09 April 2012
Dear Maintenance Men:
I am starting my planning for a major kitchen cabinet remodeling project in my rental units. However, I am having a difficult time making material and design decisions. What recommendations can you give?
When doing a kitchen or bath material selection, cohesive and functional design is important. Kitchen and bath rehabs are some of the most expensive work you can do in an apartment unit and proper planning is a must. In order to appeal to a larger segment of the population, try to keep the interior color scheme to neutral earth tones.
Cabinetry quality varies greatly. Don't let the cabinet fronts fool you. Manufacturers designed their cabinets to look good at first glance. Keep in mind, being in a rental environment, the cabinets also need to hold up to abuse. Look at the actual construction of the cabinet box or frame. Keep in mind, you do not need to use custom cabinets to fit your existing layout. The use of prefabricated modular cabinetry can greatly reduce the time and cost to have a finished kitchen or bathroom. Using real wood cabinet fronts with 3/8" plywood sides is essential for durability.
The drawer fronts and sides should be connected with a dovetail or other positive lock construction. Drawers that are held together by nails will not hold up to tenant abuse, nor will particle board constructed cabinets.
On a side note: if you are gutting the kitchen or bathroom, use this time to relocate and add more electrical outlets and under-cabinet lighting.
Dear Maintenance Men:
The kitchen counter tops in my rental units are old and tired looking. I want to upgrade, but I am confused about which counter top material will be best. Can you go over the pros and cons of some of the more popular counter top surfaces available?
We are lucky today to have so many choices of countertop materials available. The four most popular materials are plastic laminate, granite, engineered stone and ceramic tile.
Plastic laminate or better known as Formica Brand is still the most popular choice for apartment counter tops. This is because the choice in colors is almost unlimited and the ease of installation keeps the costs down. With proper care, plastic laminate will last for years; however, it can be easily scratched by knives or scorched by hot pots. Laminate counter tops can be easily installed by the average handyman, DYI person or contractor.
Granite counter tops in the apartment industry are very popular and with good reason. The cost of granite has come down to reasonable levels and the upgraded look of a granite countertop is substantial. They are very tough and are resistant to staining, scratching and scorching. Granite countertops will need to be professionally installed and sealed periodically.
Engineered stone countertops are almost as popular as granite, and are slightly more expensive than granite. Popular brands are DuPont and Silestone. Engineered stone countertops are composed of quartz particles and resins and the surface is smooth, non-porous, and scratch resistant. They require less maintenance than granite. Engineered stone countertops are not DIY friendly and will need professionally trained installers.
Ceramic tile countertops have been around almost as long as plastic laminate. They can be installed by the average handyman, DYI person or contractor. They are heat and stain resistant. Ceramic tiles do need to have periodic maintenance to keep the grout lines clean and sanitary.
From a management and maintenance perspective, we are finding granite countertops to be the top choice. The price difference between laminate and granite are close enough to warrant upgrading to granite. If you intend to hold onto your investment for a long time, granite will more than pay for itself.
Dear Maintenance Men:
I am thinking of converting my thirsty lawn into a drought resistant landscape. What recommendation do you have to help me achieve my plan?
Creating a drought tolerant landscape is a great idea. In the end, the drought tolerant landscape will cost you less money in water and will be easier to maintain. The single greatest consumer of water in your landscape is the turf. Reduce the grass area to ease the burden on water.
Xeriscaping is a term for a water conserving landscape. Some of the benefits of Xeriscaping are water saving, low maintenance, pesticide free, pollution free (no lawnmowers) and use of local native plants. You might want to consider using Ornamental grasses, as they are drought tolerant, look great and give your landscape a bit of vertical dimension. Succulents, of course, are great at conserving water. Flax and Delphiniums Iris are a few perennials to use. Marigolds, Mexican Sunflowers, Phlox and Vinca Passion are Annuals that will work well.
As for shrubs, look at Japanese black pine, Mountain currant, Sassafras, Honeysuckles, etc. Good trees are Acacia, Gray Birch, Monterey Cypress, Eucalyptus, Fig, Juniper and Amur Maple to name a few.
Be sure to provide good drainage, and it is best to use plants native to your area.