Dumpsters 101: How to Rent a Dumpster

dumpster rental 101

Renting a dumpster isn’t too difficult, but it can be intimidating for the first-time renter. You can make an appointment for delivery in a matter of minutes, but in order to get the most out of your dumpster experience without overpaying, you’ll want to be privy to a few things first.

Not only are there hundreds of companies out there to choose from, but there are various dumpster sizes, rental periods, and disposal fees to consider.

Our dumpster guide covers various dumpster sizes, prices, how to schedule, proper loading instructions, and more—everything you need to know to ensure your rental goes smoothly.

How are roll-off containers designed?

anatomy of a roll of dumpster

Roll-off containers ("dumpsters") are pretty simple beasts—they have swinging doors on one side, and feet or rollers on the bottom.

RELATED: Dumpster Rental and Junk Removal Resource Index

The doors make loading bulky, heavy items easy, and the feet/rollers are placed on wooden planks to protect your driveway or street.

Dumpsters are rolled off a truck and onto your property with the help of a large hook and pulley system, as demonstrated above. When you're done using the dumpster, you call the rental company and have them come pick it up using the same hook and pulley system.

Projects where a dumpster can be useful?

There are a million and one reasons to rent a dumpster, and many people don’t realize exactly how useful they can be.

Dumpsters truly are the underrated superhero of waste disposal. Sure, they're great for the typical stuff, like house remodeling and doing a major house clean out; but there's more than a couple of ways to put a roll-off to work for you.

Here are just a few:

  • Basement, garage, and attic clean outs
  • Spring cleaning projects
  • Decluttering a house before a move (or just because it needs it)
  • Yard waste removal
  • Roofing replacement or repair projects
  • Kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects
  • Replacing windows or siding
  • New construction

Other helpful articles about smart dumpster rental:

What's the differences between Commercial Dumpsters and Construction Dumpsters?

Trash Dumpsters or "Commercial Dumpsters"

commercial front load dumpster

Trash dumpsters are the common name given to commercial business dumpsters... the type spotted every day behind gas stations, restaurants, apartment complexes, and other places of business. Commercial dumpsters are permanent trash containers rented by businesses and are picked up on a regular schedule.

  • Commercial dumpsters are smaller containers holding 2 cubic yards to 8 cubic yards of trash
  • Trash dumpsters are permanent containers that are picked up on a regular schedule... usually every week to every month
  • Commercial dumpsters are used by businesses for everyday debris removal and are often spotted behind gas stations and restaurants
  • These trash containers have a lid to keep out rain and snow. Lids also help control odors and deter pests.

Construction Dumpsters or "Roll-Off Dumpsters"

Image of roll off dumpsterConstruction dumpsters are the common name often given to roll-off dumpsters, even though these open-top dumpsters can be used for more than just construction debris removal. Construction dumpster rental is the ideal solution for any cleanup job that would be made simpler by having a temporary waste dumpster on site.

  • Construction dumpsters are larger, open-top trash containers rented on a temporary basis
  • A construction dumpster typically holds 10 cubic yards to 40 cubic yards of debris
  • Used for construction debris removal after remodeling a kitchen, bath, or basement
  • Excellent for household junk removal - cleaning out a home, garage, or basement
  • Useful for demolition debris removal
  • Roof tear-off and replacement
  • Yard waste removal

Choose the right dumpster size.

roll off dumpster sizes
Roll off dumpster sizes

Dumpsters come in a wide range of sizes measured in cubic yards, which indicates the container's capacity. Above are some of the most commonly used dumpster sizes (and their dimensions), one of which will be better for your project than the rest.

It's tempting to pinch pennies by going with the smallest container size, but more often than not, that leads to trouble.

Trying to squeeze all your junk into a dumpster that's too small can be costly, leading to overages or the need for additional dumpsters. Always overestimate the amount of stuff you have rather than underestimate it.

If you have a roofing project, it's pretty easy to calculate the total amount of dumpster space you'll need. But it can be tough to estimate how much construction debris or household junk you have, and it's even tougher to predict exactly how much stuff you'll want to get rid of once a big, convenient dumpster is sitting in your driveway.

  • See our quick and easy Dumpster Sizes Chart infographic to learn about the different sizes and which container size works well for various projects.

See the best uses for various size dumpsters below.

5 - 10 yard containers

  • Small basement, garage, or attic cleanout
  • Small kitchen or bathroom remodeling job
  • 250 sq. ft. or smaller deck removal
  • 1,500 sq. ft. of roof shingles (single layer)

15 - 20 yard containers

  • Small-to-medium basement, attic, or garage cleanups
  • Large flooring or carpeting removal
  • 300 - 400 sq. ft. deck removal
  • 2,500 - 3,000 sq. ft. of single layer roof shingle removal

30 - 40 yard containers

  • Medium-to-large amounts of demolition debris, trash, paper, or cardboard
  • Large home addition
  • New home construction
  • Garage demolition
  • Whole-home window or siding replacement
  • Commercial roof tear-off
  • Office building cleanout

More helpful reads:

Get the best dumpster price.

