kitchen renovation with tenants still living there

28 Replies

I plan to renovate one of the kitchens in the duplex i own but i have to do it while my tenants are still living there...and in one weekend. Has anyone had experience with this situation? I'd like to do the cabinets, counter top and back splash by myself to save money. I have to relocate the gas range and refrigerator so I think i should probably hire a plumber and/or electrician for that part. Would i call the utility company to re-route the gas line?

No way is that a weekend project. Nor is it easy to install countertops or wall cabinets by yourself.

You'll need a plumber to move the gas line.

And permits. And inspections.

Well im sure it wont be easy but its all the time i have to work with so we'll see how it goes. what would i need permits and inspections for just the gas line?

I've moved a gas line for a dryer and the licensed plumber didn't pull a permit for that. So I don't know the real rules on that.

I know crews that can do new cabinets and granite counter, and simple backsplash in a weekend. But not tile and certainly not a tile backsplash. Several steps, several days for that. And that would be if they were working with a perfectly a clean slate. So on Friday night all the old cabinets would have to removed, the appliances moved and the plumbing and gas capped off. Great way to spend a Friday night. It assumes the old backsplash is small or no existent.

If you have really old cabinets that were custom installed back in the day, it's way more complicated. Are your current cabinets standard size? What's the flooring situation?

Do you have pictures? A cabinet/counter change out really can be done in a weekend if you have a plumber that can be on call all weekend and come when he's needed. But if you're changing the configuration at all and if removing your old cabinets will reveal flooring and wall repair.....forgit about it.

It shouldnt be a problem if it is a gallery kitchen. Most of the kitchens in my smaller units are a few base cabinets including the sink base and a few upper cabinets. Take the measurements and order the cabinets, I usually use cabinets to go .com. Decent prices with decent cabinets that are easy to assemble. Relocating the gas line should be simple if you have a good plumber and access. Most of the the demo will be behind the cabinets. Tiling the top or backsplash will probably cause you an extra day but shouldnt be a problem with the tenant... they are getting a new kitchen.

Your pre planning, team and common sense will definitly determine if you can complete in a weekend.

Frank

Frank Romine, Real Estate Agent in CA (#01957844)

Thanks for the feedback. Whenever someone tells me I can't it always motivates me.. and I think I'll need a lot of that plus coffee. I'll look into the permits because I want to do this the right way. I'm not too worried about the backsplash I just want to get the main stuff done like appliances cabinets and counters so that it's functional and my tenants can cook.

You will never get it done in a weekend. Just mud and sanding takes 2 days. Paint is extra

I am guessing you have never installed cabinets before, right? Assuming that is the case, this is not a weekend project. You have to remove current appliances, demo the existing cabinets and counters, install upper and lower cabinets, install counters, install sink, hook up plumbing, etc. Do you know how to install cabinets so they are all plumb? Do you know whether to install upper or lower cabinets first (there is a right answer)? Have you installed counters before?

Perhaps if you had a crew that does this for a living, you might get it done in 2-3 days. But definitely not by yourself. My father remodeled several kitchens in his rentals, and it took him about 6-7 days by himself. My husband, my father, and my brother remodeled my brother's kitchen, and it took them several days.

Pop quiz. .. what's the installed height of the upper cabinets?

Are the gfi on 12 gauge already? Disposal on a separate circuit? No flooring changes?

Upper cabinets first that's no secret guy. And you can learn a lot on the internet via YouTube videos a forums. Instead of pop quizzes do you have any advice ? Obviously I've never done this before it's my first Reno on my first house I'm just wondering if I don't do it in a short time frame how will I do it without disrupting my tenants lives . I don't want them to have to eat out for a week.

Originally posted by @Robin Casper :
Thanks for the feedback. Whenever someone tells me I can't it always motivates me.. and I think I'll need a lot of that plus coffee. I'll look into the permits because I want to do this the right way. I'm not too worried about the backsplash I just want to get the main stuff done like appliances cabinets and counters so that it's functional and my tenants can cook.

