How would you rehab this kitchen?

107 Replies

I just acquired two identical, side-by-side duplexes and am starting to plan out my rehab project. I'm starting my focus on one unit, to figure out what works and does not work, and will hopefully then apply all those lessons to the remaining units. The properties do not appear to have been updated since they were built in 1998 and also were not really maintained well. They are located in a blue collar, "B-minus?" area of Clearwater, FL. I currently only have a few pictures taken from a website as I'm in the process of getting some tenants out. Each unit is a 3/2, 1,100 sqft, with washer/dryer closet in the kitchen area. Expected rent around $1,500.00, once updated. 

Now, for the kitchen, I'm trying to walk the line and not over or under upgrade. 

Cabinets: My thoughts are to paint (white)/repair the cabinets, update hardware and add a cabinet over the sink. I have built custom cabinetry in the past and considered boxing in the area between the cabinets and ceiling and installing taller doors, to give a more premium look, but I'm unsure whether that effort would really pay off. Alternatively, I could add a small crown to the existing cabinets and then paint, giving it a more finished look for very cheap. I also considered boxing in the refrigerator, to give a more polished look. I'm not sure, again, if that would be worth it. Minimal effort / money (diy), but unsure. 

Appliances: Will evaluate for ability to clean up / functionality. I may go with a stainless or black package. One question is, for the stove top, should it be glass or coils? As nice as glass is, it is harder to maintain and more prone to damage and I'm not sure a tenant will care much one way or the other? 

Countertop: I can cheaply put in a nice laminate IKEA countertop, or I can go the level 1 granite route. I'm not sure which will give me the best ROI. There is not a lot of counter space, so I'm estimating around $150 for laminate (diy) and $1,000 for granite. I'm not sure how much more granite would get me in this scenario, if anything.

Sink: Not sure if I should re-use or replace. May depend on the countertop choice. Faucet will be updated with a pull down most likely. 

Lighting/Electrical: The main fixtures will be updated with something matching current style. Update receptacles to white. 

Backsplash: Probably a subway tile look, either real or stick-on.

Paint: I'm not sure what is going to match the tile and these pictures aren't the best. TBD

Laundry Closet: Should I add a bi-fold door here? I am thinking about adding additional storage in there, either shelves or cabinets, as well. There is not a lot of storage space in this kitchen. It's hard to see in the photos, but it's to the right when walking into the kitchen.

Note: I attached an additional photo that gave me some inspiration regarding closing in the refrigerator and color schemes / fixtures.

I'd love to hear feedback from others who have tackled similar projects. Which upgrades are worth it and which are not? Any suggestions I haven't thought of yet? Thank you!

Wow. That is butt ugly! Anything you do superficially is just lipsticking a pig, and I can't tell you what works and is worth doing in your market.  If that were my place the thing I would be considering is bumping that dividing wall that the laundry is on out 30" and moving the fridge there in an enclosed space. You can build a closet with the remaining space of the bumpout. There's still 8' wide between the rooms, and you've gained critical counter space and storage.

I'll weigh in on the stovetop question .. smooth top for sure. Coils screams "cheap" and "old". For the other points about the kitchen, etc I would look at photos of places for rent in your same area and price point to see what other options your potential tenants will have available to them.

Hi Phillip, I think it's great that you're starting the rehab with the one unit before you move onto the other units. 

I always suggest updating the hardware like you mentioned, because that can help give an instant mini face-lift to a room.

Regarding the appliances, when you say "black package," are you referring to black stainless steel? When in doubt, I'd always go with stainless steel appliances or matte metallic smudge-proof ones if you can. Wood is also great on the outside of a fridge, but probably not practical in this situation. 

I agree with @Shera Gregory - go with a glass top to the stove. 

What material/color is the floor? From the photos it looks like an off-white/yellow linoleum. Do you plan to keep the floor as-is or swap it out for another color and/or material?

Originally posted by @Rachel Underwood :

Hi Phillip, I think it's great that you're starting the rehab with the one unit before you move onto the other units. 

I always suggest updating the hardware like you mentioned, because that can help give an instant mini face-lift to a room.

Regarding the appliances, when you say "black package," are you referring to black stainless steel? When in doubt, I'd always go with stainless steel appliances or matte metallic smudge-proof ones if you can. Wood is also great on the outside of a fridge, but probably not practical in this situation. 

I agree with @Shera Gregory - go with a glass top to the stove. 

What material/color is the floor? From the photos it looks like an off-white/yellow linoleum. Do you plan to keep the floor as-is or swap it out for another color and/or material?

I assumed he meant black painted appliances, it's good look if you want to save a few bills. A decade ago the difference was a LOT more! I also thought the floor was 18" ceramic tiles, I've never seen vinyl quite like that.

