Do I Need Cabinets Right Away?

dreamojeanMay 1, 2013

Must a new kitchen have cabinets right away? I'm in an unusual situation where we live in a legal 3 family house used as a 2 family (with one unit per floor over 3 floors), and our top floor tenant moved out, so we moved our bedrooms to that floor but left the top floor kitchen intact for the time being. We have a full living room/kitchen on the bottom floor, and the prior owners had pulled out the kitchen on the middle floor (which is a parlor floor suited to entertaining so we are adding the kitchen back on that floor). We want to get a tenant on the bottom floor as soon as we can, for rental income, but first have to add a 2nd floor deck and stairs, and get a kitchen on the middle floor.
We have basic architectural drawings but not a designed kitchen, contractor bids and a contractor I like and am tempted to hire. We haven't ordered cabinets or appliances, countertops or backsplash, yet.

I'm struggling with kitchen design and probably want help from a designer, but the price of the renovation is steep. We can't get a bank loan for a legal 3 family until we can show 3 kitchens. We could really use a loan to get through the renovation. It occurred to me to hire the contractor we like, get the exterior work done, get the electrical and plumbing in place, get the appliances delivered and installed, and have a minimal "kitchen". Then we could put a tenant on our bottom floor and start getting rental income again (since the cabinet installation won't disrupt a tenant the way deck construction would), apply for the home equity line of credit, and once that comes in, we could dismantle the top floor kitchen, and finance kitchen design and cabinet/backsplash/countertop order with the loan. It means the renovation would take longer but not be as financially risky, and we could live in the made-over space a bit and get a better sense of our needs.

So my question is... what am I missing? Other than the inconvenience of not having cabinets and countertop (so this is not a solution for more than a couple of months, I'd think), is this a bad idea? I don't know how many other people have been in this (strange) situation of needing rental income and a loan to finish off a renovation, and having a way to break the reno into pieces like this, but I'd love any feedback. The hardest part for me is layout and cabinets, and if we wait on that, we might pay more for if we (say) swap a sink and stove or something, but if it's financed that might ease the time and financial pressure.

Thanks for any thoughts.

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Your plan sounds perfect to me. My ex and I once built a house from the ground up, doing all the work ourselves. This was in an area and time with minimal inspections and when it was no problem to live in the house while we built it. I had a stove and microwave, washed dishes in the bathroom sink or tub for three years before we had a regular kitchen. When we were finally finished, we had a paid for and beautiful home.

If money is tight, keep on eye on Craigs list or the Habitat resale store for used cabinets. Consider moving your third floord cabinets to the second floor and using them for a while to see what you like and dislike about the space. Unless you're planning to sell this house in the very near future, your plan sounds great.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:34AM
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cindy103d, thanks! Funny, I was just making a plan to move the 3rd floor sink, microwave and some cabinets down a flight and the washer/dryer/slop sink up a flight, and buy a new fridge, stove and dishwasher, get it all hooked up and live with it for awhile. Heck, we could even buy a "kitchen island" sub from IKEA for a few hundred dollars (we have friends that built a huge "kitchen island" using IKEA products, for under a thousand dollars). I know there are costs associated with moving things around without upgrading but I've had it with the ka-ching nature of kitchens and cabinets and I have a contractor and deck guy otherwise ready to go. I'm SURE I'm missing something somewhere along the line but my husband is on board with this plan. My mother (who is an antiques dealer and knows a thing or two about home renovations - but just a thing or two) thinks this is a bad idea and we should just bite the bullet. But she's retired and I'm trying to keep my day job. And she's not paying for it ... I respect her opinion but she has more time than I do, and I'm at the burnout phase and need a break. I've been working toward this renovation for well over a year, with breaks for mortgage refinancing etc., and have been in the construction phase for 2 months just getting to this point (converting a rental unit into bedroom space for us...).

We also haven't bought a new bed, kitchen table, couch etc. in over a decade - basically my husband and I still have the furniture we bought into our relationship 13 years ago, and even THEN it wasn't new, so we also have to budget for that stuff, none of it will be cheap if we want it to last another 15 years, so it's a bit financially overwhelming and I need to let off some of the pressure.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:41AM
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You can arrange a co without cabinets, need fridge, range and sink (with counter)
If it were me though I would not go ahead without a layout. all the more so given your other posts. Moving plumbing, gas and electric in a NYC brownstone while construction is under way is ideal, after the fact not so much.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:20AM
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We are settled on location of the fridge, it's really whether the sink is against the utility wall or in front of the window, and whether the order is fridge-sink-stove or fridge-stove-sink. If we did this 2-phase approach, we would go with fridge-sink-stove, all against the utility wall, and jury-rig an island and open shelving while we get in a tenant and start recovering financially from the costs to that point and apply for a loan. I just calculated that doing it this way will probably cost us an extra $1,000 to $2,000 in sunk costs, tops, but we make that back with a tenant in 1-2 months if we can get them in sooner. And my sanity is worth more than that. The part that's making me crazy is trying to plan the next 10-20 years of kitchen living in a few weeks. I just want to slow this down, but we need rental income sooner than that.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:25AM
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You know, an unfitted kitchen is a nice look. AND, your mother is an antiques dealer. Why not put in the minimum, as you and jakuvall have suggested, but get an old hutch, sideboard, and/or rolling cart with your mother's help? Surely, you can do that pretty cheaply, less than the cost of an Ikea island. And you can even resell those things when you are done!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:58AM
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ITA agree with PP's but i have suggestion.

My kitchen remodel was supposed to be finished (for most part) much sooner but - for unforeseen reasons - took longer than expected (surprise-surprise!) For a few of weeks, I was cooking on our patio (it is already warm enough here). Having fridge, MW, countertop oven, and portable induction unit plus nearby bathroom sink, the only thing I was missing was counter space for prep work. DH brought from garage our folding table (with adjustable height) which we got from Sam's and it worked just fine. Also, instead of a hutch, we used one of those tall wire shelves from HD to keep for dishes, pots&pans etc. Unlike some other temporary solutions, these can be re-used in the future. The shelf can go in the garage or pantry and table is used for picnics and patio entertainment.

Just my 2 cents...

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 7:42PM
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