Complete rental apartment renovation – check

Yes, it has been a while since we’ve written a post for our blog.  We’ve been in a frenzy trying to get the third floor unit into shape since we found out from our Expeditor that we can rent it out before we get the Certificate of Occupancy for the building, as long as there are no safety concerns.  We had him do a run through and we are good to go.

We did not have our contractor renovate the third floor because all it needed was cosmetic work, which we thought we could do ourselves.  We did hire someone to remove and drywall the drop down ceilings and install the new floors.  We also paid our electrician to do all the ceiling lights but the rest was us and our go to guy, Keith, who we met when he installed our floors.

Here are some before and afters:

Livingroom

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View from back of house into dining – living area

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We used the contractors for our duplex unit to put up fire resistant drywall in the hallway to meet with fire codes.  We decided to close up one of the two doors that lead into the apartment.  In retrospect, and there is always perfect hindsight in renovation, we should have moved the entry door to the left so it would be easier for prospective tenants to get their furniture through the door from the stairs.

Left side of the living area from the back.

Left side of the living area from the back.

We removed the 70s drop ceiling and plaster ceiling (and that added about 9 inches in ceiling height), recessed lighting and ceiling fans.  We demolished the cosmetic archway and that little half wall to the kitchen to give it an open floor plan.  If you recall, we removed all of the floors to soundproof them then installed laminate.  We chose it mainly because it is durable and inexpensive but also because we hated the look of the wood floors we could afford.  We replaced all the baseboard moldings with ones similar to the originals.  To the right, we stripped the plaster off the fireplace to expose the original brick and give the room a little architectural interest.  We couldn’t afford to get this chimney working so it is just decorative.

Living room

Kitchen

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Here we are (above) removing the old linoleum to expose the pine wood floors.  They were not in great shape and we wanted to do soundproofing so they had to go.  On the upside, we put them on Craigslist and sold them to homeowners in Bed Sty so they will have another life.  We removed the half wall and the wallpaper, which was no easy task.

We replaced the window by the refrigerator because it was broken.  We kept the original molding around the window but replaced the baseboard molding and the molding around the double window because it was just easier.  We replaced the permanently fogged glass in 1 sash of double window, which was amazingly cheap at $50 and it now looks like a new window.

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We originally were going to paint these old top cabinets and put in a new stand alone bottom cabinet from IKEA with an inexpensive counter top but the more we looked at them the uglier they got.  We thought as long as we are ripping the floor up we should redo the cabinets too and be done with it.  We used the same company down the street that we used for the kitchen in our unit.

KitchenWe went with basic modern wood cabinets so that they would not go out of style too soon. Before you say it, we know the white appliances with the stainless steel dishwasher is not the best look but the fridge and stove were in great shape after a good cleaning.  If they ever fail, we will replace them with stainless, which is why the dishwasher is in that finish.  We extended the cabinets to the ceiling so there is a lot more cabinet space than before and we removed the washing machine to add drawer space.  We were able to get a quartz countertop from a remnant piece from the supplier used by Park Slope Kitchen Gallery and that saved us a lot of money.  It may be white but it is manmade from quartz so it is the most durable.  We were also able to save the tin ceiling with a good coat of paint, some bending and a little painter’s caulk.

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For the bedroom it was all basic cosmetic work.  The previous owners had already removed the fireplace mantels and the brick was covered in plaster so we left it. The best news was that we were able to save original plaster ceiling.  We skim coated it to smooth it out and left the crows completely intact. It is amazing what a little paint and new floors can do.

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The ceiling before

ceiling after

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We replaced the floor, repaired and painted the ceiling and crown molding.  We installed new entry, closet and bathroom doors.  We re-plastered some of the walls, painted, replaced the baseboard molding and wire brushed and painted the radiators.  We still haven’t found a ceiling light we like, so please ignore that dangling lightbulb.

Bedroom

Below is that small room off of the bedroom that you see in so many brownstones.  The previous owners, whose family owned the house for two generations, told us that when they were growing up two of the children slept in there.  I think that was the norm back then.

Small room off bedroom

When our house was built in 1899 it did not include bathrooms so the bathroom in the rental was carved out in the middle of the unit, and thus was a bit wonky. For some reason (probably to accommodate the plumbing) the installers decided to raise the floor up about 8″ resulting in an awkward step to enter. It’s only door was to the outside hallway which was not fire rated so it had to be removed. We add a new one one into the bedroom–so the tenant’s doesn’t have to go outside his or her apartment to use the loo. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do about the step except make it look better with a marble saddle.

