This was our second full gut job of a rental unit. It’s been 6 months or so now since we completed it I just haven’t had a chance to post. We chose many of the same options that we chose in our last gut job because those are still all my favorite options. That’s one thing that’s hard in renovating real estate is that you want to update to what will appeal to anyone and not make it too custom so I try to pick neutrals. Anyway, even in my own house I try to pick neutrals because you can always add color in other ways but it’s expensive to replace thing more permanent things like a counter top, etc.
With this unit we tried to be better at working on all the rooms at the same time since that’s where we got so delayed on the last unit – mainly because we were trying to do all the work ourselves. This time, we decided to hire out most of the larger items like flooring, kitchen, and bathrooms and we just worked on some of the smaller items which is still time consuming enough.
So, the first thing we had to figure out in this unit was the flooring and not just the flooring but the subfloor as well! This was an upstairs unit and I literally felt like I had to tiptoe around up there because the floor was so squeaky. It turns out the people who constructed the building in the 60’s didn’t not use 3/4″ plywood for the subfloor as is the standard today. They actually used 1 inch think soundproof fiberboard for the subfloor which would’ve been great if they’d put plywood under it. But the fiberboard flexes and caused a bunch of the nails to come out which was causing it to be super squeaky and flexy. I literally felt like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh up there bouncing around every time I walked. It just didn’t feel solid to me. I wasn’t at all comfortable with it. The people who have lived below this unit must’ve been super annoyed with all the noise. We also had a section that was not level by about 2 inches which could’ve just been caused by not having the proper subfloor support – who knows.
First thing we did was hire a contractor to attach sister joists to the joists that were lower to raise them up. We made sure there was no other damage before doing it and we couldn’t see any. Then, we had the contractor put 1/2 inch plywood on top of the entire subfloor over the entire unit and secure it through to the joists with 3 inch screws. He also glued the plywood to the existing subfloor which I was honestly nervous about because I’d rather not use glue since taking it up will be a nightmare, but he insisted it would be better so we just went with it. We don’t ever plan to take up this new subfloor combo so it’s fine. It made the biggest difference. The floor is no longer flexing and moaning. Then, we put some wood laminate over the top of it with a sound barrier rubber layer underneath it for extra soundproofing. I think the people downstairs will be much happier now. We ordered the wood laminate from Lumber Liquidators. It’s a dark brown wood look color – Farmland Hickory Engineered Vinyl Plank flooring 7mm thick. But the best thing about it is that it’s water proof. It was $2.40/sq ft and $2/sq ft installed, which is pricey but we’ve started going with Vinyl Plank in all our units since it lasts so much longer than carpet and people just like it alot better so it’s easier to attract good tenants.
The kitchen flooring had gotten water on it at some point so it was kind of squishy. We had to pull that up and saw a layer that looked like it could be asbestos. I sent a piece in to get tested and it turned out not to be – woohooo!!!!!!!!!!! You have no idea how much of a relief that was. I had nightmares about that. So, we were able to get that taken up and we put the same Farmland Hickory EVP down in the kitchen.
The building had old electric panels which we had started to upgrade with each renovation since they were Zinsco panels which are no longer up to code. With this unit though, we needed to upgrade all the panels for the entire building and Ameren was requiring us to move the meters from the garage to the outside of the building. All we could see was dollar signs on this one. But AMF electric company really came through for us. Don Kentch was the manager on the project and he really gave us an excellent price and made quick work of it. I literally got about 13 companies to come out and bid on this and so many of them just didn’t want to do the work which was shocking to me because we were willing to pay. They just came and told us don’t do it – it’s going to be too expensive and take too long. But, for us, it was important to get it done so that the building is safe and up to code and that’s not what we wanted to hear. AMF came in with a quote and wasn’t scared of doing hard work. I was very impressed with them. And this way we were also able to get more lines run to the kitchen we were about to redo because modern day kitchens need more electrical than kitchens did in the 60’s. Win-win.
We chose to do another IKEA kitchen. The thing I like about IKEA for rentals is that if the tenants damage a cabinet door or something then all we have to do is get a replacement door from IKEA which is significantly cheaper than all new cabinets. This time though we hired IKEA to do the installation instead of doing it ourselves. That was a great call. It took them 3 days vs us taking 3 months. The installation cost about $2,000. So. Worth. It. For the backspash tile, we chose a longer subway tile from Home Depot and they installed for us. We also got a black quartz countertop from Home Depot that they installed. We opened up the doorway to the kitchen by removing the cowboy doors and door frame. For information on our DIY IKEA install, see this post: IKEA Kitchen Install
We had the same contractor do our bathrooms again and chose similar tile for the wall and floor. This time we got a combo fan light put in place for extra lighting in the hall bathroom.
Before and After Pictures: