Hardwood vs. Vinyl Flooring: Which Is Right for My Rental Property?
By Brentnie Daggett
Replacing the flooring in a property is not only a huge investment, but also a choice that needs to have endurance under pressure. Selecting the right flooring for a rental property is much different than choosing flooring for your home—your rental property will be occupied by tenants who may not be as responsible as you when it comes to caring for the floors. Determining the right floors for your rental property should be a careful balance between durability, affordability and aesthetics.
Many rental property owners debate between choosing real hardwood floors and vinyl floors, and there are pros and cons to each choice. Hardwood floors are made of solid wood planks or strips, while vinyl plank flooring comes in thin, flexible strips that resemble traditional hardwood. Here are some important factors to consider before you decide on one or the other:
Consideration No. 1: Installation
One of the first things you should consider when choosing flooring for your rental property is the amount of time and effort you are willing to spend on installation. Hardwood floors can be difficult to install and are usually best left to the professionals. Even if you do decide to install hardwood flooring yourself, it's important to remember the cost and time it'll take you to install. Plus, the cost of surface preparation can vary greatly. Carpet and tile floors may be hiding imperfections that'll require leveling or replacement of the subfloor, so be sure to remove the old flooring before you buy your hardwood supplies.
On the other hand, vinyl plank flooring is usually fairly easy to install on your own and can be installed directly over plywood or OSB subfloors, concrete slabs and most existing floors—including wood, vinyl and ceramic tiles. Different types of vinyl plank flooring will have different methods of installation, ranging from interlocking to grip-strip to peel-and-stick. Be sure to read the installation instructions from the manufacturer before beginning installation.
Consideration No. 2: Cost
Of course, real hardwood flooring is going to cost you more than vinyl plank flooring. Vinyl plank flooring is designed to resemble expensive hardwood at a more affordable price point; however, don’t rule out hardwood just because of its higher cost. If you're willing to spend a little more money upfront, it could turn out to be an investment that pays off in the long run. Keep resale value in mind and consider similar properties in your area—knowing what kinds of flooring are in the homes in your neighborhood is important, since your choice may influence whether or not renters will consider your property.
If you're making other major property upgrades in addition to updating the flooring, you may consider investing in a high-quality option. For example, you might not spend $5,000 on flooring in a property that cost you $60,000, but if the sum of all your improvements increases the value of that $60,000 property to $120,000, then the $5,000 floor might make sense.
Consideration No. 3: Durability
This is one of the main considerations that may change based on whether you are installing flooring in your personal home or your rental property. In a rental property, you're trusting the care of the flooring to your tenants, who may not care if they scratch the floor or clean up spills quickly. Renters typically cause increased wear and tear on a property, so durability is a top priority.
While hardwood flooring has come a long way with improvements in seams and finishes, vinyl plank flooring is durable, stain-resistant, water-resistant and extremely easy to clean. Your choice of flooring will likely depend on the type of tenant you'll have. Do some research on your area to find out if the rental market is largely college students, families, pet owners and/or working professionals. Your main rental market will largely impact your flooring choice based on the amount of durability and likelihood of replacement required. No matter to whom you rent, keep some extra boxes of the flooring you choose on hand for quick repairs.
Selecting the right floor for a rental property is a careful balance between durability, affordability and aesthetics. A quality floor can create a desirable property feature, cutting down your vacancy time and increasing your rental rate, all while adding to the overall property value of your investment. However, since you won't be living at the property, you'll need to select an option that will stand the test of time and tenants.