For property managers and landlords who decide to replace the flooring in a rental property, the challenge is making the right choice for a property that will be occupied by tenants who may be less careful than a homeowner when it comes to caring for hardwood floors. It’s a crucial investment property management decision. Replacing flooring in a rental is a hefty investment that demands some careful thought when it comes to selecting between manufactured vinyl flooring. For a rental property, the flooring you choose should provide a balance between durability, cost, and appearance.
Vinyl wood flooring is designed to simulate hardwood, but unlike its authentic counterpart, vinyl is impervious to penetration or damage due to moisture or humidity. If a low-quality adhesive is used to install vinyl flooring, it may come loose in moist environments and cause the tile to curl but the material itself will not be damaged by water, making it a good option for kitchens and bathrooms. Vinyl flooring installed costs on average $2 – $8 per square foot.
Hardwood, on the other hand, is a natural material—solid wood planks—and not all wood is alike. With hardwood, there are a number of factors that will establish your floor’s appearance upon installation, including the species of wood, its grade, cut, and whatever color or finish treatments you decide to apply. The price difference between the two types of flooring can be substantial. Depending on which hardwood you choose, hardwood flooring installed costs on average $12 – $20 per square foot.
Many rental property managers and landlords waver between going with vinyl and hardwood flooring, and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of either choice. Keep reading below to discover the real determining factor for choosing between hardwood and vinyl.
Real hardwood flooring is substantially more expensive than vinyl plank flooring. Vinyl plank flooring is printed with the colors and markings found in natural hardwood and recent advances in printing technology now allow vinyl products to simulate the look of a variety of wood species accurately. However, if you’re willing to spend a little more money upfront, hardwood flooring could turn out to be an investment in the value of your property that will add value down the road. If you think about a day when you decide to sell the rental property, comparison properties in the area with real hardwood floors will help determine your home’s market value. Additionally, your choice might impact renters’ decision regarding whether or not they decide to rent your property.
If you are planning other major property upgrades in addition to the flooring, you may want to consider investing in the higher-quality choice. For example, you might not spend $5,000 on flooring for a property you purchased for $60,000, but if the sum of all your improvements increases the value of the property to $120,000, then the $5,000 floor could be the better decision.
Another important consideration when it comes to choosing the flooring you plan to install in your rental property is the time and effort you are prepared to expend on installation. Hardwood floors are sometimes difficult to install so it’s usually best done by professionals. If you decide to install the hardwood flooring yourself, you should consider the cost and time involved in such a project. Additionally, the cost of surface preparation can vary greatly. The current flooring, whether carpet or tile, could be concealing imperfections that will require leveling the subfloor or replacing it altogether. Make sure to remove the current flooring to examine the condition of the subfloor before purchasing your hardwood supplies.
On the flip side, vinyl plank flooring is comparatively easy to install yourself and can be placed directly over plywood or OSB subfloors, concrete slabs, and most existing floor types including wood, vinyl, and ceramic tile. Different types of vinyl plank flooring require different installation methods, ranging from interlocking to grip-strip to peel-and-stick. Before you begin installation, make sure to read the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Durability is a primary consideration when it comes to installing new flooring in a rental property, where you will have to trust your tenants who may not be as hypervigilant to avoid scratching the wood or cleaning up a spill quickly as you would hope they will be. Renters generally increase the wear and tear on a property, so durability is a priority.
While hardwood flooring has improved dramatically in seams and finishes, vinyl plank flooring is durable, stain-resistant, water-resistant and extremely easy to clean. The choice of flooring you decide on may boil down to the type of tenant you expect to sign. If you haven’t already, conduct some research on the rental market in your area to learn who your rental market represents. Families? College students? Professionals? Is it an area with an abundance of pet owners who will not rent a no-pet unit? Or is it in an upscale market in which tenants look for rentals exclusively with real hardwood flooring and would never consider a unit with vinyl?
Your research will ultimately help you determine the demographics of your primary tenant pool, and that knowledge should impact your flooring choice based on the amount of durability and likelihood of replacement required. Regardless of which type of flooring you select, be sure to keep some extra boxes of the flooring planks on hand in case repairs are necessary down the road. Doing repairs when it’s due is a sign of outstanding investment property management.