Is it worth $1000 to replace / upgrade these cabinets?

18 Replies

Is it worth $1000?

In our duplex we are house hacking I absolutely hate the kitchen layout/ colors.

While cleaning and installing the dishwasher I found a work order and water bill from the 50s. the cabinets have been painted over a bunch in those 70 years and smell funky. There is also this terrible waste of space where the cabinets and counter go into a nook that can’t be cut into. (Stairs are on the other side)

We are considering ripping out the cabinets all-together and replacing with new. We would add a lazy Susan and L shape counter to fill in that nook with more useable counter space / storage along with the upper cabinets and a hood vent.

All in to buy, finish, and install the cabinets ourself along with a new backsplash, exhaust hood, and laminate counter top we’re looking at $1,000. I’ll reuse the stainless sink to save some money.

Is a $1,000 overhaul for a few extra cabinets and counter space worth it to you? Before we were house hacking the 600sq 1 bed/1 bath side of the duplex rented for $500-560. We installed new Vinyl plank flooring and renovated the entire bathroom for about 2K already. The other side (3bed 1 bath with a 2 car garage) already has a much better kitchen. Would there any bump in rent or is just going to be a cost of modernizing an old awkward spot if we do it?

I appreciate the opinions, I’m not sure if I want to pull the trigger or not.

Proposed layout Stove - left side of kitchen setup Right side of set up- awkward nook (you can see the new dishwasher/ flooring) Awkward nook Cheap plywood solution from previous owner

1000 seems pretty cheap, but if you can get everything done for 1k then I vote to go for it.  The flooring looks modern and contemporary but the rest of the kitchen doesn't feel the same way.  And while functional, that ghetto shelf makes me cringe.

Its hard to say if you can get more money by renovating or not.  I would check pictures of other similar rentals in your area using zillow or similar websites to get a rough idea of what kind of price points you can expect for both renovated and unrenovated properties.

Even if you can't necessarily get an increase in rent, or much of an increase, sometimes having a nicer unit will allow you to find better quality tenants, and find them faster.  This can sometimes reduce the amount of wear/tear the rest of the place gets because you have better tenants.  Nice units tend to be rented faster than crappy units, so if your property tends to sit vacant for a period of time in between tenants then it may be worth upgrading.

@Ben Zimmerman the material list came in just over 1,000 from Menards. The labor would be done by us with family.

I really like the Zillow idea for units, I’ll be sure to do that soon. For a couple only making 60K/ year I guess the 1000 just seems scary for an already functional kitchen. But in the long run it I think it might be worth it after reading your post.

@Kyle Inbody A lazy susan adds a lot of usability to a corner. idk what menards carries but our home depot has a speckled white quartz look laminate in stock.

I would probably replace them. A coat of paint would help, but I think a new kitchen would get you higher rent. But to know for sure, check out how your competition looks.

Just watch out for clearance on the left side with the range. It needs to be 6” I think (check installation specs) from the wall. It’s also way more convenient to have a 8-12” cabinet/counter there too for cooking.

Lastly, I’ve had great experiences with RTA cabinets. The quality (plywood construction) is hugely superior from what HD/Lowe’s sells, and the prices are comparable. I’d rather spend a few extra dollars on cabinets that won’t melt and swell if there a small leak.

If those are solid wood cabinets and are in decent shape and you are replacing with the cheaper line of cabinets it that are particle board, I probably wouldn't do it because they won't last as long.  I've tried it both ways.  Now, if the cabinets are decent, I paint them white, put new hardware on them and put new laminate countertops that look modern.  The difference between repainting and new countertops or completely replacing everything is doubtful to see a big difference in tenant rents, in my opinion.  

@Kyle Inbody - How confident are you on your numbers?   

$1000 seems low unless you're using the cheapest cabinets you can buy at lowes/home depot.  If that's the case, make sure you waterproof the sink base with linoleum.  

Just be aware, you're replacing solid wood cabinets with cheap particle board replacements.  The set you have now will survive many more years of abuse.  The "new" set you buy, may only get you 2-3 depending on the class of tenant

If your numbers are right AND the quality of the cabinets is good (you want something durable, especially with a tenant), then do it.  Don't forget about hardware for the cabinets and check if you will need to redo the flooring.

@Kyle Inbody as far as the cabinets go, you'd be surprised at how far a fresh coat of good self leveling cabinet paint will take your kitchen, especially when coupled with some good subway tile and crown moulding against the bulkhead (personally the bulkhead bothers me the most). Even some moulding down under the doors will make the cabs look totally different!

Nowadays, those cabinets done right would be "trendy" or attractive. $1000 cabs will fall apart so quick, let me tell you not fun repairing cabinet drawer faces. And those cabinet door panels are so easy to punch a hole in (for reference I'm thinking something like cheap as Chadwood oak that was so popular).

Good luck!