Here's a black appliance kitchen of mine (forgive the funky panarama, I need to get an SLR with a superwide lens) Note the undercounter lighting, is very cheap now and makes a huge difference! I regret now only doing the main work surface and not the ones flanking the Range . I did those also in the identical unit upstairs from this one I renovated next. I also did stainless in that one, and slab granite instead of granite tile.

 

@Phillip Rosin I'd do a lot of what you already suggested - paint the cabinets, add new hardware, lose the fluorescent and put in recessed lights, add some molding to the tops of the cabinets. I don't think it'd be worth it to build them to the ceiling.

With such a small counter space, granite might be the way to go, with a tile backsplash. Get some stainless appliances and put a microwave over the stove to save space. Maybe two chunky floating shelves above the sink instead of a cabinet?

@Johann Jells ...wow!  I literally laughed out loud reading your comment.  As somebody who overdoes all of my properties (as an example, tomorrow I'm laying granite in a 750 a month rental) I looked at that kitchen and thought "looks alright as is".  I guess it's all market specific!  

I do agree with the wisdom of doing one to see what works and what doesn't.  I picked up two identical duplexes just like you a year back and rent was 380, 420, 420, 0 (vacant/trashed).  Fast forward a year and they are 500, 500, 600, 750.  The first two I did no improvements, I just simply said to the tenants - I'm going to honor your rent for 2 months then it's going up closer to market value (still not there).  The other two were full makeovers.  But for the one at 600 - I put in full new mini split system to the cost of 7000 dollars...it rented in an instant and I had dozens of calls...I got to thinking I had undrelisted it. So for the next renovation, I threw in window units instead (600 dollars) and posted rent at 750...I got maybe half the calls but...it rented out in a week!  It was a good reminder that what I want and need isn't necessarily what all renters want and need.  To that point, maybe you should move away from your inspirational photo, subway tile backsplash, etc unless your market really demands that and to just look at what the area comps demand.  Maybe they just need Ikea/Home Depot countertops, roll down laminate basics...who knows.  

Honestly, if that was me...I'd put a new coat of white paint on the cabinets, slap some Euro handles on and put the cheapest granite you could find down...you should be able to do that for 500 dollars and that's all you need! 

At any rate, yes, it's not the most aesthetically pleasing kitchen but it's also not half bad!  There are loads of people who would take that place AS IS (are you considering that?). Good luck! 

Thank you all for the feedback! I really appreciate hearing from different perspectives. To clarify, this is a buy and hold rental, not a flip. The flooring in this one is tile and will likely remain that way.

The neighborhood is what I would call a blue-collar B-minus, so most likely laminate countertops would suffice, as an example. However, with that little counter space, I'm not sure how much of a difference it will be to go with granite. I will have to wait until I get into the first one to find out. 

With the goal in mind to do as little as necessary, I also want to ensure I get good tenants and so am willing to do a little extra, to set this property apart. If that means putting a stainless package in there, I'm fine with that. I just don't want to spent the 2k to find out it would have rented for similar with the white appliances, just cleaned up. 

I have the tools to do just about any modification and I will be moving into the unit while I get it ready. This gives me an opportunity to do some extras for very little money, which may yield some good returns or, at the very least, get a better tennant in place. I guess that is where I'm really undecided. 

The kitchen is so white, it needs some colour-even other neutrals and some light.  One reason you like the inspiration picture is the light and huge window.  Try painting the cabinets, add some undermount lighting if it isn't really expensive, add new hardware, put some colour on the walls.  If the boxes for the cabinets are in good shape, you can also look at getting new door fronts.  Dawn's idea of a few shorter shelves above the sink is good as it breaks up that space and adds space for storage or display.  

For appliances, I'd go with coil-they are easier to replace a burner and as you said smooth top are hard to maintain.

If you google 'small L shaped kitchen' there are some good ideas.  Here's one I took from the internet.  there are no windows above the sink, but the lighting makes a big difference.


Thanks for your input Theresa. Yes, some paint and new hardware can make a huge difference. I'm really enjoying all this great feedback.

To all, if cost is not a lot and it wouldn't take much time, would you consider some layout changes, such as what Johann suggested? 

Jumped onto my trusty 3d software for a quick visual. Here is what it might look like if the refrigerator was relocated next to the laundry. Wouldn't be a lot of work in all honesty, but not sure if it would be worth the effort? It would make it seem a lot more open. I would just have to see how it makes the living room look afterward. 

I should also add that I want to refinance soon and so maybe that could sway some of the decisions. I'm hoping to get the valuation high enough so that I can refi with the current balance and still meet LTV.