I like your attitude. If you agree to post pictures throughout the weekend, starting with the demo, I'll pay for you to upgrade to a pro account. It could be inspirational and fun. Think about it!

@Robin Casper There were other BP threads on this same topic recently that you may want to read.

http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/118940-anyone-renovate-while-unit-is-occupied

http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/119584

What year was the duplex built? If prior to 1978, you will need to comply with the laws that pertain to lead-based paint. Since the tenants are still living in the unit, it becomes more complicated. You will need to give them the "Renovate Right" booklet too and be extremely careful how you go about doing your work. Read up about this at www.epa.gov/lead. If built after 1978, save this info for another time.

Good luck. Let us know how it goes.

Listen to Marcia about the lead rules. Not only do you have to give them the lead flyer, but you have to be RRP certified if you're disturbing more than a small amount of painted area (review her link for the requirements.)

If you need to pull permits, you may also need to get ready to make sure that the kitchen is up to code, plumbing- and electric-wise. This varies by jurisdiction and inspector, but you need to know so you're not having to do more work than you had anticipated.

I've done cabinets and countertop myself before. You may be able to get it done in a weekend if it goes well and you've planned in advance. The thing you have to keep in mind is: what happens if it doesn't?

K. Marie Poe is right - what happens when you demo and find unanticipated problems? What's your back-up plan? This isn't a sarcastic, rhetorical question - have a back-up plan! On an empty unit you're just dealing with carrying costs - with an occupied one, you'll have justifiably irritated tenants.

Good luck!

I have not done this job myself before so I don't have any additional comments on the workload itself (other than to say, it sounds pretty daunting to me...). However, can you just offer the tenants to pay for their lunch and dinner for Monday and Tuesday, so that you give yourself some extra time? While not using the kitchen for a couple of days may be an inconvenience, it doesn't seem like the end of the world and they ARE getting a new kitchen out of it. Just a thought

I actually HAVE done this job and done it mostly by myself. Mostly, because there are some steps you just cannot do with one person. In the specific job I'm thinking of the base cabinets needed to be pulled out, tile laid, and then the cabinets and countertops re-installed. I didn't want to re-do any plumbing, so the sink base has to be lifted straight up to get it over the supply and drain lines. It was a struggle with two of us. Maybe you will be luck and have all the plumbing coming in from the wall and you can just pull it away from the wall. The pre-formed formica countertops are also very heavy. How big a problem that is depends on how long they are.

If you get permits it absolutely cannot be done in a weekend. When you start changing electric or plumbing (gas line) you have to first get the wires and lines in place but not connected and call for rough inspections. Around here if you call by 3:00 on one business day you can get inspections on the next business day. After the inspection you can start on the next steps. Inspections are on weekdays only and you never know what time they will show up.

You also have the issue that as soon as you touch something, other requirements may come into play. If you're changing electric, they may make you conform to all the other kitchen electrical requirements. You might not like @George P. pop quiz, but the inspector may give you the same one. OTOH it may be possible to just relocate the fridge receptacle without a big hassle.

So, simply having permits in play will require a certain timeline and interfere with your ability to do the work quickly. But if you skip permits and there's a problem later that can come back to bite you.

Is there a way you can replace the cabinets without moving the fridge and range around?

For the drywall, you can use a setting type joint compound to make progress quicker. This is the stuff that comes in bags of dry powder. You mix it up and use it quickly. Unlike the regular "drying" compound, this stuff chemically reacts and "sets". They will have different reaction times at the store. Downside is you have to work quickly and this is harder to sand than the drying kind. But perfect for a situation like yours.

A helper who can help you with the heavy pieces would be a big help toward making this go faster. Even a simple job like setting the base cabinets will go faster if one person can watch the level and the other can futz with the shims. The wall cabinets aren't too bad. Screw a straight board to the wall to give yourself a little ledge. Hold one up with one hand and get a couple of screws in and it will stay while you fully secure it. I'm a big fan of the GRK Uber Grade cabinet screws. The appearance is good without the need for a finish washer, the go in easily and have a torx head that avoid slipping.

If you don't have one, an impact driver with two batteries would be a good investment for a job like this.

this reminds me of "renovation realities", but with tenants. and a bad ending.

