4 Rehabbing Materials That Are Always Worth Spending a Little More On


We had another open house for a property yesterday, and it went very well. We had a dozen or so people through the doors, multiple applications for rent—and lots of nice people I enjoyed meeting. This is one of dozens of houses we have prepped, rehabbed, cleaned up, and made awesome just this year.

I am continually learning through trial and error and listening to other investors all the things that cost me money, time, or frustration. I want to find ways to alleviate them.

In previous posts I’ve talked about how we use the same palate for our rental properties. It’s the same colors, the same carpet, the same vinyl flooring. When they are searching for a property to rent, tenants know it’s one of ours when they see pictures of our properties.

There are a few things I think a lot of us go cheaper on that I will NOT being doing anymore.

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4 Rehabbing Materials Worth Spending a Little More On


This has bitten me more than once this summer. We tried to eek more years out of really old units, and it just hasn’t gone well for me. In one instance, we replaced one property with a used unit that wasn’t very old. I ended up spending nearly half what the new one would have been to replace it, and then it died 2 months later.


Another one had some leaks, so we had to replace the a-coil, etc.

If we are on the fence with putting SOME money into something like this (other than a bit of coolant or a normal service), I will just end up replacing it. It’s not worth my hassle, frustration, or the added cost. I always end up thinking that we should have just done it the “right way” the first time.


2. Faucets and Bath Manifold

We’ve gone through a lot of different kinds of fixtures for the bathtub, the kitchen faucet, and the bathrooms, and there are a lot of brands out there that offer significant (cheap) value. However, after examining the cost of each, how long they last, and how much I pay to fix them—I’ve decided to pretty much only use the basic all metal Delta … they’ve been lasting well, wearing well, and causing no issues so far. They’re worth a few extra bucks on the front end.

Related: 9 Steps to Follow When Tackling a Large Rehab Project

It doesn’t mean you need to go crazy either. Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it will last. Ask the guys at the local hardware store what they put in their houses or their rentals—or what other investors are buying with good success.

3. Toilets

Like with the plumbing fixtures, we’ve also started buying the nicer toilets. Why not spend an extra $50 bucks and get the low flow, simple mechanics of the new toilets?

We have had awesome luck with them in our properties. Tenants love having the nice ones because they use less water and don’t break. I love them because my phone doesn’t ring, and I am not spending money to fix or replace them all the time.

4. Vinyl Flooring

We’ve started using the thicker vinyl for the flooring—and not just the cheapest samples we could get. We do the full pieces, or rolls, as well, instead of the peel and stick. Yes, peel and stick tiles are easy, but I have found they just don’t stay down that well, and we are always going back to fix them.

I do realize that if you get a tear in one of your single tiles, you can just replace them versus having the large piece of vinyl. But I’ve also found I have significantly fewer issues when it is larger, nicer, and thicker material to start with.


The more often we run into the problems or maintenance issues within the units, the more we are moving in the direction of finding, correcting, and fixing the issue prior to having a tenant occupy the property. Once you have a tenant occupying it, everything is more complicated with scheduling the work and can be a nuisance to you and your tenant.

Related: Confessions of a Rehabber: Expert Tips for Profitable, Rentable Properties

Plenty of times if I would have just completed the work or installed a new item the first time, I would have saved myself the hassle (and the phone call). I know of many investors who do not spend much money on new plumbing lines, or a low flow toilet with the newer flushing system, or whatever the case may be. But in the end, what is the cost of that single maintenance issue with your plumber, handyman, or whoever you have to call? A plumber or electrician may cost you $50-$75 just to show up.

That toilet doesn’t seem so expensive now, does it?

Once again, if you just do the fixes the first time, you will likely save money in the long run instead of trying to limp something along. Plus you control your costs more (knowing what it costs to install new and to maintain it correctly) on the front end of any problem.

Just go through your checklist of items that could cause issue, and especially on the easy and cheaper ones, consider doing them every time in your properties:

  • Toilet
  • Bathroom(s): Faucet, water lines, and shut off valves
  • Manifold for bath/shower
  • Kitchen: Water lines, faucet, and shut off valves
  • Hot water heater
  • Running the main sewer line for tree roots and debris

The time and money spent on the front end will definitely be worth the lack of headache after the tenant is moved in, and you’ll create a more controlled environment over your costs.

