What type of cabinets should I install in my new rental property

8 Replies

Hello everyone,

I'm trying to figure out what type of cabinets to install in my kitchen. Should I go particle board, prefabricated or the nicer, more expensive plywood cabinets. I'm looking for functionality and cost benefit with these cabinets. I would like something that will last through abuse considering it's a rental property. All advice is welcome!

We generally install unfinished cabinets from Lowe's for the following reasons:

1. The frames and doors are solid red oak.

2. They can be finished in any color you want (we usually just use a clear poly because it's easy to touch up in the future).

3. The drawers are solid wood (other than the bottoms, which is cheap particle board).

4. Unless you spend high-end all big box-store cabinets are cheap pressed wood boxes; you are only paying for fancier finishes. These are 10-50% cheaper than anything else off the shelf.

5. It's faster than RTA (ready to assemble) cabinets by a long shot.

6. They only come in standard cabinet sizes so you have to design your kitchen around them, but then if a cabinet gets damaged later you aren't trying to order weird sizes. 

Hey @Nathaniel Tant

What type of rental property is this? Higher End or just your average rental property. I have a couple of rental properties in my portfolio and I would definitely recommend using particleboard. Done properly, you won't even be able to notice the difference. To really get a lot of value out of your kitchen, and what really sells, I would look at ensuring the soft close of cabinets, dovetail Joints to Particle Board, and adding a pantry. These are typically missed in Kitchen renos.

Hope that helps!

Originally posted by @JD Martin :

We generally install unfinished cabinets from Lowe's for the following reasons:

1. The frames and doors are solid red oak.

2. They can be finished in any color you want (we usually just use a clear poly because it's easy to touch up in the future).

3. The drawers are solid wood (other than the bottoms, which is cheap particle board).

4. Unless you spend high-end all big box-store cabinets are cheap pressed wood boxes; you are only paying for fancier finishes. These are 10-50% cheaper than anything else off the shelf.

5. It's faster than RTA (ready to assemble) cabinets by a long shot.

6. They only come in standard cabinet sizes so you have to design your kitchen around them, but then if a cabinet gets damaged later you aren't trying to order weird sizes. 


 Same here, we do the unfinished Project Source cabinets from Lowe’s as well. There is a lot to be said about about painting cabinets, MDF board, and new hardware. You can refinish cabinets for a few decades with little or no cost, and still compete with units that have granite countertops. A little bit of glossy white paint, and hardware goes a long ways, even in high end markets like Washington DC. 

@Ryan Herting  

Thanks for the reply! This will not be a high end property. It's your typical 3 bed, two bath, two car garage, 1700 square foot home. So I would say this will be an average property. The houses in my area rent from 1100 to 1300/month. I'm trying to add all of the right renovations to maximize my top dollar on renting it out. 

@Nathaniel Tant ,

Here's a list of what to focus on, that typically goes overlooked, and provides a high ROI. The most important rule of thumb is usability!! People always overlook this and it has the highest potential to sell to the customer. Here are some things to consider below.

  • Kitchen pantries
  • Soft closing cabinets
  • Dovetail joints - Adds a nicer finish to the cabinetry
  • The latest trend in cabinet colors and paints - you can use Pinterest for this
  • Floating Shelves - reduce cost and adds aesthetic to the feel (base shelves are more expensive than uppers)
  • Functionality is key - Storage for plates, pots, and pans
  • 12x24 tile flooring offers the best bang for the buck
  • Splurge on the backsplash because it is very inexpensive to do adds appeal
  • Depending on the dimensions of the room, you may consider a smaller upper cabinet

Pro tip on the unfinished cabinets (or any non-plywood cabinet, for that matter): before installing the base cabinets, coat the bottom edges with polyurethane. Also coat the sides of the cabinets around the dishwasher with polyurethane. Most cabinets are destroyed by water being absorbed by the presswood and the glue disintegrating and/or the sawdust/chips swelling. For that same reason we try to use only hard-glued drain joints under kitchen sinks. 

There is a natural tendency to think if the property is low end to go with low end cabinets. The problem is tenants in low end properties are harder on everything. That means cheap cabinets will not hold up. Cabinets made mostly from particle board will literally crumble apart. Repairing cabinets and drawers can be very difficult. It is hard to match the finish and sizing, so it usually requires skilled workmanship. 

Follow what @JD Martin recommends, he is spot on.

See if you can find someone that handles SMART cabinets( yes that's the brand name). Better quality lower end cabinets. You can go Kitchen Kompact but the color selection is very low. River Run is also a better grade middle of the road line.