One of our biggest challenges was keeping enough materials, equipment, and supplies on hand without squeezing ourselves or the building’s tenants out of the limited space we were allotted to work in. We also needed to manage the small mountain of debris the work generated, including about 600 old cabinets, the packing boxes from the new cabinets, and 50 old countertops and sinks.
Office. To manage the operation, we were provided an unoccupied apartment on the 18th floor, which took us about a day to convert into a cramped but functional field office (see slideshow). After covering the floors with heavy canvas drops, we set up our table saw and miter saw in the unit’s bedroom, creating a central area for the operations that would produce the most dust. In the living room, we set up several large steel shelving units and a desk (two filing cabinets supporting an MDF top). This room became a mini warehouse, the place where we stored sinks, light fixtures, paint, sealants, and other consumables.
Job carts. To move all of our “stuff” through the building, we used a series of customized carts. Although well-organized, our first general-purpose cart — a 2-foot by 4-foot plywood box placed on a rubber-tired garden wagon — proved too unwieldy to maneuver in and out of the elevators. So we parked it in the field office, where it became a catch-all for miscellaneous gear, and replaced it with a smaller 18-inch by 36-inch version that could be easily rolled into position just outside the door of whatever kitchen we were working on. This “installation wagon” held the cordless drivers, hardware, and adhesives needed for cabinet and counter installation, along with a vacuum for cleanup. To avoid wasting time changing bits or searching for a specific tool, we made sure the cart was stocked with multiples of each tool.
Our next cart — a smaller 15-inch by 30-inch plywood box dropped onto a service cart — was a dedicated demo, prep, patch, and paint vehicle. In it, we carried all the tools and supplies needed to bring a unit from the demo phase to the point where it was ready for cabinet installation.
In addition to our customized carts, we used a drywall cart to wheel old and new counters in and out of the apartment building. Four-wheel mover’s dollies were handy for lugging around both old and new cabinets, and we used a convertible hand truck for appliances and other bulky items. We also had a cabinet lift for wheeling and lifting preassembled lengths of upper cabinets into position.
Storage. We used various bins and boxes to hold and organize small tools, fasteners, plumbing parts, shims, sealants, and other supplies; in fact, every item we used was stored in a specific location for the entire project. This approach cut down on time spent looking for things and made it easy to track inventory.
To warehouse bulk materials, we rented three steel storage containers and had them placed in the rear parking lot of the building. We located the 8-foot by 20-foot containers about 60 feet away from an exterior entrance that led directly to the building’s freight elevators, giving us easy access. Each container had a specific purpose: The first held base cabinets, the second held upper cabinets, and the third was our “recycling box,” where we placed anything that was to be recycled or reused.
To meet our goal of completing four kitchens a week, we needed cabinet and counter deliveries roughly every other week. When deliveries arrived, we had the truck back directly up to the storage containers, which made it easier to off-load and transfer the contents. We handled recycling the same way, scheduling pickups for Fridays to minimize interference with our Monday-through-Thursday workweek.
Waste management. We always try to recycle as much as possible, so we contacted a number of nonprofit organizations to see if they would be interested in taking the old cabinets. Habitat for Humanity Restores and another local organization picked up roughly 70 percent of the old cabinets and 80 percent of the sinks. The rest of the components were too damaged to be useful, so we recycled the stainless steel sinks and broke up the remaining cabinets and countertops and threw them into our dump trailer.
The job also generated well over 700 cardboard boxes, all of which were placed on the building’s loading dock for regularly scheduled recycling pickup. In addition to the sinks, we saved miscellaneous metals from the demo and construction process and brought them to a local recycling center at the end of the job.
On a job of this magnitude, recycling has very tangible benefits; we estimate we kept at least 15 tons of material out of landfills and saved thousands of dollars in hauling and disposal fees. We also ended up with cash in our pockets after recycling all the old metals. And since the organizations that received the old components held not-for-profit status, we will be able to write off the contribution of materials.