@Phillip Rosin Paint is always your best bang for the buck. But if you want to differentiate your place you might price out lv plank flooring in a light beachy weathered wood. Problem is the undertones in your floor are yellowish and the modern look everyone seems to want is white and gray. However, you are not competing with 400k condos, so maybe just paint the walls an off white tint that looks good with your tile. SW sea salt lightened up, maybe. So not everything is white...although white is very popular again. Also, BM advance cabinet paint dries very smooth and hard.

Originally posted by @Phillip Rosin :

Jumped onto my trusty 3d software for a quick visual. Here is what it might look like if the refrigerator was relocated next to the laundry. Wouldn't be a lot of work in all honesty, but not sure if it would be worth the effort? It would make it seem a lot more open. I would just have to see how it makes the living room look afterward. 

I'd have enclosed the fridge and put a BIG cabinet to the ceiling above it! I have more or less that in my own kitchen above a closet I built, with doors on 2 sides, and its pretty useful for bulk papergoods and other stuff.

As for counters, the problem I've encountered is that there's a minimum charge for a job, making a tiny counter just as expensive as a larger one. My cost effective solution for my small kitchens is DIY granite tile. If you're handy and already have a tile saw, it's not hard at all! Plus not only is it way more durable than laminate, but if they did manage to crack a tile, you could pop it out and replace it. My oldest tile counter is from 2005, it still looks like new.

A continued thank you to all that have chimed in. 

Yes, the tile floor is quite dated. I'm unsure whether it's worth going over it with LVT or not, but I have considered it. I'll get a better idea once I get in there. LVT will be going into some of the other units where the flooring has been trashed. I used it in my personal house and it was really nice. Lifeproof was my choice for that.

As for the sketches, I just quickly put them together on my lunch break. I'll play around more with them later and try for a more completed look. I also like the idea of encasing the fridge.

I have considered granite tiles in the past. Are you referring to the large pieces that you order, or just just the smaller granite tiles you can pick up at HD installed with an epoxy grout? In my personal house that I sold not too long ago, I used IKEA EKBACKEN countertops (concrete look) and I liked them. They were cheap, easy to work with and looked nice. I've never put hot pots or cut directly on any countertop before and, technically, if a tenant causes damage, it comes out of their deposit. It wouldn't cost me more than around $200 to install those in each unit and would be a fast job. However, if I'm looking to refinance, I'm unsure how ROI would compare between the options.

this kitchen doesn't suck, it's the lighting (or lack of it) that's terrible lol like others mentioned, lose the fluorescent and drop some recessed (can-less) lights. super easy to install and very affordable (amazon $100 for 12). the kitchen does need some contrast. i'm not the best at picking colors, but we did ours in blueish gray with white cabinets and it looks fantastic. trim would make it pop as well. 

I agree that the lighting is terrible as well and will absolutely be addressed. Cabinetes will be painted white. Wall colors tbd. 

The current big question, it seems, is whether relocating the fridge will be beneficial, from a refinance and/or better tenant/rent perspective. Cost would not be a whole lot. Just some sweat equity really. Would have a little electrical, of course. Probably have a contractor do that, to avoid any liability issues. I can do all the framing and drywall work.

@Phillip Rosin

Sink - if stainless steel, use a buffer and polishing compound. I would not buy new unless you want a split or single. ( Not sure what you have, replace the drain flange as well. You don't want a nicely polished sink with a dirty looking drain :)

Cabinets - I use to work for a cabinet shop to break up the color we would paint and use sandpaper on the edges to give it an aged appearance for a traditional appearance. If you want a modern style I would spend a pretty penny for high gloss and a high grade top coat to get that shine. It all depends on the style tenants in the area are seeking. My market is more traditional. Obviously change the hardware out to match the style.

Hope it helps

@Phillip Rosin

I'm a professional woodworker and would do cabinets to the ceiling and enclose the fridge. The biggest reason for enclosing the fridge is because I could then buy scratch and dent SS appliances and save as much as it cost to enclose the fridge. I can find appliances that have a crushed back corner or something for 65% off and hide it. And I would do granite, but we don't have a minimum charge and that tiny kitchen would cheap to do. Glass top stove for me is a no brainer. I would never do granite tile. You may not see a huge bump in rents, but you will see a drastic decline in vacancy, quality of tenant and pride in "rentership" resulting in better care of the property.

More great input. Thanks all. I see one vote for keeping the fridge where it is. I'm not sure about any of the other commitments. I can definitely enclose the fridge either way. Moving the fridge would allow for more counter space and storage. Estimated budget would be under $1,000, mostly diy other than electric.

Have you thought about converting to stackable washer/dryer units which would then allow you to reconfigure that closet to add more storage or move the fridge without having to bump out into the dining area?   

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

We hate spam just as much as you