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Bathroom

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Right after we closed on the house we purchased a new modern toilet and vanity sink for a great price from a woman who was combining two condo apartments in Boerum Hill. The original plan was to reglaze the tub and try painting the tiles but when it came down to it we thought now is the time to replace the tub and tiles. We had an incident in our previous condo where the tub in the apartment above us rusted through around the drain and caused damage to our ceilings in three rooms before the source was discovered. The tub was old and we did not want to take that chance so we renovated the whole room with the help of our handyman and now everything is shiny, new and clean.  Much to our chagrin, we did a better job installing the tiles here than our contractor did in our unit!

bathroom

Finally, we added a stacked washer and dryer to the laundry closet that used to only have a dryer.

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We are so happy the apartment is finished but sad that we will no longer be able to use it for our daughter’s slumber parties and as a laundry suite.  Now the next challenge is renting it out to a good tenant!

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Rental Unit Kitchen Cabinet Installation – check

It may seem like it’s taken us forever to make progress on the rental unit, and that’s because it has.  When you only have weekends to work on it things tend to drag out. I’d say the kitchen is done but really not quite: there is a problem with the positioning for the plumbing for the dishwasher that we have to straighten out; we need to purchase and install the cabinet hardware; clean out the refrigerator and stove; install a backsplash and maybe a microwave.

We recently installed the kitchen cabinets that we mentioned in our last post and you can read about the details in our recent post for BrickUnderground.com.

A BROOKLYNITE’S STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO INSTALLING KITCHEN CABINETS

DIY kitchen cabinet installation is not that difficult (though we do recommend hooking up the sink and dishwasher, eventually)

Longtime New Yorkers Angela Tiffin and Andrew Nichols bought their first brownstone in South Park Slope in May 2012, and have spent two years renovating—first, their own duplex apartment and in recent months, a third-floor rental unit—much of it with their own hands. You can read more about the project at their blog, Brownstone Cyclone.

We recently went through the (surprisingly complicated) process ofchoosing kitchen cabinets for our brownstone—both for our owner’s duplex and a rental unit on the top floor. The next step: installing the cabinets, which we decided to tackle ourselves. Although we made a few mistakes along the way, overall it was a pretty easy job, and we regret spending the money on hiring a professional on past kitchen projects.

Shopping for Kitchen Cabinets

Below is our latest post for BrickUnderground.com containing our advice on buying kitchen cabinets.

But first, here is a bit more detail on our shopping experience at Home Depot and IKEA for those trying to decide where to purchase cabinets.

We started out first looking at IKEA cabinets and for the rental unit and although the price was right there was little design assistance, their computer software (which you can download on ikea.com) is rudimentary at best (but good for planning) and there was a limited selection in cabinet sizes.  With our irregularly high ceilings we couldn’t design them to fit.  And don’t forget, the cabinets do not arrive assembled.

That being said, we have friends who installed IKEA high gloss cabinets in a very modern newly constructed kitchen and ten years and two children later they’ve stood the test of time with only minor replacements, so whether IKEA is right for you is relative.

When we renovated the kitchen in our previous apartment we went to the 23rd Street Home Depot in Manhattan to check out several kitchen designs and materials in person We dealt with a different person at each process.  Someone who is not the designer came to our home to measure the space and later when we needed a cabinet door replaced because it was warped we dealt with someone completely different in customer service.

Also they subcontract installation to a third party, which lead to a problem when we installed our cabinets because our kitchen was measured with the old cabinets and drywall in place.  We handled demolition and had the room re-drywalled.  During this process one of the dimensions of the room increased by two inches.  As a result our cabinets did not fit the space as designed.  Thankfully, the installer was able to add filler pieces to solve the problem but it did not look exactly as we designed.

We purchased full-overlay cabinet doors but see the gaps between the cabinets on the right and left below.

Cabinets from Home Depot

Cabinets from Home Depot

While we were satisfied with the cabinet quality and service overall, we chose to go the small shop route this time because we wanted to work with one person for the entire process.  For both our kitchens, the designer at Park Slope Kitchen Gallery came by and measured our space twice to make sure it was accurate before finalizing the order.

For more information about what style and type of cabinet to buy see our post below.

BUYING NEW KITCHEN CABINETS? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Our kitchen cabinet odyssey involved a lot more decision-making than you might imagine.

Longtime New Yorkers Angela Tiffin and Andrew Nichols bought their first brownstone in South Park Slope in May 2012, and have spent two years renovating—first, their own duplex apartment and in recent months, a third-floor rental unit—much of it with their own hands. You can read more about the project at their blog,Brownstone Cyclone.

We recently purchased new kitchen cabinets for the rental unit in our brownstone, after buying them last year for our duplex, which may seem like an easy decision. In truth, however, there are a dizzying array of choices when it comes to picking the style, the substance and the construction methods, not to mention where to shop in the first place. Below, what we learned in the process: