5000 SqFt Floor Replacement in Two Weeks


My smoking weeds tenants were out in the middle of the winter, so it was a bit hard to get the apartment rented. So, I thought I’d renovate the apartment, at least, replacing the carpet with something else – laminate.

Some before pictures:

It’s been a crazy 2 months for me. Back in January, I pitched the idea of flying my brother to replace the carpet in my rental to laminate flooring. I’d pay $1000/apt.

My budget was $10,000, but I ended up spending $13,000, not too bad considering 30% over budget.

Aside from my brother, I had part-timers and myself to help my brother out.

Some tips I’ve learnt:

Before We Start:

  1. Sent The Letter to the tenants, let them know what we were doing. Time-frame, expectations, apologizing ahead of time. All in all, we were inconvenience them.
  2. Had them do some of the prep work – bag up clothes, loose items in trash bag, or boxes. This saved me a lot, because there are female tenants, and my workers are males. So, sensitive items are out of the way.
  3. Went and Buy the bulk of the materials, and tools ahead of time. The negotiation was done over 3 days. It took me 3 full days, as The first night was a bust, I forgot about the Pro-Services at Lowes and HomeDepot. I didn’t get the discount. Then I came back to get another estimate, and another estimate. Then came back for something else, but the price went down a little bit more so I got the additional discount. >$1000 in savings, had I just bought everything with retail price.
  4. Asked additional people to help. I talked to several of my tenants and some of them agreed to help for reduced or no rent payment. 🙂 This helped tremendously as Lowes was delivering the materials when I wasn’t there and my tenant stepped in.

Removing carpet

1. Use a bread knife, yes the long knife to cut the carpet to small long piece. Using tape or strings to tie the underpayment and carpet as you go.

2. Lay a big tarp so you can pile up, and have trash service to pick up once the project is over.

Buying equipments and materials

>=$1500 order can land you  pro-service, this would end up saving you 10-15%, in my case, I saved over $1000

Lowe’s and Homedepot’s competes, so you can go to one to get the price, go to the leather, tell the, to match or beat.

Obviously, I’ve never used a table saw before, but I know I’d need one, so I didn’t cheap out in buying equipments.

I planned ahead to have 2 empty rooms that I could put the materials in ahead of time, carpets, underlayment, tacks, staples are all ripped out ahead of time. That way, when it time to do that room, we didn’t have to unload the materials once more time.

3 x 12 load was 1,500 pounds, so I ended up loaded to 2 rooms, or separate along the hall way to spread out the weight. But still, plan ahead was KEY!

It’s a 2 story building, so I load 1/2 of materials on each level. This helped tremendously as 1 box of laminate weighs almost 30 pounds. Yes, 167 boxes weren’t no joke!

Installing laminate:

1. Do use the kit that they have $20 well-spent, well, I bought 2 kits, so $40. My brother didn’t want to use it, but in the end, he caved in as it’s a lot more convenient to use.

2. Use the multi-tool to cut the door frame so you can fit the laminate underneath. My brother didn’t know the trick, I had to pull up the YouTube video to show him how to do it. He resisted at first, but after I showed him that we couldn’t hide the mistakes with the quarter-round, he changed his position.

3. It’s easy to install laminate. I bought the cheapest kind 50 cents/sqft, so even if we make a mistakes on a couple board, it’s acceptable:) and things will look better eventually.

4. Have more people with bigger project. Everyday, I have minimum 2 people help my brother, but he still burnt out. I burnt out.

I doubted myself half way through, whether I should have contracted out. Lowes advertised $0.80/sqft. But it’s tricky as they expect an empty room and they aren’t reliable as it’s through a third party. Not to mention, I’ll have to pay for carpet removal and the whole entourage. The other guy charge $2/sqft, then I’ll have to pay for carpet removal and trim is separate. It would have costed me well over $20k for the 5000 sqft.
5. Be flexible and lower the expectations. I hired my brother because I wanted to fix the uneven floor, but he only had 8 days. I have to pick whether he’d finish with laminate or fix the uneven floor. Laminate it was.

My plan was to do one room at a time, but I had to run the inside circle (helped removing carpet and floor installation), and the outside circle – running to buy water, food, materials, tools, making sure everybody show up, making sure we move the items off the floor, making sure no one get hurts, pets don’t run off, etc.

Either way, one room at the tim didn’t work, as tenants have so much stuff, so I changed it to 1/2 room at a time. Work the first half, install,the first half, then move the furniture back, needless to say, it was hard. But recognized there was a problem, then fixed it so it would help facilitate things was the best move.

3. After my brother was gone I was left with 4 kitchens, 4 bathrooms to install the vinyl. Hiring more muscles was a must, as I couldn’t move the applicants myself, and I’m not comfortable with the saw. The corner of the bathroom was rotted. In one apt, it was really bad and took me the whole day.

4. Custom-made transition. The floor of the main house and the kitchen was off by 1.2 in, and the space was more than the 36″ standard entry opening. The store doesn’t have the transition I need, I made one with the table saw.

5. Breaking stuff when moving furniture around, I have to say ….

One dryer, one bed, possibly  fridge were broken

**2 parking ticket- the city was tricky when they posted street cleaning on Tuesday, and Towed my car on Wednesday. Cleaning street on Friday but posted on Thursday. *** I haven’t had the energy to contest those ticket, but it’s awful what they did.

6. Trash control – I thought we did a great job at trash control, when you have 167 boxes of laminate, stables and debris, tools and such will get lost, so I was making sure the work site was in good shape, so I constantly cleaning up, and dumping the trash.

my brother criticized me for not hiring qualified people, but trash that he accumulated were automatic gone to the pile, table saw was automatically assembled, saw dust was automatically vacuumed and clean, carpet was automatically removed, and gazillion of stables were automatically ripped off 🙂 and my guys install as fast as my brother. 🙂

7. On my brother last 2 days in town,  I took him to Washington DC for sight-seeing. Money is important, but after all, you make money to enjoy, so I didn’t want to get caught up in renovation, and not able to show my brother around. I also gave my brother $500 bonus, ticket to come, restaurant food everyday … overall, labor expense for labor on my brother $5200.

8. Be positive. I was very optimistic even when I still have 4 kitchens, 4 bathrooms after my brother had left. Spend a little extra money, and things will run.

One of my tenants passed away due to a car accident. His death was tough on me, I was shocked for 2 full days. After talking to his mom, he had travel through Europe, well-loved,everywhere , everyone he touched. He left a great legacy. His lost made me rethink about my 12-14 hours/day x 3 weeks work week. My husband was sick and I couldn’t take care of him. I’m considering lowering my real estate portfolio to free up times. After all, why continue earnimg a 6-figure income when my spending is less than poverty level? I could have cashed out, then get 4% dividend and I’d still have extra saving each month.

My project started Feb 23rd, 2018, and the following week. The weather was in the 60s, good for renovation. No major weather delay, but this week, March 12th, 2018, the snow is pounding on the Northeast of the US. Somehow, even when things go wrong, someone above was helping/blessing me getting through this project. So thank you!

Another turning point was, I had more gray hair now, I’m getting old, so maybe trading health for wealth is no longer necessary.

Here are some after pictures. I was too busy to take more before/after pictures on other apartment. We timelapsed the carpet removal, but forgot to take some pictures of the process 🙂


The current trend is to have the grayish, unfinished wood color, but I’d rather have a brighter apartment with cedar finish, so I kept the trend that is popular 2-7 years ago. LOL 🙂 hence the price for these were like $0.55/sqft vs $0.98/sqft for the 7mm thickness.

The majority of the cost went into labor, not counting the time that my husband and I were putting in.


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