information about builders, painters, handymen, movers, etc.
It seems to me as though most people who feel inspired to write a review online have a horror story or a bone to pick. Thus, just about any service you search for yields no reviews or constructive information, or negative reviews only. Not a lot to go on, especially for someone like me, who will spend an hour on Yelp trying to figure out where to go out to dinner.
I know that sites like Angie's List exist, but the membership fee turns me off. Does anyone out there have experience with Angie's List? Is it worth what looks to be about $30/year? Is there anything out there that's comparable for free? Because as much as I love it, Yelp kind of sucks for anything other than food, hair, and spas.