LA CROSSE, WI - Housing construction recovery is leaning toward multi-unit residential buidlings, which are now being built at two-thirds the peak rate prior to the downturn. Single family homes have only recovered to one-third peak levels, according to recent NAHB figures.

Kitchen Solvers, a La Crosse, WI-based franchiser of cabinetry refinishing services, says this presents an opportunity for operators of its 68 outlets, which do cabinets and closet makeovers.

Multifamily apartment owners and property managers have unleashed a wave of remodeling activity over the past year, upgrading properties to compete against the surge of new complexes accompanying the recovery.

In the process, they're using more cabinet refacing. Fran Rainey, who owns the Kitchen Solvers in Rochester, MN,  remodeled the kitchens in a 19-unit apartment building in nearby Lanesboro.

Rather than gut the kitchens, he repaired the existing cabinets and installed new drawers, cabinet doors and hardware. The process made the kitchens look brand new while saving thousands per unit, and residents were able to stay in their homes during the two-day process.

Rainey, who has mostly worked in houses during his 13 years with Kitchen Solvers, is now eyeing thousands of other rental units in area.

"There is a lot of potential for apartment managers to benefit from using Kitchen Solvers," Rainey said. "It's less expensive, faster and far less disruptive to tenants."

Rainey says business has really picked up for his Kitchen Solvers cabinet refinishing franchise. "This is definitely the busiest fall I've had -- by far -- since the recession hit," he said. "There's a positive feeling at the home shows that I attend. A lot of people are walking around and want to know what we can do for them."

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