Flooring is a very integral part of any rental property. It’s not only expensive, but it has a dramatic impact on a home’s rentablity and value. When owning real estate investments, landlords need to strategically choose the type of flooring that is going into their rental. In most cases, tenants do not stay long term and many landlords find themselves searching for a new tenant every couple years, if not sooner. Moving furniture places a lot of stress and wear on any flooring which is then compounded by tenant turnover because each time you transition from one renter to another, the home is subject to 2 back to back moves.
Carpet, the long term sock
I like to categorize carpet into 3 categories; Economy (3-4 year), Midgrade (5-6 year), High End (7+).
When selecting carpet, many landlords choose lower price / quality carpet which will typically last about 3-4 years. The carpet fiber in low quality carpet is often looser and the material isn’t as strong which causes it to break down faster. Once the carpet fibers begin to unravel and break down, you end up with the flattened/matted appearance. In addition, because the fibers are now loose, it becomes harder to keep clean and it attracts stains which then causes the carpet to look even worse.
Instead, I recommend going with a mid-grade carpet. It will general cost about 20-30% more, however it will help save on labor cost in the long run since you won’t have to replace the carpet as frequently. It’s important to also consider the carpet pad which should also be upgraded as well. A poor quality pad will flatten out quickly which then makes the carpet uncomfortable to walk on and it also contributes to a matted appearance.
High-end plush carpet is really nice and if you have a Luxury home, you really don’t have much of a choice but to use it. In general, I do not recommend it unless it’s needed to match the type of home/neighborhood because it doesn’t last as long as it should when you consider how much you are paying for it. Instead of high end carpet, I would recommend going with something that is more durable such as wood laminate or tile flooring.
Wood laminate, a beautiful sponge
Over the past 10 years, wood laminate flooring has become a very popular alternative to real wood or tile floors. It gives of a great presentation by adding color and character while being affordable at the same time. However, some consideration needs to be given when choosing to install wood laminate in your rental property.
The first consideration is that it is very porous beneath wood laminate finish and this type of flooring can be easily damaged by water if it gets underneath or penetrates the surface. This is why it’s important to wipe up spills quickly and to be careful when moping/cleaning. When moping, it’s best to wring out the mop very well, use a flat mop system, or something like a Swiffer with the wet cleaning pads. In terms of location, I don’t recommend wood laminate in kitchens, bathrooms, or laundry room areas.
Quality is another point of consideration. Similar to carpet, low quality laminate typically does not last very long because it accumulates wear marks and scratches more quickly. In terms of midgrade vs. high end, they will perform similarly in rental properties. I would not recommend a high end laminate to landlords as you most likely would not benefit from it. Most of the damage/wear results from moving and while high end wood laminate will outperform mid-grade laminate in day to day living conditions, there is little that can be done to protect the floor from that abuse it takes when moving in and out furniture.
Finally, the installation method can make a huge difference in terms of being able to make quick repairs. Wood laminate flooring is installed mostly using 2 common methods which is by using a floating floor technique or by gluing the boards down. Essentially the floating floor technique is where the floor interlocks with one another and it is then being held down by the trim/molding pieces along the edges of the wall. For rental properties, I recommend using the floating floor technique instead of glue because it’s a lot easier to change out damaged pieces. To swap out a damaged piece, the trim would just need to be temporarily removed and so that the pieces can be removed. With glued flooring, a landlord would need to find a carpenter to carefully cut out the damaged section and then replace it with a piece that is the exact same size, and then blend it in so the repair is not noticeable.
Vinyl & linoleum, cheap but effective
Depending on the type of rental, vinyl and linoleum can be an inexpensive way to quickly improve how a home looks and feels. Generally find vinyl in wet areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. The cost is similar to carpet and there is a huge variety of colors and styles available. Good quality vinyl can be designed to look like real wood or tile floors, giving the home a great presentation for the fraction of the price. However, it does has limitations. In general, it is often viewed as a cheap alternative to tile and it is not very common in high-end homes. In addition, it can easily be damaged and low quality vinyl wears out very quickly.
Tile, durable and reliable
Many landlords and tenants prefer tile flooring. It is normally easy to take care of, lasts a long time, and does damage as easily compared to other flooring. The biggest drawback to tile flooring is the cost and it often times cost about the same as installing wood laminate flooring. In addition, the tile grout can start to fade or discolor quickly if it is not sealed when first installed and then resealed every couple of years. There are cleaning products available which easily allow you to clean tile grout, Crew Tile & Grout Rejuvenator by Diversy is a product specifically designed for this.
I typically recommend tile flooring to my clients mainly because of it’s long life and durability. Cracked tiles can be somewhat of a challenge because it is very hard to replace tile without it being noticeable, but the same type of problem exists will all other flooring options that are available.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to money and your long term goals. If it’s a short term investment, then maybe go with something a little cheaper so that it can easily be replaced when you list the property for sale. If your going rent it our long term, the tile is always a great choice.
March 25, 2015