The Easy, Landlord-Approved DIY That Solved My Most Painful Rental Problem

published Sep 24, 2019
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It’s been ten years since I planted my feet in Chicago, and in that time I’ve lived in half as many apartments—not a bad record. I quickly learned to predict the maintenance awaiting me in each new home: a thorough cleaning, a fresh paint job, fixing whatever duct-taped draping mechanism covered the windows.

Anyone who’s moved into a new place previously inhabited by *gulps* college bros knows that it takes a little more than elbow grease to make the place feel like home. It wasn’t until I nearly LOST A TOE that I discovered that, with your your landlord’s permission, you can make more updates than you might have thought. Let me explain:

Glass shower doors. I love the doors that designers on HGTV put in their fixer uppers. But doors installed in the late ’80s? Hard pass. I’d been living in my apartment for a couple of years and always struggled to keep the doors clean—especially the metal track they ran on. I tried it all, even auto glass cleaner, but the grimy track continued to freak me out. I felt a little claustrophobic. Worst of all, they made baths a nightmare. Cut to “the toe incident.” One morning, as I scrambled to get out of the shower and bolt to work, my big toe grazed something attached to the track (a screw? The track itself? I’ll never know!) and, my god, the blood!

I’ll spare you the details, but doctors’ visits, antibiotics, limping, and thoughts and prayers for my toenail ensued. Understandably, I was DONE with the shower doors.

However, when I told my friends, I did not spare any details. In service of me cutting short the bloody details, a friend shared that they previously had the same problem in their apartment, and that their landlord removed theirs without incident.

I vowed to do the same. After a brief conversation with my landlord (sparing him the details of my toe, of course), he shockingly green-lit my shower demo.

Credit: Sarah Magnuson

This was the first demo I’d even undertaken, so to reassure myself I could do it (even with my injury), I looked up a guide online and watched a YouTube tutorial. Next, I recruited my right-hand man Costa, a former rancher and butcher who can fix anything and most importantly, is patient as heck with my nonsense. We did a quick supply run at Home Depot and got to it. Y’all, I can attest: It wasn’t that hard! Two hours later, the doors were off, the caulk was drying, and my new curtain rod was installed (and it would’ve taken even less time if our supply run hadn’t included a bottle of wine!).

Credit: Sarah Magnuson
See that little sliver of a yellow? Yup, that's my SHOWER CURTAIN.

I’m still in that apartment today and the project considerably improved my daily routine and the bathroom’s aesthetic. So, consider: what’s driving you nuts about your place? Hate your cabinet color? Want a new backsplash? Can’t stand the carpet? What’s annoying you will probably also annoy a future tenant, so there’s a good chance your landlord will let you fix these gripes. Hey, they might even knock some money off the rent if you commit the supplies and labor, too! You just have to ask them.

Need some ideas for landlord-friendly upgrades? Here, seven things you never thought you could do in a rental (that you totally can!)

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