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I just had a significant amount of work done on my house and the contractors left lots of nails scattered around my yard.

I have a two-part question:

  1. Is this typical?
  2. If it's typical, why is it the case? Is it just the cost of doing business? Or could contractors be more careful?
  • 4
    related for cleanup: How can I make a nail-strewn lawn safe for bare feet? – Darrick Herwehe Nov 17 '15 at 3:37
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    A more important question: why do so many nails fall off construction workers' trucks? – Michael Nov 17 '15 at 22:00
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    As a little added color, I do a lot of work to my own house. I'm finishing up a major re-siding project right now. I have a magnet sweeper and use it as part of clean up every day. Every time I go outside, I still find another couple dozen nails on the ground, even though I already did what should have picked them up. – Karl Katzke Nov 18 '15 at 4:07
16

Yes it is typical, but a conscientious contractor will pick them up with a magnet or not let them drop to begin with. Sadly, from my experience, not many workers do. Cost of the nails versus the time needed to pick them up, it is cheaper to leave them.

I would call and let the contractor know you are not content with the nails everywhere, see if any action is taken.

  • 2
    Finding a couple of nails is unavoidable. I have a feeling that is not what is being referenced. Just for the OP's info - I have a roofing crew that I have used 20 times - at least. They did my own home (decent size house for 4500) and I have found at least 50 roofing nails in the 6 months since. Shit I even found a BOX of roofing nails that was half used. Why? Because the contractor pays for everything and the day laborers don't care. How do you solve this? Pay extra for crews that aren't farmed. – DMoore Nov 17 '15 at 6:39
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    Roofing nails are the biggest and worst culprit, for all the reasons mentioned in other posts and comments I have seen wheel mounted magnets used by roofers and I am sure a few are left behind still. The OP did not mention the type of work, but the issue remains, some crews simply don't clean up like they should. In the same breath I will say there will always be some left behind, it is hard to find every nail... – Jack Nov 17 '15 at 8:05
  • As an inspector I wouldn't sign-off on a job until the job-site has been cleaned to a reasonable degree, it's part of the job. But that up to your locality and if you even have such provisions in your area's codes. But might be worth exploring if you don't get a favourable response from your contractor. – RomaH Nov 17 '15 at 16:58
  • After having a contractor partially build (framed, exterior walls, and tar paper on the roof) a 2 room addition for my parents house, my brother and I collected one and a half 3x5x5" sized boxes of nails from the yard by dragging around boards decked out in magnets every day after they left. – Dan Neely Nov 17 '15 at 19:15
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There are a bunch of different ways that nails wind up on the ground, and none of them are really avoidable. They fall out of nail pouches, they'll kick out and go flying if you hit them wrong with a hammer or double fire with a nailer, crowbars send them flying, etc., etc., etc. On top of this, individual nails are really hard to find in the grass, even if you know where to look. I'll usually run a magnetic nail sweeper around when I'm done, but not everyone does that and they won't get all of them. If it's a bunch of them and they're easily visible, I'd mention it to the contractor, but ending a large job with a completely nail-free yard is very unlikely.

8

It's fairly typical. Nails get dropped, nails are struck poorly and go flying.

Nails are not hugely expensive (modern era - supposedly in the era that they were hand-made one at a time, folks would burn down old houses for the nails, though I am dubious that that is an accurate claim.)

Carpenters are fairly expensive and not fond of playing janitor. If the crew has a less expensive person who is supposed to clean up, it's still hard to find every lost nail. So long as they don't end up standing on their heads they generally rust quietly away after a few years without causing problems.

If you prefer to get more, you can hire someone to use a very strong magnet to sweep the area - but even a very strong magnet won't pull in nails from several inches away, so the ground-sweeping operation needs to be very thorough to come close to getting them all. You can rent "magnetic sweepers" that roll along and cover a fairly wide swath, but they work best on hard surfaces, not grass. I use a few hard drive magnets taped to a discarded golf club ;-)

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