Re-purposing an old workbench into a kitchen island

Rental property number 3 had a major kitchen countertop issue! Its countertop space was extremely limited and I was looking for a way to make it more suitable for cooking. I didn’t want to invest a ton in this project and decided the only option was to create a crafty kitchen island for under $30.

Luckily, my mother had found an old basement workbench for $2. A complete steal for assembled treated wood!

Well worth the $2 investment

The overall dimensions were 6ft by 3ft. It was sturdy, ugly, and ready for refurbishment. I began by lightly sanding and painting on primer.

1 coat of “no sand” primer. My favorite brand is “Kilz Hide-All”

After priming was complete, the table is ready for tile prep. I used inexpensive 3″ x 1″ pine boards to line the long edges. I chose metal tile edging for the short table sides; mainly to give it a little contrast. Total cost of edging was about $15.


Next, I painted the pine edging to match the kitchen walls. My thinking was that this would break up the white a bit. It would also match well with the gray grout I was planning to use on the tile. I chose 3″x6″ self spacing subway tile. This was an easy decision because I had it laying around AND its inexpensive to install/use. At 22 pennies per tile….this is a great choice whenever possible.

I laid my mortar and prepared to set the subway tile. After this it’s as simple as snap, stagger, lay, and repeat. The metal edging is pushed in the mortar and installed underneath the tile to create a clean edge on the short table sides. On the long table sides, I screwed the painted pine edges about 1/2″ above the table top. This allows the subway tiles to set within this edge and create a clean “lip.”

Also, please note the paper plates underneath each leg for painting. Paper plates and plastic cups are THE MOST USEFUL thing to have around any renovation project.

Pressing in subway tile

Finally, I ended my project with some gray grout to offset the white subway tiles and match the kitchen walls. Overall, I see this as a successful re-purposing. The tenant will have added countertop space and a nice eat-in area.

Finished project: Under $30.00…roughly

Revitalizing old pieces can be a great addition to any property. I’ve done many similar projects in my own home. Although it might be high in labor….it is definitely inexpensive in materials!


Written By:
Luke Langhals


Adding Insulation in Rental Properties

Most of our rental properties have little to no insulation. Many of these houses were bought from typical “slum lords” that cared as much about their tenants as they did about the squirrels living in the attic.

Our investment strategy is simple. Give people a quality place to live at an affordable monthly rate. And guess what?…..Utility bills play a huge part in whether a home is affordable!

First, you may ask WHY we make energy efficiency upgrades when the tenant is responsible for the utility bills. This is a simple argument. The largest expense suffered by landlords is vacant properties, tenant turnover, and damage caused by unhappy tenants. We try to avoid all three of these by keeping our tenants happy! Happy tenants equal long term leases and commitment to keeping the property in good condition. We want people living in our houses to feel like it is their home. Home is where the heart is 🙂

Summary of work:

1. Seal penetrations from the living space into the attic. ie. wires, lights

2. Add blown-in cellulose in the attic for insulation

3. Add rigid EPS foam and fiberglass batts to rim joists

Cost = $450.00

Value = Lower heating bills and happy tenants

Ok, lets begin with step number one. I like to start in the basement and work my way up! Begin at the rim joists. Buy 2″ EPS foam sheets for $39.00 and R-13 fiberglass batts roll for $16.00. Read the RIM JOIST INSULATING BLOG.

Next, we evaluate whether any insulation can be added within the walls. Some of our houses have fiberglass bat insulation or cellulose insulation within the wall cavities. If drywall repair is required; we try to use fiberglass bats between the wall studs.


Finally, comes the attic insulation. We move ourselves into the attic with several cans of spray foam. we seal up exterior gaps and insulate around wire penetrations through the sheet rock. Generally, these penetrations are caused by light fixtures and ductwork. The goal is to remove the locations where the houses heated/cooled air can work its way into the attic. Any exposed ducting in the attic should be wrapped in fiberglass insulation to prevent energy from escaping your ducting. 