What else do you do for your properties to have fewer calls, less maintenance costs, and happier tenants? 

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.


  1. Randy E.

    You’re bang on with all these suggestions, Nathan.

    I’ve slowly come around on not skimping on HVAC. In fact, the house I just finished is the last time I don’t get a new HVAC. Looking at it now, I already regret it and I’ll probably get a new one installed during the first tenant turnover. Just thinking about the fact that I didn’t do it already makes me sick.

    I’ve been on board with non-skimpy plumbing hardware for a couple of years now, but I’m not stepping up to the next level. As you said, the small increase in initial cost is far outweighed by the longer life span of the part. Honestly, with what plumbers get paid, it doesn’t make sense to try to save $50-$100 on plumbing hardware. Do it right the first time.

    Honestly, I could write an agreement paragraph about each of your points. Every one is right. Period.


  2. Kimberly H.

    Definitely sewer line rodding, making sure you know where clean-outs are, and replacing older water heaters; rental inspectors make us change how the water heaters are connected anyway, so might as well put a new water heater in, on a drip pan, with that and the valve piping routed to a drain so if it goes it doesn’t ruin all your flooring.

    • Erik Nowacki

      Bryan, that depends on whether it is a flip or a rental. If it is a rental, vinyl planking is a great product. It looks good, wears very well and makes it a breeze to clean between tenants. I like to use it in bathrooms and kitchens. In some units, with uneven subfloors, I’ve used it all over the apartment.

      If it’s a flip, then you can use nicer materials.

  3. Luis N.

    Great suggestions- I’ve upgraded to porcelain tile and ran it throughout the rental. I’ve use different colors and variations in sizes to bring contrast to the rental. I stay away from carpet in the bedrooms – the renter can always buy a rug. Lastly, I’ve upgrade and installed an all house fan instead of room ceiling fans.

  4. Larry S.

    Nathan, I’m not sure I agree with some of your theories.

    The lower the amount of water coming down the toilet drain, the more possibility that your drain line in time will clog with debris that didn’t quite all wash away. Just not enough push. For a short time we even obtained the old high flush toilets that were still sold in Canada. Depending on the piping slope, the low flush toilet may mean more calls for a plumber to snake out the drain. No savings here. Adjust any toilet to the maximum flow if you are paying the water or the tenant.

    Sink and bath fixtures are now so easy to replace that its not worth trying to repair them. In less than an hour you can swap one out. Paying a little bit more for a nice one may be worth the nicer look, but the internals may need repaired just as often. The cheaper plastic ones today really look quite good on the outside when we are throwing them in the garbage.

    We have never bought a new HVAC to replace an old one. These things are rugged and durable. A new compressor or recharge is a small inexpensive job. Even getting a new high efficiency furnace is not a good idea if the tenant pays the gas bill. Old 80% furnaces are quick and easy to repair. Any part is just an straight forward hour job. Even the heat exchanger is rather simple and some even have a lifetime guarantee. New furnaces require a factory trained technician.

    I could repair anything on an old 1957 Chevy. Sadly, I wont look under the hood on a 2015 model.

  5. Alan Brown

    I agree with Nathan; have tried tile but find that tenants can crack them.. vinyl might show a divot but hardly noticeable. I also discovered that carpet, (as far as the courts are concerned) has a 5 year life, so if a tenant destroys it after a couple of years, you can’t ask for much for it. good Laminates are the way to go, or actual hardwood that can be refinished multiple times.

    I am a green builder, so I like a tight shell and correcctly sized HVac systems… they will last way longer if they are in the right house. That being said, I do like to keep things in use as long as possible, unless calls to plumber are becoming frequent.

    there are some new toilets that rock… I just was exposed to an American Standard (who knew?) that would move anything, and was low flow!

    Delta faucets: had a plumber tell me most plumbers always had replacement parts on their truck for them. I stay with what works!

