Dumpsters 101: How to Rent a Dumpster

full dumpster

Renting a dumpster isn’t terribly 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.

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How Are Roll-Off Containers Designed?

anatomy of a roll of dumpster

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

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.

When Are Dumpsters 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 are more than a couple of ways to put a roll-off to work for you.

Common Uses for Roll-Off Containers

  • Basement, garage, and attic cleanouts
  • 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

What Are the Differences Between Commercial and Construction Dumpsters?

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 set schedule, similar to residential curbside trash services.

These containers hold 2 cubic yards to 8 cubic yards of trash on average.

These trash containers have a lid to prevent the public from tossing their trash in, to keep out rain and snow, to control odors, and to deter pests.

Construction 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 large cleanup job, like cleaning out a home, garage, or attic.

They're also perfect for handling debris from a home remodeling project or removing large amounts of yard waste.

Typically holding 10 cubic yards to 40 cubic yards of debris, these are larger, open-top trash containers rented on a temporary basis.

Choosing the Right Dumpster Size

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 overage fees or the need for additional dumpsters. It's always better to overestimate the amount of stuff you want to get rid of 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.

What Dumpster Size Is Right for My Roofing Project?

Roofing Squares (3-tabs) Shingle Debris Weight Ideal Dumpster Size
10 1.25 tons 10 yard
20 2.5 tons 10 yard
30 3.75 tons 15 yard
40 5 tons 20 yard
50 6.25 tons 20 yard+
60 7.5 tons 30 yard+

It can be difficult to estimate how much construction debris or household junk you have.

Harder yet is trying 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 best for various projects.

Best Uses for Various Dumpster Sizes

5-10 Yard Containers

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

Getting 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, 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.

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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 thoroughly.

To ensure your dumpster rental goes smoothly, know 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 pickup automatic?
  • What can and can't I put in the dumpster?
  • How much weight is included in the price?

Is the Dumpster Pickup Automatic?

Some companies will automatically come pick the dumpster up at the end of your rental period, 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 and 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 upfront what is allowed to go into your dumpster.

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 Go in a 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 Go in a 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.

How Much Weight is Included in the Rental Price?

Most companies require payment at the 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 a 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


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.

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