Caulking, Modernization, Clean Up Schedule

“If you have done a pre-inspection of the unit before the resident moves out, you can plan what needs to be done before the unit is vacant.”

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have been replacing rusted and dented HVAC vents and electrical wall receptacles in a rental unit. However, they don’t look right. There are a lot of gaps between the vents and plates and the wall. Some of the walls are not perfectly flat or the texture is bumpy. How do I make these installs more professional looking?



Dear Julien:

Caulk is your friend and caulk will hide a multitude of sins! On a job like this we recommend getting a squeeze tube of painter’s caulk. Squeezable caulk tubes are readily available at any hardware or home center. Cut a small angled cut off the tip of the tube. Best to make the cut about 45 degrees. You want to open the tube just enough to get about an eighth inch thick line of caulk out of the tube. Run this caulk line all around the vents and wall plates edges. Gently run your finger along the caulk line pressing it into place. Any excess caulk can be removed with a damp paper towel. Once done, your vents and plates will look like they are part of the wall and will look very professional.


Dear Maintenance Men:

What is one thing I can do to make an older rental unit appear more modern? I don’t want to do a complete rehab, just a few touches to appear more up to date.



Dear Randy:

We have recently discovered an easy way to make many people very happy with this simple update to a unit. Purchase and install wall outlets with USB ports. Today everybody has a phone and/or a tablet with them. However, getting that phone or tablet charged is always a challenge. Install a USB enabled receptacle in the kitchen, in each bedroom and along any suitable flat surface. All a resident needs to have is a USB wire to charge their devices and they will think this is a very clever idea!

Another idea is to replace boring kitchen cabinet knobs with nice modern updated knobs. This will lift the look of your kitchen and bathrooms without breaking the bank.

Dear Maintenance Men:

What is the normal time frame for a one- or two bedroom make ready? I have always heard the three-day rule to get an apartment ready for rent. My units seem to be on the three-week rule! How can I tighten up the process and turn my units faster?


Dear Martin:

The “Three-Day Rule” is a nice goal to strive for and can be done. But, most units are not in rent-ready condition when we get them back from our departing residents. Here’s a useful time table and work schedule for a one- or two-bedroom apartment requiring complete paint, carpet, flooring, minor repairs, window coverings and cleaning.

Day 1 & 2: Paint prep, trash out, minor repairs, removal of blinds, drapes, switch outlet plates, etc.
Day 3: Paint.
Day 4: Carpet/Flooring.
Day 5: Installation of window coverings, doorstops, switch/outlet plates, fixtures, accessories, toilet seat, etc. Touch up paint if needed.
Day 6: Cleaning – General cleaning including windows and final inspection.

If you have done a pre-inspection of the unit before the resident moves out, you can plan what needs to be done before the unit is vacant. Organize the maintenance techs and contractors ahead of time. Have all the repair and replacement parts ready to go. The key is to plan each day and try to stick to the plan.

WE NEED Maintenance 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 a licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer and educational instructor for the Apartment Association. Frank can also be reached at For more info please go to: Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker and has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.