We all want our kitchens to hold up to years of use and be easy to care for. Those considerations are doubly important when designing a rental home.
Unfortunately, tenants tend to be harder on properties they occupy than homeowners. So, if you’re considering putting a second home on the vacation-rental market or investing in other rental properties, some practical advice can reduce headaches while enhancing the appeal to renters.
Choose easy-to-clean cabinets and counter surfaces that don’t readily show little dings or smudges. Kitchen designer Rachel Jindra of Wilmington’s Markraft Cabinets recommends Ultracraft cabinets that use textured melamine – a tough material, long used in unbreakable kitchenware, that is now an easily washable surface for cabinet boxes and doors.
“It has a texture that feels like wood,” Jindra said, adding it is also well-suited to beach rentals. “It gives it that driftwood look.”
It’s wise to avoid fancier designs with moldings and details that complicate cleaning, choosing instead a “plain Shaker door style” that is easier to maintain, Jindra noted.
Another helpful tip - “We try to push going all the way to the ceiling with our cabinets if possible,” Jindra said. That will maximize storage space - always at a premium in apartments and condos - and eliminate a place where dust can accumulate if tenants aren’t diligent cleaners.
Many rentals still feature laminate counters, but there’s no compelling reason not to opt for the more upscale look of stone. Granite is a great upgrade that can really update a kitchen. With granite comes slight maintenance requirements, such as periodic sealing for best longevity. Jindra suggests a “zero-maintenance” alternative, if the budget allows – quartz countertops.
Just as home buyers look for amenities that are both stylish and practical, so do prospective renters. Convenience features like swingouts and turntables in base cabinets or pull-out pantry shelves can command better rent and attract a better class of tenants.
A weekly vacation rental you also use periodically can be full of personal touches, but it’s better to go neutral when decorating a house or apartment for long-term tenants. Whites and grays are practical and create a nice, neutral palette, Jindra said. They won’t clash with a tenant’s individual touches, such as curtains, furniture or dishes. For properties near the beach, she suggests incorporating blue-greens, to “bring out the color of the water.”
If you want to keep certain storage areas off-limits to tenants, built-in cabinet locks are a cleaner, less-obvious alternative to a crude hasp and padlock.
Sometimes a small mishap can turn into a calamity if a tenant doesn’t know what to do or ignores the problem. Jindra recommends using solid plywood cabinetry under sinks. Lower-cost particleboard cabinets are far more likely to swell or disintegrate if they get wet from minor plumbing leaks.
Spending a bit more up front on plumbing fixtures can also save major costs in the long run.
Jindra warns against buying from “big-box stores” because their faucets often have plastic internal parts that can fail, either gradually or suddenly. Higher-end fixtures from specialty plumbing dealers are more likely to feature all-metal construction in crucial places that don’t show.
Those who manage multifamily properties have additional concerns about inevitable replacements of worn or broken components. To simplify repairs, put in standard cabinetry, Jindra said, and buy extra doors or cabinet “skins” to easily swap them out when needed. For that reason, a large apartment complex might order a few dozen extra of each common cabinet component.
Looking for ideas for your home or investment property? Visit Markraft’s Design Center. The professional kitchen and bath designers consult by appointment but drop-in visitors are always welcome to browse the showroom. The Design Center is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday - Friday, at 2705 Castle Creek Lane, just off Castle Hayne Road.