    Excellent advice, Nathan, thanks!

  6. Will Stewart

    Totally agree with toilets, laminates and faucets. I would not be so automatic on the HVAC systems, but agree with the mentality of “if you’re going to spend $1000 to fix it why not spend $3000 and replace it”. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

    I would add to that…. valves (swapping all to 1/4 turn) and paint. Ben Moore is worth the extra money every time.

  7. Paul Ewing

    With the outrageous cost of R22 I am doing a lot more AC upgrades. If I get a place where I need to do major repairs on the condenser or hook a new one up that will require a R22 charge I look seriously at replacing it. That way I get a nice 10 year warranty and happy tenants knowing the AC is new and probably won’t go out on a Friday evening when it is supposed to be 105F all weekend.

  8. Darrin Wesenberg

    @Nathan, when you refer to “units” in your HVAC section, are you referring to furnaces? Do you get home warranties on your rentals? Why not just get a home warranty, leave the old furnace/AC units and just make a warranty claim when something goes awry? You could end up with a brand new furnace or AC!

  9. Doug Johnson

    Does a “Home Warranty” (HM) have a good ROI in a rental unit? I always assumed that the Home Warranty company was making a profit, so it would cost me more in the long run. I have also heard some horror stories about HM companies that won’t pay for covered items by finding some technicality to deny the claim.

    • Darrin Wesenberg

      @Doug that would be a great blog post: “Home Warranties… Worth It?” It would obviously all depend on the age of the home and mechanicals. Like it probably wouldn’t make sense to purchase a home warranty on a rental property that was built, say, within the last 10 years.

    • Susan Maneck

      I can give you one of those horror stories. American Home Shield, which is the biggest Home Warranty place, was sending me technicians from out of state! They will not replace anything if it can possibly be fixed. Once I waited over six weeks to get an oven fixed before they finally replaced it.

      • Gloria Almendares

        I have another “horror story” about Home Warranty companies. They are a scam! They all charge a min. amount to go to your house and “repair” the item. This can cost anywhere between $75 and $100. These companies are definitely making a huge profit, otherwise they would not be in business. I’m a Realtor and had a client who was without an oven from Nov. to Jan! Imagine being without an oven for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Home Warranty Co. did everything in their power to avoid paying for a new oven, also each call resulted in a min. one hr. hold time. I think their strategy is that they hope you (the client) will give up and/or break down and buy a new oven themselves (btw, if you do that, the Home Warranty co. will deny the claim!). My client almost had a nervous breakdown over the entire ordeal. I had to intervene on her behalf, and threaten with legal action. The bottom line: after 3 incompetent technicians, 2 different ovens (they first delivered an electric oven instead of a gas oven), my client did research herself and found the “exact oven” on Sale at Lowe’s. The Company said they do not make purchases at Lowe’s, so they finally installed an inferior oven, and my client did not want to deal with the Home Warranty Co. anymore, after making over 20 phone calls to them, and dealing with incompetent people. Their strategy is to keep your money, and hope that you give up and don’t call them anymore!

  10. Lee Carrell

    I’ve done it both ways before! Keep what is there or upgrade it. Now, I keep what is there as long as it is working properly. When I need to repair or replace it, then I upgrade it. I always replace the shut-off valves with the 1/4 turn type. Easier for the tenant and less maintenance for me.

    If I buy a property with old, creaky windows, I will replace them immediately. It is not worth the constant repair hassle and loss of heating/cooling!

    I no longer use carpet in rentals due to the wear and tear, maintenance, germs, etc. Laminate looks good and wears well, as long as the tenants wipe up any liquid spills immediately! The thicker peel-and-stick vinyl tiles, such as Allure, have their pros and cons. I may start going with the thicker sheet linoleum in some instances. I have used ceramic tile in the bathroom, but if there is any “play” in the floor, it will crack even with a decoupler layer.

    I don’t use low-flow toilets, because water is charged by number of fixtures, not use. I do install the “tall” toilets in the units though. I am definitely a proponent of using the same color scheme and fixtures in different units. If you ever need touch-up supplies, you will have them readily available!

  11. Jason Moore

    Interesting article! I used ceramic throughout my last rental. However that was installed over a concrete slab. I always have trouble with tile over pier& beam or other flexible floors even using all the high tech underlayments; eventually you get a hairline crack in the grout or a tile and it’s down hill from there!
    I also use Moen faucets because of their LIFETIME guarantee! So far I’ve only had to call about 2 in my own home (over 15 years). One was a bathroom sink faucet that they determined needed new valve guts. I simply gave them my address & 2 or 3 days later I had them free of charge. The other time was a handheld shower head that the 6′ flex hose started leaking. No interrogation, no blame game just sent me a brand new flex hose! I’m sold for life!

  12. Jerry Bredesen

    Totally agree with replacing all possible shutoff valves and fixtures whenever the plumbing is being touched, but I disagree with buying them from a big box hardware store. Your plumber has access to much better quality fixtures and parts through his/her plumbing supply store – well worth the small extra cost.

    I also routinely replace all electrical switches, outlets, and cover plates on any rehab over about 30 years old. They improve the look of the house, and eliminate one possible source of trouble. I always use the new Tamper Resistant style receptacles and make sure to point them out to prospective tenants. They cost a bit more, but people seem to really like the extra level of safety they provide.

  13. chris carollo

    A couple of other things that I won’t skimp on as I do $2k-$4k Month SFH Rentals..

    Braided Hoses for the Washing Machine. Not much more expensive than the rubber and THAT much more secure.

    Hardwood floors vs Carpet-These are long term plays and carpet costs add up as you replace/clean them every few years.

    Solid Surface Counters- Find a supplier that has a large selection, they will always have something that can be made to work that is cost effective. You can always find a deal if you are a bit flexible on the color. Left over pieces also work really well for smaller spaces-Bathrooms, etc.

    Landlord Locks- This is an easy $200 savings every time I have to rekey due to a new tenant. Super easy to work with as well.

  14. Jerry Klingerman

    Totally agree with @Jerry Bredesen on plumbing fixtures. DO NOT buy from big box stores. Installing anything but pro-grade plumbing fixtures is a bad idea. You will replace them, particularly kitchen faucets. Your handyperson or contractor probably can buy from a contractor supply house, and you will replace fixtures far less often. (Some of these stores will let you in with your EIN or LLC tax ID number. Ask.)

    On toilets: the newest low-flow toilets are FAR more efficient than the first ones, and work quite well. A well-flushed toilet will not clog sewer lines, particularly when you consider other water usage: showers, dishwashing, laundry, etc. Again; buy contractor grade. The items available to consumers are garbage. (Mansfield is a good brand.)

    Not to go all “Earth First,” but I disagree with anyone using old-style, 5-gallons-per-fliush toilets. Fresh water is a precious resource that we in the US take far too much for granted. We can save significant amounts of water — and still get great results — by using good-quality low-flow toilets. The new models flush way, way better than those water-wasting old-school toilets.

  15. David Lemaire

    In order to reduce the size of the new HVAC or to keep the old units (depending on their condition), we airseal and add insulate to the attic. The rebates from the utility companies made both improvements affordable in the past. We also install ceiling fans in the living room, the dining room, and each bedroom. Both improvements allow to reduce the utilities cost by reducing the use of the HVAC leading to a unit long life.
    In the bathroom, we use only porcelain tiles with epoxy grout on the floor and the walls. Plumbing fixtures are bought from a plumbing supply; our contractor discount make them as affordable as buying lower grade fixtures at a big box. In our area, Moen and Kohler are more prevalent than Delta and American Standard.
    What your thought on replacing a bathtub with a walk-in shower?

  16. I loved the colors in the photo of the bath pictured at the start of the article. I’m planning to buy a home for myself soon and would like to know what color and brand name you used for the walls, cabinets and woodwork.
    Thank you!

  17. margie kohlhaas

    I like upgrading some of the fixtures; however, custom paint colors can be a hassle when you’ve got multiple units that need touchup paint. I try to stick to basic light cream or white colors overall. I have used the thicker vinyl floors and it seems to wow the tenants!

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