Now we are ready for attic insulation! Generally, I find blown-in cellulose to be the easiest to work with. I purchase the packs of cellulose from Lowes and choose the GreenFiber brand. These come in roughly 2 ft packaged cubes and the blowing machine is free for the day (with $250 deposit). First, let me warn you that this machine is heavy and you will need someone to assist with lifting this.


I start with 20 containers of GreenFiber for roughly $8.00 each. Depending on the size of your attic, you will need to estimate how many of these you will require. Carry the blowing machine inside and plug it in. Climb up into the attic with the included distribution hose and have your partner load half a package of cellulose inside the machine. Begin in the farthest corner by blowing insulation into the area between the joists. Do not insulate the soffit space to avoid covering the exterior air vents. Blow insulation into one area at a time — wait until the insulation reaches above the joist. Your goal is to get a continuous “blanket” of insulation that is a MINIMUM of 5″ deep and with the goal of achieving 8″ of coverage. Add the depth of insulation required to meet your local building code.

Have fun with this DIY project! Going from un-insulated to insulated will be a noticeable difference in both utility bills and comfort.

Written By:

Luke Langhals

Sagging Addition in Rental Property

So….we bought our third rental property and planned to do the standard cosmetic and insulation upgrades. However, we had a slight ‘slant” in the kitchen and began to wonder how to fix the problem. To begin we identified that this section was not accessible from the basement; and therefore was an addition to the main house/foundation. We tried to get underneath from the outside and quickly discovered that the small addition sat on a wooden foundation (much like a deck). The 4×4 posts in each corner had begun to rot and sag downwards. This was causing our slant and needed to be rectified before we rented the home to someone.

Let the FUN BEGIN!

I call this face….”I’m not happy about how big this project became.” We see it often.

Me and my business partner Caleb discussed different “hacks” we could perform to make this job easy. We flirted with the idea of using an automobile jack outside at each corner to add a new 4×4 for support. This way no demolition would be needed on the interior. However, it would not allow us to solidify the floor joists and that seemed silly given that we didn’t want a tenant to fall through our kitchen floor.

We decided to cut a small hole in the sub-floor and take a look at the joists. They were in semi good condition for being 50 years old, but they seemed undersized for the job. We wanted to make sure that this project was done correctly and ripped up the floor to expose our work area.

The strategy here was simple.

First; support each corner with a new 4×4 post. I hand dug the dirt floor until I reached the brick “foundation”. I then cut a slightly oversized treated 4×4 and fit it into position using a lift up and hammer in method. The bottom would rest on the bricks and the top would support the wall section.

Second; We added new 2×6 joists along each existing joist. This method called “sistering” would insure that the wood holding up our tenants was sized correctly for the job (probably oversized).

Third; We placed new cross supports running perpendicular to the floor joists. These ran underneath the entire length and were supported by 4×4 posts sitting on concrete blocks.

Fourth; We changed the crawlspace area to be part of the home’s insulation envelope (previously it was an un-insulated and un-vented crawl space…bad!). I used 2″ rigid foam along the exterior walls. It is sealed with spray foam at all the seams which thoroughly locked the rigid foam into place. These foam panels were purchased from Lowes in 4’x8′ sheets and cost about $40.00. We required two sheets to fully insulate and seal the crawlspace walls. Further, we required 4 cans of spray foam purchased for $4.50 each. I then attached R-13 batt insulation to cover the foam and further prevent heat loss from the crawl space area to the outside. My goal is to keep the crawlspace dirt floor from becoming frozen and therefore prevent “flexing” between the seasons. Insulating the crawl floor would be the correct way to bring this fully inside the envelope. However, two of our supports are not dug below the frost line and therefore they would naturally change height as the ground changes between hot/cold. This is why the floor is now a big heat sink. Bad for energy efficiency but hopefully the home condition will keep this area at a steady temperature throughout the year.

Fifth; I went back outside and changed the gutter run off locations. The original addition had rotted posts because water had made its way underneath this area. I tried to insure that rain water directed itself naturally away from the home. Included in this strategy is concrete pavers added around the exterior that are sloped/graded away from the home.