Not surprisingly, price goes up with size; but there are a number of other factors that affect the price—both positively and negatively.


As mentioned previously, skimping on size is not the way to go. It costs more to have two 10-yard dumpsters delivered to your property than one 20-yard bin, so it's always better to go up a size when in doubt.

Debris Type

Depending on where you're located and the type of waste processing facilities near you, you may be able to save some money by sending some of the debris to a recycling facility, where disposal fees are much less expensive.

If you plan on putting shingles, concrete, or construction debris, like wood or drywall, in your dumpster, you may be able to "clean load" it by only filling it with that material. From there, it can be taken directly to the recycling facility, where disposal fees are low and you save money.

Weight of Debris

A majority of rental agreements include a certain amount of weight -- called the "weight allowance" -- and that number will affect the price, too. If you go over the weight allowance, you'll be charged extra.

The type of project you have will affect the weight of your debris. Typically, household junk is on the lighter side, while roofing shingles, concrete, dirt, and construction debris are on the heavier side.

Estimating the volume of waste you have can be difficult, and there are many factors that affect pricing. It's always a good idea to discuss pricing with multiple contractors to guarantee you get the best possible price. Hometown Dumpster Rental can help with that, making it easy to get quotes from multiple contractors and read verified reviews all in one place.

Keep reading to learn more:

Know the dumpster rental terms and conditions.

Too often, customers are surprised by additional fees and "overage charges," so it's important to understand the rental terms by reading the contract.

A major factor to ensuring your dumpster rental goes smoothly involves knowing your rental terms ahead of time.

Here are just some of the things you should discuss with your contractor before scheduling delivery:

  • Is the dumpster company automatically coming to pick up the dumpster at the end of the rental period? Some dumpster rental companies will automatically come pick it up at the end of your rental, but it’s best practice to call the company as soon as you’re done with your dumpster. The sooner you call, the sooner all your junk will be hauled away.
  • What can or can’t I put in the dumpster? Each hauling company works a little differently, and they have different exceptions to rules, like what can and cannot be put in their dumpster. If you have a small amount of concrete, ask your hauler if you can include it with household junk. Never try sneaking in debris you’re not supposed to. The additional weight and overage fees aren’t worth it, and you’re not fooling anybody. That’s why it’s best to discuss with your hauler up front what is allowed to go into your dumpster.
  • How much weight is included in the rental price? Most companies require payment at time of delivery; however, if you go over the included weight, then you’ll be stuck paying the difference, and it can add up fast. These additional charges come after your dumpster is hauled away, sometimes days or weeks later.

Schedule delivery.

blue residential roll off dumpster

Once you've shopped around a bit and you've found the best company/price for you, it's time to schedule a drop-off time.

When the company arrives to deliver your dumpster, point them in the right direction and let them know where you'd like your dumpster placed. They'll usually place wood planks underneath the dumpster to protect your driveway/property and make sure it's set up for easy access.

Dumpster rental companies get busy, especially in the warmer months, so to ensure you get the right size dumpster when you need it, schedule to have a dumpster delivered to your property the day before you intend to start your project.

Load your dumpster.

dumpster swing back doors

The company you hire will set up your dumpster so the doors can be opened all the way back, as shown above. This makes for easier, more efficient loading.

However, there are some guidelines to follow regarding what can and cannot go in a dumpster.

What can I put in my dumpster?

You can put nearly anything considered "general waste" into your dumpster, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Household junk
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Paper products
  • Non-organic trash

Some materials are only allowed in dumpsters if they are “clean loaded,” meaning it is the only material in the dumpster. These include:

  • Concrete
  • Roofing shingles
  • Wood and drywall
  • Dirt and rock

Check with your contractor to see what discounts are available for clean-loading your dumpster.

What can't I put in my dumpster?

You cannot put hazardous waste or liquids, food waste, and other hazmats into your dumpster.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Televisions
  • Computer monitors
  • Refrigerators
  • Paints
  • Solvents
  • Asbestos
  • Tires
  • Batteries
  • Contaminated soils
  • Fuels
  • Resins
  • Food waste
  • Adhesives
  • Railroad ties
If you have any hazardous or unacceptable items, talk with your contractor or contact your local county office to learn how and where you can properly dispose of them. Our Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Guide is another good reference.

Call to have it picked up.

Once you’re done using your dumpster, call the rental company to let them know you’re ready for it to be picked up.

When they arrive, they’ll place a hook on your dumpster and quickly pull it back onto their truck and haul it away, as shown below.

What to avoid:

In order to guarantee your dumpster pick-up goes smoothly, avoid overfilling the dumpster, and make sure the dumpster pick-up truck can easily access it.

For example, if a car is parked in front of your dumpster and you’re not home when they come to pick it up, you’ll have to pay what’s commonly referred to as a “dry run” or “trip charge.”

You can also be charged for driver delay and container dig-out if your dumpster is stuck or you delay the driver in any way.

Find a dumpster rental provider near you