Dear Maintenance Men:

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Dear Maintenance Men:
I am starting my planning for a major kitchen cabinet remodeling project in my rental units.  However, I am having a difficult time making material and design decisions.  What recommendations can you give?

Dear Allen,
When doing a kitchen or bath material selection, cohesive and functional design is important.  Kitchen and bath rehabs are some of the most expensive work you can do in an apartment unit and proper planning is a must.  In order to appeal to a larger segment of the population, try to keep the interior color scheme to neutral earth tones.  Cabinetry quality varies greatly.  Don’t let the cabinet fronts fool you.  Manufactures designed their cabinets to look good at first glance.  Keep in mind, being in a rental environment, the cabinets also need to hold up to abuse. Look at the actual construction of the cabinet box or frame.  Keep in mind; you do not need to use custom cabinets to fit your existing layout.  The use of prefabricated modular cabinetry can greatly reduce the time and cost to have a finished kitchen or bathroom.  Using real wood cabinet fronts with 3/8” plywood sides is essential for durability. The drawer fronts and sides should be connected with a dovetail or other positive lock construction.  Drawers that are held together by nails or cabinets built with particle board will not hold up to tenant abuse. 

On a side note;  if you are gutting the kitchen or bathroom, use this time to relocate and add more electrical outlets and under cabinet lighting. 

Dear Maintenance Men:
I need to do some caulking in my apartment building both inside and outside the units. I need some advice.  The hardware store carries a large number of caulk types and I don’t know what to buy!!!   Can you help explain the different types of caulk and where to use them?

Dear Frank:
We understand!  It can be confusing.  Let us try to break down the most common of caulk types and when and where to use them. 

1:         Acrylic Latex caulk (painter’s caulk):  Inexpensive, easy to use, water cleanup. 
 Not for use in damp locations such as bathroom or kitchen or outdoors.  Designed to be painted over. 

2:         Vinyl Latex caulk:  Easy to use, water cleanup and can be used outside.  Not very flexible; use in expansion joints is not recommended.

3:         Acrylic Tile Sealant:  Easy to use, water cleanup.  The sealant is perfect for bathroom and kitchens and other wet locations.  It is mold and mildew resistant.  Paintable.

4:         Siliconized Acrylic Sealant:  Easy to use, soap and water or solvent cleanup.  Perfect for porcelain tile, metal and glass.  Similar to Acrylic Tile Sealant, but tougher and longer lasting.

5:         Pure Silicon:  Best for non-porous surfaces.  Long lasting, indoor/outdoor caulk.  Super flexible and strong.   Harder to use than any of the above caulks. Solvent cleanup. Mold and mildew resistant.  Could smell until cured.

6:         Butyl Rubber:  Best use is outdoors.  Messy to use.  Perfect for sealing roofs, valleys, gutters, flashing and foundations.  Moisture and movement tolerant.  Sticks to anything.  Cleanup with solvents.

7:         Elastomeric Latex Caulk:  Water cleanup. Longest lasting caulk. Great adhesion to almost all surfaces and can stretch close to 200%.  Elastomeric caulk is very tolerant to wide temperature and weather extremes. It is most often used outdoors. This caulk can bridge gaps up to 2 inches wide and deep.  The caulk dries very quickly; tool the caulk immediately after application.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a toilet that runs every ten or twenty minutes.  I have replaced the fill valve, the flapper valve and I have even scrubbed under the rim!  In other words, all the items I can think of that are replaceable in the tank are new.  What else should I be looking at? 


Dear Sam:

You replaced all the easy ones!!  When all else fails on a toilet leak down issue; it is time to put on your rubber gloves and get an adjustable wrench.  Chances are the problem lies with the Flush Valve Seat.  The rubber flapper valve seals against the flush valve seat (the big hole at the bottom of the tank.) to either keep the water in the tank or let the water out of the tank.  The seat may have a burr, crack or calcium deposits that allow a small amount of water to seep past the rubber flush valve.  Sanding the seat to remove the burr or calcium deposit is a short-term solution and rarely solves the problem for long.  A permanent solution is to replace the flush valve. Start by turning off the water supply, completely empty the tank and remove the water line.  Remove the two or three bolts holding the tank to the toilet bowl.  Turn the tank upside down and remove the large nylon or brass nut that holds the flush valve to the tank. Install the new flush valve.  Be sure the tank bottom is clean and no debris gets between the new valve’s rubber gasket and the tank. Tighten the large nut on the outside of the tank and you are ready to reassemble the tank and bowl and put the toilet back into action.   When reassembling the tank to the bowl, install new rubber washers and bolts.  

WE NEED Astrophysics  Questions!!!    If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: 

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at 714 956-8371  
Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 30 years. Frankie is President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and a lecturer, educational instructor and Chair of the Education Committee of the AAOC.  He is also Chairman of the Product Service Counsel.  Frank can be reached at (714) 956-8371 For more info please go to: 
Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker. He is currently a Director Emeritus and Past President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and past Chairman of the association’s Education Committee.  Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.