My question is why are you even doing this renovation in the first place? You already have tenants that are willing to pay you rent every month without the renovation. Are you going to raise rent when the renovation is done? If not, why are putting good money into a unit when the return won't be realized until they move out? Doesn't seem like a good return on investment to me.

Just my two cents,

-Clinton

Originally posted by @Jon Holdman :

If you don't have one, an impact driver with two batteries would be a good investment for a job like this.

Best advice in the thread. Look at your tool situation and buy new or replace parts now so you're not shopping during the weekend. Don't skimp on additional batteries and make sure they are charging/charged when not in use. Nothing like running out of power. Then it's time for a beer while you wait for a battery charge, and then time for a nap. It goes downhill from there.

I'm actually with @Clinton Holmes here. This is the sort of project you do between tenants.

Originally posted by @George P. :
this reminds me of "renovation realities", but with tenants. and a bad ending.

i would recommend watching a couple episodes of this before attempting a full kitchen reno in a weekend

Originally posted by @Clinton Holmes :
My question is why are you even doing this renovation in the first place? You already have tenants that are willing to pay you rent every month without the renovation. Are you going to raise rent when the renovation is done? If not, why are putting good money into a unit when the return won't be realized until they move out? Doesn't seem like a good return on investment to me.
Just my two cents,

-Clinton

I thought the same thing when I first saw this thread. I just don't see the point of doing major reno work with a tenant living there unless you have to do it due to damage that occurred (like we did - water leak damaged cabinets, we had to replace them with existing tenants still there).

The reason I'm doing this is because my tenants have lived there for 14 years and the previous landlord did no updating. If I update the kitchen I can raise rent by 100 a month and make my tenants happy. I want to make this place 100% before moving on and buying another property. Renovating will also increase the value of the property and make it easier to rent down the line.The existing kitchen is insufficient. The other side of the duplex will be vacant during the renovation so I can have my tenants use that kitchen if needed. I plan on doing the work in June..just asking questions now to iron out details I'll be sure to post some pictures throughout.

Yes, you can get it done in a weekend. You'll definitely need two people though. It will be hard work, but you already know that. Knocking out and installing cabinets isn't rocket science. Pretty simple stuff. The hardest thing will be relocating the gas/electric lines. Work it out so you don't have to do this if possible. If you run into a problem with the gas/electrical you won't be able to make your deadline.

Also, what is currently on the floor now? I assume you are ripping it up?

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but doesn't mean you won't pull it off :) My biggest concern would be disrupting my tenants, but if they are on board and aware of your plans then that might be a non-issue. I would temper their expectations and not "promise" to have it done in 1 weekend, as you might run into problems and it may take longer.

Are you able to start some portions of this project sooner and then complete the final install in one weekend? I think it would be much easier to take out the flooring and upper cabinets ahead of time, and ideally have the rough-ins for the new gas/plumbing/electrical completed as well.

Ryan Swan, Real Estate Agent in AZ (#SA661174000)
Originally posted by @Robin Casper :
The reason I'm doing this is because my tenants have lived there for 14 years and the previous landlord did no updating. If I update the kitchen I can raise rent by 100 a month and make my tenants happy. I want to make this place 100% before moving on and buying another property. Renovating will also increase the value of the property and make it easier to rent down the line.The existing kitchen is insufficient. The other side of the duplex will be vacant during the renovation so I can have my tenants use that kitchen if needed. I plan on doing the work in June..just asking questions now to iron out details I'll be sure to post some pictures throughout.

If the other side of the duplex will be vacant and available to the tenants, schedule the work to take a week. Have the tenants pack up their kitchen and let them set up what they need for daily use over in the other kitchen. Is there a working refrigerator in the other unit? If not, move their refrigerator out of the kitchen, to the living room or to the other unit. You're going to be making a mess in the old kitchen, so make sure the tenants are aware that everything needs to be cleared out and stored elsewhere. The tenants shouldn't need to enter the kitchen area at all while the rehab is going on so curtain off as much of the unit as possible with plastic and tape.