That price actually seems low so I'd be cautious to ensure they will last! Nice cabinets will increase the value / appeal of the kitchen though for sure whether you are trying to sell or rent :) You could also remove, strip, sand and repaint what you have but not sure that would be much cheaper after you factor in the time required. 

I am not sure how you are getting that additional 12 inch cabinet next to the lazy susan but I assume you measured well. Personally I would go with a 30 inch sink base and try to get a 9 inch base cabinet to the left of the stove. It is always best to have space on both sides of the stove.  I would say if your sink base is in bad shape  (smelling) you should do it. Make sure you get good cabinets. If the uppers are in good shape you can save money by painting the uppers and replacing the lowers. It will be an obvious difference but if the budget is tight that might be an option.  

@Kyle Inbody I think your cabinets are kind of retro cute. I would just remove the shelf. drawer sticks are like sachets and will make your cabinet interiors smell fresher. walmart or lowes had christmas ones last year. I put them in closets of vacant houses. Home depot here has laminate countertops that look like white speckled quartz.

A modern kitchen with clean, contemporary aesthetics absolutely will increase rent. However, I always suggest looking at comparable rentals in your area. Make sure that apartments with the same bed/bath count as your rental are indeed renting for more if they have an updated kitchen. If you have that data, you should feel good about making the decision to spend $1,000 on the renovation.

So after reading and considering everybody’s comments from Here and 2 face book groups I pulled the trigger. ( part of me was motivated by a lot of face-bookers saying I was crazy to think $1,000 would even be close and I wanted to prove to my self that self I could make it work and be reasonably nice/resistant )

Here are images of the cabinets we purchased. Full material cost came to $1,072. I already had a good bit of the supplies and There’s $110 rebate on its way back to me as we speak.

After going through the comments I figured I’d ask a few more questions and share my train of thought for the exercise.

1. Granite countertops

I opted not to go this route,

-I found scratch and dent countertops longer than I needed that I could trim off the damage all in for under $100.

-Since I do most work my self and these are not “high end” cabinets that will mostly likely need replaced one at at time over the years I want to be able to move the counter top myself and not need a crew.

2. Cheap cabinets.

- I was very satisfied with the face on these cabinets but they are particleboard in the rear, I plan on waterproofing by adding several coats of oil-based polyurethane inside and out and possibly linoleum liners on the bottom.

3. Over the range microwave

-there is not a space for a cabinet and microwave, (bulk head has Mechanical to the upper unit) doing the math I gain more cabinet space in those 36 inches then counter space lost to a microwave. Plus I can put the microwave anywhere.


The only items i don’t have purchased are the backsplash ($???) and hood vent ($69).

My questions to you,

1. Are there better ways to “tenant proof cabinets” with out buying solid wood?

2. Have you every considered tile board as a good back splash? below I have the counter top, cabinets color, floor, and a small of tile board that I have a lot of left over already in stock that I could use. It’s easily to clean and cheap to replace if needed.

Thanks again for all the input!

@Kyle Inbody

Hey, Kyle, good job. Let me take a stab at your questions, which are good ones.

1. What you're going to want are all-plywood carcasses to do better than particleboard. White melamine-coated particleboard is pretty dated these days but also does a bit better. I'm not a big fan of the other budget solution, medium-density fiberboard, for kitchen cabinet carcasses.

Here's a good tenant-proofing tip. Get a piece of thick gray vinyl, the stuff used for custom shower pans, and glue it with spray contact adhesive to cover the area under your sink. You can buy it off the roll at HD, Lowes, probably Menards.

2. Don't use the tile board. Take this opportunity to learn how to tile a backsplash with cheap tile, basic white sanded grout,  ceramic tile adhesive. Materials, as long as you don't go fancy, will run you less than $200 -- it's really all methodical work. If you need help, reach out.

You've done well and chosen the hard way, not looked for the easy way out. Wish you lived closer.

If you can get quality cabinets for that then I'd go for it. But I'd be very wary of using cheap particle board cabinets. We have done multiple kitchen rehabs and I can tell you I would be absolutely shocked if you could get decent cabinets, backsplash tile, grout, thinset, lazy susan and vent hood for $1000. You might be able to achieve that if you're buying used cabinets off Craig's list. I've never even seen cabinets that cheap. As several people suggested, those old cabinets are probably solid wood and much more durable than new cheap ones will be. So maybe a cost saving compromise is to buy new doors for the existing cabinets in a style more up to date. IKEA has surprisingly sturdy cabinets, doors and hardware and a lot of rehabbers use them.

@Jim K. I’m really likening use our house jack 1 bed 1 bath as a practice for backsplash but using what we already have is so tempting as I dont think I’ll use it anytime soon otherwise and it looks decent. (IMO)

I dont know yet, I’ll finish installing the cabinets and probably wait a week on the back splash before I get started. I think I’ll tear out some plaster too and run a 3 way switch for the under lighting cabinets to give a light switch at both kitchen entrances. I’ll be going back over the plaster anyways with a backsplash of some kind.