Investment properties perform best when you keep expenses down over the long term. Keeping ongoing expenses down in this old house (well, apartment) has proven to be a challenge. The point of the work I’m doing is to change that. These posts simply chronicle my journey.
The kitchen cabinets finally came in (see my previous post.) It was an exciting day! They arrived unassembled, in boxes, a la’ IKEA. The videos on the company’s web site showing how to assemble the cabinets made it look very easy! They lied…
Well, not entirely. But the cabinets included clips with pre-punched holes for the clip screws, and the idea was that the clips were screwed into place first, then channels routed into the panels were glued, and the pieces simply clipped together. It would have been a great idea, except 1) the small holes punched for the clips were rarely in the right place, and 2) even once properly located, screwed down and clipped into place the box was quite rickety.
The glue clearly wasn’t going to cure with the box “square,” so a quick trip to Home Depot for some long clamps was called for. Once clamped, we allowed each cabinet to cure before removing the clamps.
This didn’t actually add many man-hours, but it did mean we had to wait for a couple of hours before beginning the next cabinet. We kept ourselves busy while each cabinet was curing.
These are certainly not robust custom-quality cabinets at the end of the day, but they are much better than composite (fiberboard) cabinets. They look good and should last a long time.
The second issue with the cabinets was that most of them did not have all the right pieces included. Some had a clip or two missing, some had missing screws. Home Depot to the rescue, and we were able to MacGyver the things together. Except…
One wall cabinet came with all the wrong panels. The face was correct (12’ tall by 36” wide for over the fridge) but the rest of the pieces were for a cabinet that was 36” tall by 12” wide. A quick call to the manufacturer told us they could replace the cabinet, but I had to fill out a hand-written form and email it back. I guess they aren’t into computers yet. Request for replacement handled, we had to wait.
In the meantime we installed the rest of the cabinets so we could have the new counters installed. There were some challenges with the cabinet installation, mostly having to do with walls that weren’t square, floors that weren’t perfectly level, and framing that wasn’t built on-center. Some shims here and there and a hunting expedition for studs and joists did the trick, and the cabinets are all lined up and are definitely not going anywhere.
Quick note: most kitchen installers don’t use cabinet screws. This saves them pennies. If you have a new kitchen installed, specify 3” cabinet screws and don’t let them talk you out of it. Your cabinets will be much more secure.
Now for the counters. The apartment had Formica counters before, and of course that is the obvious choice. However, they do have pre-fab granite nowadays, so I looked into it. These are pre-fabricated 8 foot counters, cut and polished in China. Granite selection is very limited and prices vary dramatically, but I found a couple of places that were reasonable. The Formica counter would have been about $200 at Home Depot, and installation would have run about $300. The new granite, installed, was $700. It finishes off the kitchen beautifully and will last longer than I do. For a $200 premium, I was sold.
We had prepped the counters with a ¾” plywood sub-counter to get ready for the granite. The installers removed the plywood and instead put in 1 x 1 strips along the top of the cabinet rims. Huh? They did more work and used more materials for a lesser product. It works fine and will last, but I’m going to make sure a supervisor comes with the installation team next time.
The installers cut out the hole for the sink. They did a beautiful job measuring and marking for the hole, and then they cut the hole with a jack-hammer, I believe. The sink rim covers the messy job, but again, I’ll have that conversation with them before buying another counter from the same source.
The missing cabinet finally shipped and arrived the day before I was set to return home. We assembled it without a fuss and installed it where it belonged. The kitchen really looks great, and I know everything will last.
Finally, we had to deal with molding at the kick plates at the bottom of the floor cabinets, and between the wall cabinets and ceiling. It was only then that I discovered the company that sold the cabinets also sold molding, but I couldn’t find it on the web site and they failed to offer it to me when I finished the purchase. Silly people missed out on more revenue.
Looking at the kick plates we noticed that the ends of the kick plates weren’t stained like the face, and so stood out like a sore thumb. Molding we had wasn’t going to cover that, so what to do? Then I remembered the stain we were using for a side project – refinishing the wood on the upstairs decks. The color was similar, right? A quick hit with a brush and, voila! The ends matched the face perfectly. I wish I had taken before-and-after photos of this. But sometimes luck is better than skill.
When I left we still needed to install molding, set the sink and install the plumbing, but the dishwasher was in and plumbed and the floor was done. On to more mundane tasks, like the water heater and door knobs.